The day was October 31st; it was my fourth birthday and I sat in those mini-chairs inside my pre-school class, waiting patiently for two o’clock. It was all meant to go down then. It was half past noon, and there still seemed to be no sign of anything coming. In my school, it was custom that on everyone’s birthday date, the whole class was to be baptized in sweets, snacks and soda with a grand finale of cake for the whole class. I left home, reminding mum, more like pestering her to make sure she does not forget that my class had a tradition. For good measure, I approached dad as well and reminded him that I was turning four today, and that the whole class was counting on them. The weight of an army of the four-year olds was on their shoulders.
It was two o’clock, and the tables were empty, there was no sign of balloons or snacks or tiny voices singing for me. “Martie, isn’t it your birthday today?” Teacher Francesca had asked me in front of the whole class, I suppose as a well-meaning gesture, to get the class to celebrate me because my parents had decided otherwise. I nodded in agreement, as the tears danced around my eyes and a huge stone-lump formed in my throat. Teacher Francesca read the situation and asked the class to sing for me despite the lack of snacks; I silently hoped that they would have energy to sing for me even if they had not been fuelled by Ribena or cake. At that moment I wondered whether my parents had heard me in the morning.
At half past three o’clock as we were packing up our tiny belongings that mostly consisted of an array of break boxes and “Ladybird” books, my uncle Kennedy burst into the classroom carrying a huge box in his left hand. In his right hand was another box with several packets of Ribena juice and a packet of éclairs perched atop the box of juice-packets. He looked exhausted, and I wondered why he was late and why it was not dad who came himself, but I did not care past that. I set the cake box down for him and grabbed the packet of sweets and set them on the teacher’s desk. Everybody automatically started singing for me with a renewed vigor. There was feet-stomping and hand-clapping and a few tiny hands tried to steal the packet of sweets from me. I swatted them all away; and I was so proud of myself, I had beaten the deadline and kept up the tradition of blessings on the birthdays. Mum and dad were my parents again.
Looking back, I was able to put a few pieces together of why the events of my fourth birthday unfolded as they did. At that time, my father had lost his job and my mother was pursuing her Masters’ degree full time so she was not working. Basically no one in the house was working and life was rolling us steadily into poverty. On that particular day, my mother was headed to university and my father was going for a job interview, therefore no one was free to bring my cake and it would have been preferable to buy food instead of sweets and boxes of Ribena. However, my parents did not want to let me down, and I expected them not to. Most times, we forget that being a parent is not equal to being a superhero, even if they constantly fill in that role as well. Being a parent is just another role like being a sister, or being a friend, and primarily, parents are just human beings, with the added benefit of having offspring. Sometimes we may be tempted to think that “we did not ask to be born” and therefore our parents should bear the responsibilities of our wants, tantrums and cravings because we are here because of their actions. If our parents could effortlessly provide everything we needed, I’m certain they would provide, but just as life throws surprises every-which-way, one can never fully be ready for what life throws every time. Still, parents try their best even when it takes away from them, to give us normalcy in situations where they know it does not exist, for our smiles and our peace of mind.
Empathy is a skill where we learn to step out of our shoes and put ourselves in others’ shoes to try to see a situation through different eyes to gain understanding and appreciation of their circumstances. Why can we not begin this charity at home? Maybe to understand our parents better and have a better relationship with them, we could learn to see things from their eyes first before we stare through our own. We may feel entitled to what they have because after all we are their children, but sometimes our demands give our parents sleepless nights and unnecessary heartache when they feel like they are not good enough as parents because they were unable to provide according to our demands. As children we should understand that parents are still human beings who need to rest, and breathe, and take care of themselves because unlike us, they have no one else to take care of them. So before we throw that next tantrum, or make a demand, or expect something from our parents stop and wear their shoes; read the circumstances and determine whether they will be able to provide. Should they be able to, show your gratitude and some love, just the way you know you would want to be appreciated if you had done the same. Let’s treat parents as human beings because they are just as human as we are.
Author: Martie Mtange | Date Created2016-06-07 03:01:42 | Comments: 0