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Article 36:- The lessons from my son; the first one year…

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It has been a year! Wow! I am in denial… I am in denial that I have been mothering for the last one year. Time does fly indeed and if you want evidence you have grown old, look at how big a child born the other day has become.  The first one year has been a mixture of excitement, firsts of many things, learning to balance, life, work, love and marriage, learning to be a mother, doubting most of the things you do, cheering baby on as the accomplish milestones, learning to let go and let God, and of course, learning to deal with house helps. Life is not without lessons and a wise man once said that you should make sure you learn something each day.

Overcoming fear, anxiety and uncertainty

Many first time moms have gone down the uncertainty road. The moment that child is put on your arms, the nurses will tell you to breastfeed. Well, there is no manual for that so you attempt, and the first question comes, am I doing it right? How do I know when my baby is full? Is my baby getting satisfied? That coupled with comments from friends, relatives, well wishers and sometimes haters, that every time the baby cries, the baby is not satisfied fuels that mothering anxiety. If this fear and anxiety are not put in check mostly by the mother of the child, you will find yourself going down a depression road, which is totally not good for both you and child. So relax, be the best mother that child can have, listen to advice, if it does not make sense, nod your head and let it pass. One thing for sure is you are the best mother that child will ever have and as far as they know, you are doing just perfect. The best you can give him those first few moments of your lives together is yourself, the rest is AOB. This little person does not care about tomorrow or future or the next minute. This little person lives the moment. The now. He smiles when he is happy, he cries when he is distressed, he plays, he does whatever he wants to do at that moment. It is the moment that counts. In this living of theirs, they teach you that you too need to live the moment. Many of us worry so much about what is to be, and what was and what people say, and a million what ifs. How can you live the now with all this worries? Enjoy the moment; plan for the future; learn from the past, but live the moment.

Resilience;

Ever wondered how many times a child will be hit before the master the basic things we take for granted like sitting, standing, crawling, walking, waving, shaking our head…? They cry a little, throw tantrums a little, get a scratch here and there, but always, always they will rise and keep going. Nothing will keep them from learning what they want to learn and showing off their recently learned skill. Many times life bashes, clobbers, hammers, blows, name it, us and we fall so low. The lesson is to keep rising, keep moving, keep going, keep learning. We cannot allow ourselves to stoop so low that everyone can see beyond our problems but ourselves. The problem was as important as the lesson. Its importance ends there. Life must be lived. We must arise and walk. Everything makes as stronger and better, just like fire purifies gold.

Shopping;

The next exciting thing we do after the initial excitement of pregnancy news is shopping. It is a thrill and for some of us who window shopped baby clothes since ages ago, well, it can get us to buy anything and everything. But how important is that which you are buying? How useful is it? How long will it be worn before it is hidden in a locker somewhere waiting either to be sold or the next baby? What value is it to your child? This first year has taught me to shop for essentials. With time you realize that a child enjoys spending time naked than clothed, the clothes we buy should not hinder that enjoyment. They should be as free as possible, easy to wear, easy to remove, and easy to change diapers when soiled. For that I will attach some photos.

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If its single piece, it should be openable all the way to the feet

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If its a gorls pretty dress, the waist should be above the belly (there is a reason behind the baby stomach name)

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If its a onesie, it should have the shouder overlaps or push buttons on one side (babies hate things being pulled over their heads, the quicker the experience the better) same applies to sweaters and tees. Jumpers, push buttons, button or zipped

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If it goes all the way up, it must be openable between the legs

Besides that, it is good to realize that the first one year is an age of rapid growth. My godmother advised me to buy minimal number of clothes. Infract she told me to buy just 6. 6 rompers, 6 onesies, 6 vests no sweaters, if any 2. Nothing fancy (The first few months they are all swaddled) and nothing for 0-3 months, vary the sizes up to 12 months. If you shop well, you won’t need to buy anything for the first one year.

What does that tell me, there is something called the essentials. Most of us have so many things that we never use. Whatever we have, what value does it have or add to who we are? Would we be less without them? These are some value questions we need to ask ourselves before we acquire anything that will end up somewhere in the house with no value whatsoever.

Time flies;

One day he is all tiny. The next day, he is running all over the house, and a few more days, he is in school, and bam! He is no longer yours, he belongs to the society. We have very little time to influence our children, to teach them values, to teach them what is right and wrong, to teach them God, to teach them all they need to know to acquire a tough skin that when they become of the world, they have a solid foundation. The tragedy is that most of the time we spend trying so hard to make money to provide them a “good life” we forget to mould the people they become. It is good to earn a living, but it is more important to find time to be with our children. If you were to ask them at that age what they would prefer, money, candy, fancy clothes, etc will be the last thing they want. They want you as a person. The faster we find a balance to giving our children ourselves, and committing to bringing up morally stable generation of the future and to providing them with their basic needs, the better, because, they do need both. They need the basic things, and they need values. There is not extra time, but time must be created. One thing I know is you will never find someone at their deathbed saying, I wish I had given my children better toys and super video games. The biggest regret is usually I wish I spent more time with my family. Strike the balance now more than later.

House helps;

This is one area where, just like there is no perfect design; there is no perfect way to deal with them. My only driving belief here is, we are all people of different background and set up. We all strive to be loved and understood. Whatever funny stunts they pull on us, may we love and understand them. They say if we want to understand people well, walk in their shoes for a while. Try doing what they do for a day, a week or two, and you realize that they really do a lot for us. If they treat the child well, thank God, if they choose to disappear on you, call them find out if they got to wherever they were going well, if they steal from you, God will give back to you, if you are kind to them, kindness begets kindness, it shall come back to you, not necessarily through the same person. If they harass your child, forgive them, God will deal with them. But more so, may we realize that they will spend more time than us working mums with our kids than we ourselves. If we have to instill values in our children, then we must work with them at it. I remember telling one of mine that the kind of person my child becomes is a factor of the parenting they do to our children on our behalf. That is a fact. We must teach them what we want our children to learn. We must explain to them the values we would like instilled in our children. We must learn to work with them to bring up our children. But more so, we must pray that they are kind to our children in our absence, because no matter what measures we put, no matter how guilty they are, if they are to harm, by the time we get to know, the damage will have already been done, and there is no just remedy for the injury that has been inflicted especially on the personality. God help!

Celebrate your achievements, no matter how little;

A child will smile at anything, they will coo and the funny voices you make, and will get excited at just the mere sight of you. They will perfect one skill then move on to the next happily. They will squeal when they know they have achieved something. And of course we will celebrate all those milestones with them. We should have the same attitude towards life. Even the smallest of achievements may have taken a lot of effort and we need to pat ourselves on the back. Raise a glass, smile, cheer yourself on, be happy. You are doing very well in living this life the best way you know how. And yes, that little person is proud of you no matter what. Be proud of yourself and make them proud too.

Prepare them for when you are gone; prepare yourself for when they are gone,

Most of us treat our lives like they are perpetual. We plan like we will live with them forever. Like my mother always says; kifo ni lazima, kusishi ni bahati. We shall all die at some time t. But our role when we are here is to prepare our children for eternity and prepare them for when we are gone. In this regard, I still believe that we need to teach them how to be independent of us as soon as possible. We need to introduce them to those whom we can entrust our lives with, in hope that that same trust can trickle down to responsibility for those whom we cherish dearly. We have to equip them with the knowledge of God their heavenly father who will walk with them always for as long as they live. We have to teach them to believe in the life of the world to come. We have to let them know that nothing in this world is permanent, and life can turn around and in that turn around, they must live or survive with a smile still in their faces. They must know how to stick together as brothers and sisters and look out for each other, and be each other’s keepers literally. We must detach ourselves from them, allowing other people to be involved in their lives to the extent that is good for them in case we may not live the next to see the next day. They must know from as early as possible how to relate with people, to accept people for who they are and appreciate the fact that life is beyond their parents, and the four walls of their house(not literally). There is no perfect way I can express this fact, but, we must teach our children to live without us, even when they are with us… But more so we must teach them God, we must prepare them for their own deaths and their encounter with their maker, because it is with him that it all begins, and it is with him that it all ends…

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Article 34:- Nobility of Parenthood…

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I have always believed that before parenting role sits on our shoulders, God first parented the children. Our role is to co parent with him, to bring up these children to accomplish the role He created them for. I have been reading “sacred Parenting “by Gary Thomas. In this book, he shares experiences of how parenting his children has brought him closer to God and how the children have taught him to relate better with God. At one point, he shares of how his wife had challenges adjusting to motherhood. At this point she drew inspiration from her discovery that welcoming this child into the world is the very act so highly regarded by Jesus at the judgement in Mathew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me”.

Gary Thomas says,

Who gets hungrier than a newly awakened baby eagerly searching out the mothers breasts? Who is more naked than a recently born child? Who is more a stranger than an infant who comes into the world knowing no one? Who gets sick more often than a little one, who seems inclined towards infections, diaper rash, and colic?

When a mother welcomes a child into the world, feeding her, giving her drink and clothing her and holding her when she gets sick (and at least for most first borns, boiling the pacifier when it drops to the floor and rushing her to the emergency room when her temperatures soars) she is doing exactly what Jesus tells us will be most rewarded in heaven.

“But how can caring for your own child result in heavenly reward? Some might ask, “surely Jesus dint mean that did he?” People who ask such questions don’t understand that the children we raise, ultimately speaking, are not really ours. God creates each child and he has such deep passionate love for every boy and girl that he never misses a single life event in their life. “I tell you the truth, whatever you do to the least of these brothers of mine, you have done to me”(Mathew 25:40).

Mothers and fathers, when you give your tiny infant a bath, you are washing God’s baby. Pause a moment in your busy day and look up to heaven. When you minister to the youngster, can you imagine God smiling down on you? When you fix that hungry six year old a peanut butter sandwich, you are feeding one of God’s children. Listen carefully; you may hear God laughing in pleasure. When you hug an adolescent whom others have teased mercilessly at school, you are comforting God’s teenager. Are those God’s tears dampening your shoulder?

In the process of caring and loving, you bring God great pleasure. At that very moment you become his provision, his comfort, and his passion. Learn to swim in that joy and you will never look at parenting in the same way again.

You could have rejected this child. You could have spurned the demands on your time, your resources and your emotional well being. But instead, you accepted this child, through great pain you gave birth to this child, and even with greater pain you make daily sacrifices to love this child. Your heavenly father doesn’t miss a second of this sacrifice. He sees it all. He cries with you, he laughs with you and he takes great joy in the good work you are doing.

Whether we are parents or not, we have incredible opportunities to participate in this passion that God has for children. I am sure God is present in the sanctuary of a church, because Jesus says that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He is there. But if we really want to live in the presence of God, we may want to hang out at the playground, Sunday school and nursery. There is no way God is missing what is going on there.”

I just wanted to share this excerpt from this book with all the mothers out there. So that they may know, whether the child is unborn or not, whether the child is a boy or a girl, whether the mother is a single parent or not, our heavenly father looks at you with pleasure as you walk through the journey of parenting that child God blessed you with. Every time you struggle for that child, to feed, to find the right caregiver, to build his esteem, to do all that parenting calls you to do, look at that child, imagine God saying, well done my faithful servant, for a job well done.

Article 31:- To have a loving Father…

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“I am pregnant”. Three words that I have learnt not only brings so much excitement, but also so much scare, worry, anxiety, anger and any other emotion that arises from uncertainty of a future redefined. I used to believe that it was a woman thing to flee from this truth but with a lot of literature and what have trended in the recent past on Kenyan social media, read ‘deadbeat’, every party in who participated in the making of this new creation, except the creator Himself flees for a moment from the truth of this defining moment. The question is how many come back. Many times, women do come back, and in their own feeble ways learn to tread through life and live, not only for themselves but also for their children. For fathers, the reactions range from excitement to denial to indifference. For the purpose of this article, though, how many fathers choose to come back and be loving daddies? What are the consequences of this one choice?

 To have a loving father, according to Sharon Jaynes, is a longing that is etched in every child’s heart. She tells of a girl who lived in a children’s home, who really longed to be adopted, and who could not wait to have a dad she could call her own. The longing was so much that went she was adopted, she told everyone who cared to listen that she had a dad. And it became her defining moment and realization that every child does need a father to grow to become a great adult. It does not mean that if they are absent they won’t grow, but they are very vulnerable.

In the movie “courageous”, the character of the sheriff one day brings a report to his members of staff that research is showing fatherless children are several times more likely to get into trouble in life, including crime. He goes further to encourage them to spend time with their families. This excerpt from the Character of Adam Mitchell drives the point home… “As a law-enforcement officer, I’ve seen firsthand the deep hurt and devastation that fatherlessness brings in a child’s life. Our prisons are full of men and women who lived recklessly after being abandoned by their fathers, wounded by the men who should have loved them the most. Many now follow the same pattern of irresponsibility that their fathers did.” This I could have treated as “a movie punch line for the story behind” but my own further reading reveals that it is true; children’s lives are being shaped by the presence or absence of their dad. Parents have a major effect on their kids. When kids feel rejected or unloved by mom and dad, they’re more likely to become hostile, aggressive and emotionally unstable. Parental rejection also can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and negative worldviews (Ronald Rohner, The Director of the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut, 2014). Rohner goes further to explain that this is true for both parents. But in some cases, dad is a more important factor than mom. Behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse and overall psychological adjustment are all more closely linked to dad’s rejection than moms. Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults’ sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers. He (Rohner) and his colleagues detailed their findings in May in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review (2014). Gary Chapman in his book The Family You Have Always Wanted explains that he has often encountered people struggling with what has been called “father hunger” manifested in anger, depression, and confusion. This situation results from too little quality and quantity of fathering as a child and too little intimacy between father and child. He analyses this situation as arising from three kind of fathers, that is; the absentee father, absent from death, divorce or desertion; the present but not available father who lives in the same house as his wife and child but is too busy to have time for his child and; the helpless fathers, who have no idea whatsoever on how to build a relationship with his child or children, a trickledown effect of not being fathered themselves. 

Fathering is a gift and a responsibility. The Catholic Catechism says, “The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; this is the foundation of the honor owed to parents.” (CCC#2214).  In the book titled Why Fathers Count: The Importance of Fathers and Their Involvement with Children (Men’s Studies Press), Sean E. Brotherson and Joseph M. White, the editors and authors of the first chapter, say that the presence of a father has a positive impact in many ways as children with fathers have fewer behavioral problems, obtain better academic results, and are economically better off. In the write up, Why Dads Matter by Father John Flynn, LC, children need more than ever the presence and guidance of fathers in family life. According to a recent collection of essays, a significant body of scientific research clearly documents the vital role a father plays in the formative years of a child’s life, the science of fatherhood, why dads matter, 2014.

So what do fathers do that impact the children so much? Gary Chapman explains that a child’s self identity, level of motivation, sexual identity and pattern of relating to other people will be influenced by the father’s words and treatment. They will come to believe they are valuable, good, or worthless by the messages they receive. He outlines that:-

A loving father will be actively involved in the child’s life by taking that initiative to be a part of the child’s life, not waiting for the child to initiate so that he responds. A father’s love for his children is often expressed in the sacrifices they make, whether in times of crisis or just in the everyday choices of family life. This implies giving up of self for the benefit of the child either on the way or already here. Most dads who abandon ship when they realize that their sexual encounter was fruitful usually lack this maturity to transition from the self to the us. ;

He will consciously create time to be with his children meaning he will not do everything else then when there is extra time he can be with his children, he goes out of his way to make sure that no matter how busy and demanding life’s hassles can be, and his children will not be the losers. What’s most important, Padilla-Walker says, in Why Dads Matter is that fathers realize they matter. Quality time is important. That doesn’t mean going on fancy vacations, it can be playing ball in the backyard or watching a movie with your kids. “Whatever it is, just make yourself available and when you’re with your children, be with them”;

He engages his children in a conversation, getting to know what is going on in their creative minds, molding their character, perfecting that which is good in them and correcting the wrong, cherishing their achievements and motivating them when they seem low. This they may not get an opportunity to learn if they do not talk to the child actively;

He plays with his children. This forms the fun part of fathering. Gary Thomas in his book sacred parenting says that in a family, there is a place for discipline, sacrifice and commitment, but an equally important space exists for enjoyment. In all that enjoyment is sharing life with the child or children. It is a time for laughing, using the imagination and creating worlds of fantasy;

He will teach his values. These are taught by the way we live; he will provide for and protect his children i.e. meeting the basic needs of food, Clothing and shelter. Some fathers have taken to fleeing responsibility for providing for such needs which has led to very bitter and frustrated children who end up believing very little of themselves because they believe they were not worthy enough that is why they were abandoned by their father;

He loves his children unconditionally, not because they have good grades or performed well in sports or cleaned up his room, but because they are his children and even in their lowest they need to know daddy still loves them.

In this interaction with his children, a father instills in the child that which will enable them face life confidently and purposefully. He enables the children to discover the best of themselves and actualize it. In these interactions, any negatives are weeded out while positives are cultivated. In these encounters values are instilled, virtues nurtured and vices condemned. It does not mean that all children who have grown up without a father have turned out bad. It may imply that while the biological fathers fled, a father figure stepped out and bore the responsibility and nurtured these children to become great persons. It could also mean that these fatherless children drew inspiration and the necessary love needed from their heavenly Father and with the help of their mothers and became their own persons.

Adam Mitchell’s speech in courageous sums up the message I want to convey in this article and goes thus…

“As a law-enforcement officer, I’ve seen firsthand the deep hurt and devastation that fatherlessness brings in a child’s life. Our prisons are full of men and women who lived recklessly after being abandoned by their fathers, wounded by the men who should have loved them the most. Many now follow the same pattern of irresponsibility that their fathers did. While so many mothers have sacrificed to help their children survive, they were never intended to carry the weight alone. We thank God for them.

But research is proving that a child also desperately needs a daddy. There’s no way around this fact… I now believe that God desires for EVERY father to courageously step up and do whatever it takes to be involved in the lives of his children. But more than just being there providing for them, he is to walk with them through their young lives and be a visual representation of the character of God, their father in heaven. A father should love his children, and seek to win their hearts. He should protect them, discipline them, and teach them about God. He should model how to walk with integrity and treat others with respect, and should call out his children to become responsible men and women, who live their lives for what matters in eternity. Some men will hear this, and mock it. Or ignore it. But I tell you that as a father, you are accountable to God for the position of influence he has given you. You can’t fall asleep at the wheel, only to wake up one day and realize that your job or your hobbies have no eternal value, but the souls of your children do. Some men will hear this and agree with it, but have no resolve to live it out. Instead, they will live for themselves, and waste the opportunity to leave a godly legacy for the next generation. But there are some men, who regardless of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, regardless of what our fathers did NOT do for us, will give the strength of our arms and the rest of our days to loving God with all that we are and to teach our children to do the same. And whenever possible to love and mentor others who have no father in their lives, but who desperately need help and direction… In my home, the decision has already been made. You don’t have to ask who will guide my family, because by God’s grace, I will. You don’t have to ask who will teach my son to follow Christ, because I will. Who will accept the responsibility of providing and protecting my family? I will. Who will ask God to break the chain of destructive patterns in my family’s history? I will. Who will pray for, and bless my children to boldly pursue whatever God calls them to do? I am their father. I will. I accept this responsibility and it is my privilege to embrace it. I want the favor of God and his blessing on my home. Any good man does. So where are you men of courage? Where are you, fathers who fear the Lord? It’s time to rise up and answer the call that God has given to you and to say I will. I will. I will!”

I need to say no more.

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