Justice Mumbi Ngugi’s ruling on paternity naming is common sense

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Justice Mumbi Ngugi is going down the annals of history as a hero to many single mothers and children born out of wedlock as well as to men who get locked out of their children’s lives because they did not put a ring on it. Yet many other men and women will be seeking to lynch her should they meet her at a dark corner for upsetting a very fragile cart – of paternity and children born out of marriage.

Activism aside, Justice Ngugi’s ruling that every child has a right to have the name of his or her father on the birth certificate should have been common sense. After all, it takes to tango. The women cannot delude themselves that they self-propagated like a sweet potato vine to bring forth offspring. They also should not tell themselves that their children are better off without that deadbeat’s name in their faces because they aren’t. The choice to omit a father’s name from the birth certificate, unless in cases of rape or rampant promiscuity where paternity identity is unknown, is always up to the mother or father, in the past with the support of the law.

I once tried having a talk with a woman who wondered whether to include the name of the deadbeat father in the child’s birth certificate. She was in college, the man had jumped ship and she wondered why the loser should live to mark her life and that of her child. I gave her several reasons: because he is the father, because his blood flows through that child’s veins, because the child may one day want to know and identify herself with the man who sired her, because she cannot change reality by ignoring it, because it may one day be medically important to connect the child and the other family. Most women advised her not to put the man’s name. After all he walked; let him keep walking. No one thought of it from the child’s perspective – that they deserve to now who sired them, deadbeat or not; that a father gives identity and denying a child that was setting them up for identity issues as they grew up.

Many of those opposed to the latest verdict from the courts are doing so from a financial point of view. The men do not want to be attached to a child or woman they have no interest in for the next  18 years. They say some cunning women will use the law to extort money for childcare. They say the woman knew what she was getting herself into from the very beginning—she should now not be seeking  back door into the man’s life after their what, one night stand? But what about that child? Isn’t he/she man’s offspring, planned or not, wanted or not? A man should realise that whether he provides or not, that child will eat and drink and dress at someone else’s cost, whether the single mother, the grandmother, community or children’s home. Mtoto huja na sahani yake, Sauti Sol sang.

I don’t think financial provision was Justice Mumbi’s point; nor is it for many kids who go about seeking to find their roots. Neither is it about seeking to be “fathered”. It is almost always about seeking to know who they are, looking back to look forward. Look at the way President Barack Obama puts it in his book, Dreams from my Father, about what he feltl when he found his father’s family: “For the first time in my life, I felt the comfort, the firmness of identity that a name might provide, how it could carry an entire history in other people’s memories, so that they might nod and say knowingly, ‘Oh, you are so and so’s son’. No one here in Kenya would ask how to spell my name, or mangle it with an unfamiliar tongue. My name belonged and so I belonged, drawn into a web of relationships, alliances, and grudges that I did not yet understand.”

That’s the power a father’s name gives.

A law that bars children from knowing who fathered them despite the marital status is discriminatory. Leaving this space blank is deceptive because no woman conceived a child alone.

A parent who hides this information for whatever reasons is being unfair to the child because this is information that the child will seek to know and whose absence can cause a long lasting shadow in their life as they battle with questions of who they are, where they come from, why they are the way they are, nature vs nurture. If nature triumphs, whose genes are coursing through their veins, whose chromosomes are they passing along to their own children? Are there any diseases flowing in the bloodline that they need to watch out for? Do people there get bad at 22? Does obesity run in the family? Are they related to that stranger on the street? How do their other siblings look like? Is their “other” family as crazy or as awesome?

Sometimes a man does not know he has fathered a child. Sometimes he has too many issues to be a dad anyway. May be he is not ready to be a father to that child or be in that woman’s life. Yes, he never ever wants to see that woman again or be mentioned in the same space as her. Perhaps the mother does not want the man to be in the child’s life reasons best known to her. Notice all these reasons are about the two adults in the relationship, forgetting the rights of the little person who did not ask to be part of the heavy plot but is anyway. Justice Mumbi is defending the rights of this person whom most people do not pause to think about in an unselfish manner.

Of course some have raised concerns about the effect of that deadbeat name on the birth certificate on the future of the child. I know a girl who wouldn’t get a passport because her father was not bothered enough to come out from the woodwork long enough to provide the needed documents for her to do so. I have heard that it can become hard for the mother to travel with the child outside the country without the father’s consent. He may refuse to provide his documents for the child to get a national ID. All valid concerns. Should they trounce the child’s rights to a name instead of a ghost named XXXXXX on the birth certificate?

Justice Mumbi is trying to prevent children from discrimination and from emotional and psychological turmoil, from fighting ghosts of faithlessness. Justice Mumbi is denying men the right to forget. The chickens do come home to roost.

 

 

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Sleep deprived? How to know if sleep training is for you

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Mum and baby co-sleeping. Photo: Courtesy

I was at the market last week and one woman was complaining how tired she was because her baby keeps waking up at night. Two other women jumped at the opportunity to tell her why she should sleep train her child.

“I have never slept with any of my children in my bedroom,” one said. “I enjoy my sleep.”

My curiosity was piqued.

The second woman went on to explain to the sleep-deprived mom how she trained her baby to sleep through the night. She let her cry for several nights till she learnt to sleep on her own.

“But it’s not easy. The first night she cried for two hours. The next night for around 40 minutes. By the third and fourth night she just complained a little then slept, ” she said triumphantly.

“How long does all that take,” sleep-deprived mom asked.

“Around 10 days; but after that you will sleep like a queen,” the first mom told her.

I saw the scared look on her face.

I have tried sleep training my baby by letting him cry himself to sleep, the goal being to teach him to self soothe so that when he wakes up in the night, he doesn’t have to cry out for mummy. The goal of all sleep training is to teach children to fall asleep by themselves and to soothe themselves back to sleep when they awaken at night.

My one try at sleep training caused so much emotion in one night that hubs and I decided that method was not for us. We (read I) could survive two years of interrupted sleep. Even when I have felt like falling off the wagon and letting my 15-month old cry herself back to sleep, hubs will not let me.

“Just pick her up,” he says. And thankfully, the two of us have mastered the art of nighttime feeds with little sleep lost; although some scientists say 8 hours of interrupted sleep is as good as 4 hours of continuous sleep. See the story. 

So I accepted that my children may not learn to sleep through the night until they are ready to do so themselves because I do not have the heart to let them cry themselves to sleep or ignore their wailing at night. Just when I am feeling like a lesser mom for lacking the discipline, today I came a post by Milk Meg , a blogger and lactation specialist. She points out to research that shows that frequent night waking is a protective factor against SIDS. Apparently, babies are not supposed to sleep in long chunks, unless of course they are choosing to do so.

She also points out that the night waking helps establish and keep up milk supply. “Research shows that babies take up to 20 per cent of their milk volume at night. For some women, especially in the early months or if you are going to be separated from your baby or toddler during the day, these night time feedings will be crucial for keeping up your breastmilk supply.”

But if baby is well fed, dry, warm, she doesn’t need to wake up for a night time feed or two, I tell myself. She is just waking up because she is spoilt crazy. She just wants to drive me crazy. May be I ma the one who lacks self control as a mom. I consider ignoring her night wakings (or sending her dad over to give her water) till she learns that nights are for sleeping, not cuddling and feeding.

However, Meg notes that babies also wake up for pain relief, comfort, to get an increase in the immunological components in breastmilk, to help them cope with their developmental milestones and the changes in their brain due to this, if they are scared, cranky or bored.

She believes that the best time to night wean an unwilling toddler is around 18 months when the child starts to communicate more. At this point they are developmentally ready to negotiate and understand what you are saying so you can negotiate over night time weaning with less stress and frustration.

Did I feel like a lesser mom because my first born eventually slept through the night at 18 months when my peers had been enjoying their zzzzzzzs since their babies turned six months and discovered ugali? Yes.

Do I get cross at my daughter when she wakes up for the umpteenth time in a night just to feed for what, 40 seconds? Yes.

But I know when she fusses or cries in the night, I will pick her up and breast feed her because that is what feels natural to me. That’s what my instincts tell me — baby is crying, pick her up.

I will soothe her to sleep by the breast no matter how many articles tell me that is bad practice and bad for her teeth. It is something we both enjoy to do and I think I should thank the oxytocin for the fact that I am out in less than 60 seconds after hitting the sheets.

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Human babies are born developmentally very immature compared to other mammals. They need the frequent attention to thrive. Also, babies cry and fuss to seek comfort and attention from their caregiver. Developmentally that need is as legitimate as their need for food. And they are small only for so long.

However, self soothing is also a natural skill that children eventually learn to help them go back to sleep at night without needing a parent’s intervention. Sleep training helps hasten this natural learning process for babies and because they are struggling with the learning, they cry.

Falling asleep is a habit and skill that all kids can learn. The question is when is the right time to teach it.

Dr Alice Calahan of Science of Mom says: “When babies associate something like feeding, rocking, or bouncing with their transition to sleep, they often expect those same conditions when they wake during the night. All of us wake during the night – babies and adults alike. We check our surroundings to make sure everything feels right, and if it doesn’t, we go on alert. When Baby C was bounced to sleep, she woke 45 minutes later and everything felt wrong – she wasn’t bouncing anymore! She called for help, and, being good, responsive parents, Husband or I came running to see if she wanted to nurse, to change her diaper, to shush her, and then finally, to bounce her again so she could go back to sleep – often only to wake again 45 minutes later to repeat the whole process. This was not a very restful night of sleep for any of us.

When a baby knows how to self-soothe and falls asleep independently, she wakes in the night, checks her surroundings, and finding nothing to be alarmed about, she goes back to sleep without needing our help. Babies that have this skill of self-soothing have been shown to get a full additional hour of sleep during their longest nighttime sleep period and an average of 45 additional minutes of total nighttime sleep. They wake during the night just as non-self-soothers do, but they are less likely to cry out for help and more likely to roll over and go back to sleep. We often hear BabyC wake around midnight, but she rarely sounds distressed or calls for us. We listen as she practices her current favorite word, “app-uu (apple), app-uu, app-uu,” for a while, gradually quieter, until she falls back to sleep on her own.”

I am teaching my daughter gently to self soothe by always not rushing to her side whenever something goes wrong. I want her to get back on her feet and keep walking. But responding to my baby’s cries, feeding her when she starts to fuss, rocking her colicky body till my feet hurt– this is what comes naturally to me. It leaves me exhausted and sleep deprived sometimes but I am okey with it. That is why I am a mother. I will not rush her to stop doing what babies do.

If you have chosen to be the attached parent recent research is on your side. Letting babies get distressed has been shown to damage children and their relational capacities in many ways for the long term. Scientists are now saying that babies grow from being held. An article in Psychology Today says leaving babies to cry is a good way to make a less intelligent, less healthy but more anxious, uncooperative and alienated persons who can pass the same or worse traits on to the next generation.

“Babies don’t self-comfort in isolation. If they are left to cry alone, they learn to shut down in face of extensive distress–stop growing, stop feeling, stop trusting,” write authors Henry J.P and Wang S in a study on the effects of early stress on adult behaviour.

Another author, Schaunberg. S, in a 1995 scholarly article on the genetic basis for touch effects asserts: “When mothers stop touching their infants, DNA synthesis stops, growth hormone diminishes. Physiologically, the baby goes into “survival mode.” Our ancestors carried and held (all the time) and slept with their babies, maximizing growth. Our ancestors breastfed their babies on demand.”

He continues to say that breastfeeding to sleep and waking to be cuddled are all developmental phases for a baby. At a young age, a child needs the comfort to feel relaxed and safe enough to fall asleep.

Another blogger, Breastfeeding Mama Talk, says: “Of course children sleep better after sleep training.  They quickly learn that no one is coming for them. They learn to stop crying because they learn that no one is going to comfort them.”

My  son doesn’t need me to help him sleep. I did not believe the first time he slept through the night. It felt like a miracle. Soon we had another milestone – we were watching TV when he told me he was tired and wanted to go to bed- this chap who always fought sleep tooth and nail wanted to leave us watching TV and go to bed.

These days we tell him its bed time, tuck him in and switch off the lights and off he drifts into sleep. Even when sleep doesn’t come immediately, he will talk to himself or his toys until he finally dozes off; no drama.

They grow up. So enjoy the night feeds as your special ritual, and the cuddling as a time to do that which nourishes your little one, mind, body and spirit.

love

How to keep a nanny

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I have been employing nannies for the last four years and the first two years were the most tumultuous. By the second year, I had stopped counting the number of women who walked into my home to help me take care of my children. I stopped telling my mother or my mother-in-law to get me househelps because it just put me and my high househelp turnover on the spot. At some point I started feeling as if something was wrong with me: why couldn’t I just be happy with a nanny for say one year? May be I was the problem, I thought. I bet every mother has felt that at some point as they watched the sixth help in two months walk out of the door.

I came to discover that when you are starting out as an employer, your demands can be pretty high and your patience little. Also at that point, you are not yet fully aware of what you “really” need in a domestic helper. I see women’s list on Facebook groups where they are searching for domestic help and it is easy to tell a first time employer: Looking for a DM (domestic manager) who is saved, can teach my children to pray, speaks English, respectful, from XYZ community, good cook, can clean, has a great personality, does not require training, has referrals. By the time you are on your 10th DM all you want is an adult of sound mind who wants to work, is able to do the work and is available within two hours because you are already on your second day off work trying to get a help. The rest are details.

My very first DM was fresh from high school. She dressed like a teenager, cleaned dishes while on headphones and had absolutely zero boundaries. I could find her seated feet up in the sitting room, music on full blast and she will make no attempt to turn down the music or sit up. I then realized that I am not comfortable with provocative dressing with the DM or with asking someone to leave the room because I have visitors. Self awareness moment for me. She stayed two months.

I got another who was barely literate and gave two or three versions of every story. I knew I could not trust her completely. But my main reason for letting her go is that I could barely give her instructions when I was away. She wasn’t the person to tell, “Look for a bottle written Calpol and give the baby 2.5ml.” Describing everything felt like I am explaining it to my two-year-old and it became tiring. I shuddered to think how she would handle an emergency.  I let her go.

Yet another DM had to leave because she was too young and naïve and I was at the point in my life and career when I had little patience to be a mother to a DM. I needed a professional who manages my home without me worrying about her as well. She looked so fragile, I found myself doing the bulk of the work at home no matter how tired I was after work. She was also easily impressionable and pretty had caught the eye of a few young men in the estate so I started feeling like the mother of a teenager, counselling and grounding, reminding her why she was at work. She inspired feelings of sympathy and guilt. I didn’t want that.

With time I have discovered that my deal breakers in domestic help are child neglect, dishonesty and lack of respect.

Through all that process I have learnt a few things:

Your nanny is your employee.

It is good to treat nannies like part of the household; but as many people will tell you, that may not necessarily result in loyalty. Often, the boundaries fade and you start disrespecting each other. Solution: treat your nanny like a professional. You are paying her to take care of your baby. If she walked out one morning, life would still go on. If you stopped paying her, the likelihood is that she will leave. On that note pay on time and pay competitively. Also do not ask her to do duties that are outside her job description unless she is willing to do you the favour or you are paying her extra. Keep the boundaries.

Interview accordingly

You’re not trying to make a friend. You’re hiring someone to take care of your baby so interview accordingly.  Her JD requires you to ask non-conventional questions about her — where she grew up, marriage, parents, boyfriends and illnesses. The answers will help you decide if this is someone you want to leave with your most priced possessions. Do you want someone who can help with homework?  Are you away most of the time and need someone to almost fill your shoes, budgeting and shopping, taking the kids to hospital? Interview accordingly.

You have a right to be biased

I don’t like to employ teenagers. So if she shows up at my door and she is barely out of high school, chances are she is not getting the job. I have also come to favour certain communities out of my experiences (I know, I know). Some mothers want nannies who can speak their mother tongue. I also do not hire a nanny who has a baby under two years because I feel such a woman should be with her children. I don’t want to feel as if I am taking away someone’s mother at the most important development time when she should be taking care of her own children.

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Your house your rules

A woman last year posted a list of all the regulations her nanny should follow and there was an uproar on the Web. But you know what, it’s your house. Be humane but explain exactly how you want things done. That way your nanny knows from the word go what she’s getting into and when she is not meeting expectations. You do not want to be perpetually unhappy in your home. It’s your baby, your home and your choice. By giving all the rules, you can avoid quarrels because this and this wasn’t done. And she will probably do a better job when her work and duties and roles are clear.

Compromise

When you have small children you will turn your eyes on a lot of things for a nanny who loves your babies. I put up with one who was not very clean and who went through a month’s shopping in days because she adored my little ones and took good care of them and they loved her back. My son would even tell her how much he had missed her when she came from her day off. As long as your children are well cared for, pick your battles wisely.

Be kind

Give her off days as agreed and allow her to visit her home over the holidays, especially if she has small children. Chip in with the bus fare. Take care of her medical bills and put her on NHIF. Empower her. Give a bonus for work well done and a raise for every year you are together. Good DMs are hard to find. Get to know her aspirations; you may be in a place to help. Send her for trainings on cooking, housekeeping and first aid when you can. She will be a better employee and a happier one.

In the end however, like every god relationship, it is all about chemistry. Someone else’s good DM will be the nanny from hell in your house because of personality and culture clash. The same way you look at some DMs in your neighbourhood and wonder how they keep their jobs;  one man’s meat, another man’s poison.

 

Learning to become a peaceful parent

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I was watching “Super Nanny” recently and she was teaching the father of a two-year-old how to discipline the boy through timeouts. Since he was two, he was to get two minutes timeouts at a bench whenever he misbehaved.

This day boy touched something that  his dad had told him not to touch. The father carried him to the “naughty corner” bench and sat him down. But the boy kept wailing and stepping down from the bench. And his dad would put him back. This went on for two hours until the boy did the continuous two-minute timeout!  The dad was exhausted and super nanny was impressed by the progress. I was heartbroken for the two of them. I hated to be in the dad’s position.

Every parent has been at that place where you find yourself having a battle of wills with a toddler that only makes you more angry and draws the heart of your little one away from you. We have all punished our children and watched them cry dejectedly, and at that moment we have wondered whether we did harm or good. Sometimes we get obedience we  seek, sometimes we don’t; but we still remain frustrated parents with wounded little people in our wake.

Before I had kids the only thing I knew about disciplining children was “spoil the rod spoil the child.” That and the fact that I had my backside whooped whenever my folks thought I was growing horns.

Then came our son and I was at my wit’s ends on how to get him to do stuff the way I wanted him to, when I wanted him to.How do I stop him from hitting his sister or spitting at me? How do I stop him from grabbing toys from others or taking the teacher’s crayons? How do I stop the tantrums at the chocolate or toy aisle in the supermarket? How do I make sure I am not raising an entitled little monster and instead bring up a well-behaved, friendly, sharing boy?

Some of my friends had naughty corners for their tots. Others had a kiboko or slippers on standby full time. A few had their kids running amok, with no one to rein them in. I tried a little of everything to see what worked for us. Three years later my kids still drive me up the wall despite their pint size, they still disobey me outright and ignore me or talk back and I still get frustrated and act out in ways that damage our relationship. Sometimes I spank them and get instant results (or not), I feel awful about it, and wonder if I am teaching them to handle disagreements with hitting.

Lately I have been learning about positive parenting.

Positive parenting — sometimes called positive discipline, gentle guidance, or loving guidance — is simply guidance that keeps our kids on the right path, offered in a positive way that resists any temptation to be punitive. Studies show that’s what helps kids learn consideration and responsibility, and makes for happier kids and parents.

The people at positiveparents.org say peaceful parenting isn’t a method, a set of rules, or a “style.” It is a belief, a way of living that believes children should be treated with respect, free from fear of violence and shame, and guided with loving encouragement.

Hey, but what about Proverbs that says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child but the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” The rod did seem to chase away folly.

But here was someone telling me that I can get my kids to act right without resulting to punitive punishment and without damaging our relationship. Here was someone telling me I can be loving and still get disciplined kids. I wanted to stop being the yelling parent. I wanted the power struggles to end. I wanted to stop being in a foul mood by end of day because my kids have been pressing all my buttons.

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Let me share some of the things that are helping me learn that I can parent differently:

First is the realisation that children don’t throw tantrums in order to manipulate their caregivers or because they are spoiled little brats. They are little people who are dealing with big emotions, too big for them to understand. When you are overwhelmed, you need someone to calm you down, to put things in perspective and to tell you things will be alright. A broken pencil may be minor to me but to him it is something awful that has happened and is causing him distress. His distress is real.

Second children may not react as we expect them to because they see their world differently from us. Normal things to us can be scary and frightening to them. Ever wondered why your child makes it such a big deal that you leave the house every day to go to work? It could be because they think you are abandoning them. Ever wondered why switching the TV from Disney Junior to KTN should be such a big deal that the whole neighbourhood comes to a standstill? Research shows that a sense of loss activates the pain centres in the brain, causing an agonizing withdrawal. Well, I am yet to understand why my son will roll on the floor because I bit his bread or took a sip from his soda 🙂 Try to see the world through their little eyes and you will be more sensitive.

Third, I have understood that above everything else, my son seeks a connection with me. He wants my attention, my comfort, my love. Whatever I do to discipline him should always involve connecting with him and his emotions, not severing that. Sometimes my son repeatedly does something wrong and then throws a tantrum about it and I am forced to take him to his bedroom against his will. Sometimes this is to let him calm down. Other times it is so that I can calm down. Most times it’s because I am hungry and I know sending him to his bedroom really gets to him. A minute later I find him sitting on his bed, crying, sad; and I am heart broken. Breaking my child’s spirit was never the goal, nor was it to hurt him or make him feel unloved. So I take him and hug him and remind him that I love him, while wondering how else I can discipline my child and leave a positive impact on both of us. Children only learn to behave because we want them to and because they want to please us.  Thus a strong relationship ensures that your child will always try to please you.

Fourth, I need to meet the child’s needs before they arise. Hunger, fatigue, sleep and feeling ignored will lead to a meltdown. So will lack of an emotional connection. I try to ensure the children eat regularly and get their naps on time for a happier household. Cranky babies make for cranky parents. I engage with them, listen to them, and play with each of them. That way I know the tantrum is not an attention seeking ploy.

Fifth, I have accepted that tantrums come with the territory. Science shows that the part of the brain that regulates emotion and controls social behaviour in children under four years is undeveloped. The immature prefrontal cortex means that toddlers will misbehave because they can’t help it. In fact one explanation says that during a tantrum, the child loses connection with their logical brain.They can only access their lower brain, the one involved with survival. During that moment of rage, they can’t listen or hear anything you tell them.

Rebecca Eanes of creativechild.com says: “What I’ve learned about children in my years of research is that their brains do not take information in when they are dysregulated (or very upset). During times of emotional upset, children are functioning from their lower brain (which controls the fight, flight, or freeze response) and need to calm down before they can access their higher brain (responsible for logical thought and reasoning). Therefore, the calm down area should be a soothing place for the child to engage their higher brains so they can then best learn the lesson we want to teach.”

Thus the best way to handle a tantrum is to help the child calm down first.Then you can try and get to the root of the problem. Then you can help them re-access their upper brain. Understanding that helps me be more understanding and proactive during a meltdown instead of taking it personally as an affront to my sanity.

Sixth, disciplining is about teaching. Model what’s acceptable. Teach to share, to ask for something, to say sorry and thank you, to wait. That way your child knows what is expected of them.

My kids still drive me nuts at times. I act out instead of being the grown up in charge of my emotions. I still spank. Sometimes I yell. I “nuna” and stop talking to my almost four-year-old (don’t roll your eyes) because he is not doing as he is told.. But I am trying to always connect, always love, always inspire. Ultimately, love is the most powerful motivator. Some day I will talk of how I have succeeded at peaceful parenting.

For some laughs here are some hilarious reasons toddlers throw tantrums.

 

How to build your home with wisdom

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In primary school, our teachers hammered the wisdom of the book of Proverbs into us. There was always a quote about the foolish son and how he brings shame to his mother. None of us wanted to be the fool.

So when did foolishness become so glam?

“A wise woman builds up her household, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1

A home is not kept by sex or beauty or food. It is kept by wisdom.

This verse came to mind recently when I encountered a woman who was doing everything possible to sabotage herself and her marriage.  She was wasteful, she complained, nagged endlessly, insulted and demeaned her husband in front of other people, she secluded herself from her circle of support; she failed to appreciate her many blessings; she took her husband for granted and treated him like waste.

Her predicament disturbed me and I found myself thinking: “This is a foolish woman! The foolish woman tears her house down with her own hands.”

I wanted be a wise woman who does her husband good all the days of his life and whose children call her blessed and her husband praises her. I did not want to be the foolish woman destroying her home with her own mouth and hands.  “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.” Proverbs 24:3

Here are a few thoughts on what makes a wise woman:

She helps her husband. Gen 2:18. The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Wives are first companions then helpers. Usually, people get help where they are found wanting, where they are weak or where they lack time. Look at the areas in your life where your husband needs someone to fill in the gap and meet his need. The job of being a helper will differs with each marriage. You were created to aid him not hinder him. Consider asking your husband areas he would like you to help him.

But we also talk of the Holy Spirit as our helper. God is our helper. In this context God is our strength, our rescuer, our protector, and our help! He acts on our behalf. He sends us help when we are in need. That is not subservient. And that is how God described  the first woman. Wives are to provide valuable and vital strength and assistance to their husbands.

She loves her husband and children. Tit. 2:3-5. This should be a no-brainer but haven’t we have all heard of women burning their children for stealing Sh10. Don’t we all know someone who advocates for abortion? Where is the love? There is no greater love than a man laying down his life for another. Loving your husband and children will call for sacrifice and laying down your plans, comfort, sleep, manicured nails, pride, goals etc for them. Until you have put someone else’s needs above your own, you haven’t really loved.

She is chaste/keeps herself pure. A wise woman will stay within her marriage bed. The house of an adulterous woman is a highway to the grave,  leading down to the chambers of death. (Prov 7:27)

She is a homemaker. There are many admonitions in scripture for women to watch over and manage their homes. A wise woman is in charge of the running of her household even when she has hired help. Prov 31:15, 27. She creates the right atmosphere for her children to grow up in and thrive, for her husband to find warmth and a place for retreat and for visitors to find hospitality. Prov 31: 27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness. I have to say that for many of us, learning home keeping and hospitality is slow and calls for painful sacrifices because it involves the kind of work that gets no accolades. Hallo, no one notices the dishes are clean unless they are piled in the sink. Kids don’t say thanks mom for clean shoes. Few remember to praise or thank the one who made dinner magically appear on the plates.

She submits to her husband. Women have fought over and over about the biblical admonition to submit and I won’t get into that here. 1 Corinthians 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Ephesians 5:22-23, 33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior… However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 1 Peter 3:1-2 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.  What does submission look like to you?

She dresses modestly. A woman must “adorn herself in modest apparel with propriety and moderation” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10), not with “fancy arranging of the hair, gold or fine apparel but her beauty is to be the hidden person of the heart, a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:3, 4). a foolish woman dresses like a prostitute. Prov 7:10. This another hot wire topic. Mercy Masika in her latest song “Nifanane nawe” speaks of a desire to honor God with her dressing. Your clothes can also dishonour your husband.

She has a gentle and quiet spirit. A foolish woman is unruly and defiant. Pov 7.11. The woman of folly is rowdy; she is gullible and knows nothing. The foolish woman is loud, undisciplined, and without knowledge.Prov 9:13. A gentle and quiet spirit does not mean that you don’t talk or are shy and timid. Funny thing is that when I think of all the Christian women in my circle, even the sanguines and cholerics, I notice their gentle and quiet spirits. I see grace in their lives. It isn’t about disposition or personality but about trusting God who adorns us with the inner beauty of a gentle spirit. Gentleness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is something you can pray that God helps you cultivate, especially towards your husband and children. A foolish woman is quickly irritated and quick on the tongue. And the tongue can burn your house if uncontrolled. I have taught myself to swallow my words a lot when relating with my husband when I discover that whatever I was about to say does not edify. I have learnt to let go of things, to forgive quickly even before it is asked of me; to not take offense. I am cultivating a gentle and quiet spirit.

She does not slander. You will not find gossip on her tongue.  1 Timothy 3:11 “In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” Trustworthy in everything! Mungu tuonekanie!

She is not quarrelsome. Sometimes as women we like to say one thing over and over and over because we feel as if we are not being heard or are being ignored. Sometimes we treat our husbands like our children– needling, pestering, nagging. It’s not cute. A wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. Proverbs 19:13  It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. Proverbs 21:9 If your husband is not meeting your needs, physical or emotional, talk it out. And if he still doesn’t, know that is why we need a saviour. No human being can perfectly satisfy our very need; otherwise we would not need God. Take your requests to God in prayer. He can remind your husband to be more thoughtful than your constant whining. He can change him better than you ever will with your ceaseless nagging. Gentleness will make him love to come home rather than hide in pubs and the office dreading the daggers from your mouth.

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She is not idle. A foolish woman wanders aimlessly – kiguu na njia . Her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.Proverbs 7:12. She goes from house to house, being a gossip and busybody. I Tim 5:13

She has virtue, excellence and character. Proverbs 31. Proverbs 31:10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. Proverbs 11:16 A gracious woman gets honor.  Proverbs 12: 4 A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones. A valiant wife is the crown of her husband, and as a boring worm in wood, the woman that does evil things destroys a husband.

She is generous and kind. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. Proverbs 31:20

She speaks kind words. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.She trains her children and other younger women. Proverbs 31:26  Titus 2:2-5

She is self-controlled. Wise women are not to be given to drunkenness and addictions. Titus2: 3-5

She is industrious. Prov 31:13-19 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.She makes coverings for her bed. She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies the merchants with sashes.

Also read Blue Print of a Godly Woman’s Life

 

Why I am not taking away my son’s blankie

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My three and a half-year-old son has a blankie. I didn’t even know what that was until one of my mom friends found him sucking/sniffing/snuggling at his baby blanket and said, “Your son has a blankie,” giggling hysterically.

I went into defense mode. My son was not damaged or something for sniffing a piece of cloth whenever he was distracted, was he?

The next time it was my aunt who was visiting and saw the boy, then one, carrying his baby blanket around. She told me she knew another toddler who was always attached to her baby blanket as well, but she thought it was because this particular baby had been left to be raised by her grandma at the age of two months.

Now I knew I was a bad mom. What did my son’s blankie say about my parenting? Had I not let him get attached to me well enough? Had I left him at home when he was too young to go back to work? Did my househelp leave him to cry alone for long periods that he had to find comfort in his blanket? At least I knew I hadn’t stopped breastfeeding him before he was ready as he breastfed till he was two years and two months.

I went to google and luckily, was appeased by all the posts by mums and paeditricians who said it was normal for children to have comfort items. Some mums even encouraged it. The blankies, they said, helped the children self soothe and transition from being always attached to mum, to being sort-of independent in a big big big world for little people.

I noticed my son sniffing at his baby blanket when he was around five months old. Whenever he was hungry or sleepy, he would turn inward to the blanket or shawl he was wrapped in and start sniffing at it. I took that as the cue that he wanted a feed.

This continued as he grew older, and whenever he was sleepy or hungry, he would turn to fleece clothing items (the same materials as his pajamas) and sniff/lick them — he puts out his tongue, then puts the cloth between his mouth and nose; he’s even tried teaching me how to do it but I don’t get it.

He’s three and half now, and he takes his “nguo ya kunyonya” to bed with him. It’s also the first thing he looks for whenever he gets upset, tired, sleepy or hungry. He however never takes it out of the house, so clearly it is something he associates with being at home. When we are in the car, he will take his baby sister’s blanket or tug at the arm of his t-shirt.

Some children find comfort in the pacifier or the thumb. Some in a special stuffed animal or baby blanket. And the attachment is unbelievable.

At the time when I was very worried about my son’s habit, I spoke to two moms who assured me that I was normal behavior.

Mercy Ben told me her three year old son walked around with a big duvet that he used when seating on the couch.

Hope Kamau said her two-year-old was always thumb-sucking whenever she was tired or distracted.

Early childhood development experts say security blankets are transitional objects  that mean “comfort” for your child. They help a child separate himself from his mother.  They are normal and natural. This is what baby turns to in the middle of the night or wakes up to. The baby soon becomes attached to the object and the comfort and familiarity they bring.

“If a baby is securely attached to their blankie or lovey, instead of crying out and needing mom or dad to comfort him back to sleep, he will find his beloved blankie, snuggle with it, sniff it, rub it on his face, and/or suck on it, and go back to sleep.  This is your baby using his blankie to self soothe,” writes Linda Szmulewitz of sleeptightconsultants.com.

“If your baby has already attached himself to an object (it doesn’t have to be a blankie, it can be an object like a stuffed animal–it should be something small though that is easy to hold in their little hand and has no removeable parts like eyes that could come off), great.  Go with it,” she says.

Linda advises that a blankie should stay  in the child’s room for sleeping time, to help with the association with sleep as well as for easy location when it is time for bed.

“The only places that our blankie goes outside the house are to the doctor (when my kids were really little and needed extra comfort) or in the carry-on bag of luggage when we go on an airplane,” says Linda.

But Peggy of the the Primal Parent blog gives a warning.

“Essentially, the reason children adopt the transitional object in the first place is because it relieves stress. But wait a minute. Stress? Really?  Beyond the transitional period of separation from the parent and the developing concept of “not me” why is the little baby so stressed out?

“Because the world is big and scary and unknown and dark and noisy… While these are pretty legitimate stressors for a child, a parent should consider if there are other significant stressors in the child’s life such as mom going away to work after a few weeks or months, the disappearance of familiar things or people, parents who fight or are stressed out themselves.”

So encourage more attachment with your children and reduce stress in the home.

 

But can a comfort habit become a problem?

“If it’s just a little much-cuddled blanket or soft toy, your only real worry will be trying to get the stinking article in the washing machine sometimes, or if it’s unique, what you’re going to do about it when it gets lost. And eventually – years on – there’s the possibility that it will cause you a little embarrassment or difficulty if they’re still trailing it round at school-age and need to be dissuaded from taking it in to the classroom with them,” writes Hollie Smith, a mom blogger.

Pacifiers and thumbs are, however, a little different as longterm use can cause teeth misalignment and could hinder speech as the child always has something I his mouth hence has no time  to practise talking,

My conclusion from all the reading up I did is that there is no compelling reason to take away my son’s “nguo za kunyonya”. And there’s no reason to become alarmed that at three years, he still needs his blankie to fall asleep. He will give it up on his own as he grows older (usually at around age five) and even if he doesn’t, at that age we can negotiate. If he can separate himself from his beloved PJ trousers or top while he is in school, he will learn to do so even at night, with time. Right now, those pieces of clothing help him cope with big emotions like hunger and sleep and it’s fine.

As Dr Sears, the renown American child development specialist says: “Let your child enjoy her “blanky” as long as she wishes. Don’t worry that her attachment to her blanket may reveal some underlying insecurities or may slow her independence. This is simply not true. An attachment to her blanket is not only normal, it’s healthy. The ability to form deep attachments is one of the most important emotional qualities you want to help your child develop. As children are learning to attach to people, they also like to attach to things, and this attachment to people and things will help your child ease into independence.

Dr Sears says: “Security blankets cause no emotional or physical harm. Besides you don’t want to teach your child that attachments are easily disposable. The most secure children I’ve ever seen are those who are not weaned from any object or person of attachment before their time. Allow her the luxury of her soft friend. Don’t worry; she is unlikely to drag it down the aisle on her wedding day.”