Tag Archives: get-togethers

Kids have never failed to imitate.

Kids have never failed to imitate

Kids might not be so good at following instructions, but they have- for ages- been good at copy pasting what they hear or see. The other day, some kids were discussing one of their friends’ houses that they had recently visited, and one asked, “Have you been to their house? It’s so empty; you could play football in it”. Now any adult will tell you that not even the darkest kid will independently conceive such a statement in their minds; and if they did, it would mostly be based on something they had previously overheard.

One might try to argue that nowadays kids are so ‘digital’; they seem to know everything, thanks to technology.  That to some extent would be correct, but of importance here is the fact that when a baby is growing up, one of the major factors that shape them into who/what they grow into would be the environment they’re brought up in. The age of the kids on focus here would also be of massive importance; based on my sheer knowledge, none of them was above six.

With that in mind, how would one expect a kid to grow up if s/he often hears his parents/grownups around  him criticizing other people, what they have and what not…? To some, this concept might seem alien, but not to me. I’ve been un/lucky enough (depending on how you choose to look at it) to be caught in an extremely uncomfortable moment where I, or my family rather, was the topic of such a distasteful conversation…

A few years ago, my family was to meet up with my extended (paternal) kin at one of my uncles’ place since we all lived in different parts of the city so we could travel together to the countryside to visit my paternal grandma. At the time there was some sought of tension between my mom and her in-laws; the beef runs way back, before I was even conceived but I don’t wanna delve into that at the moment. It’s for that precise reason that my mom had opted to sit out of any family get-togethers, to avoid any altercations that could inflict more wounds on the already existing ones.

My dad, the gentleman he is (when he wants to be…) couldn’t leave mom alone; he also chose to remain behind, to keep her company when my sisters and I were gone. Ergo, we made arrangements to have our uncle (the host) pick us up because we were not so familiar with the place; we had only been there once before.

My uncle, whom we’re not so close with, came to pick us up. He was alone. He came into our house, which he’d never been into before, to help us carry our luggage. In case you’re wondering, we have a very strained relationship with our paternal relatives. I’ve mentioned that in some previous posts. In my own understanding, I have over time attributed it to the fact that dad married mom against his family’s wishes; apparently dad’s family is affluent, whereas mom’s family isn’t so endowed.

In all honesty I thought that kind of prejudice only happens in telenovelas: rich hunk falls head over heels in love with a beautiful girl from a very humble background; his family objects vehemently, branding the innocent girl a social climber, and subsequently they all conspire to make the girl’s life a living nightmare…Smh!

A few minutes later we were on the road, headed to my uncle’s. On the way we stopped at a mall, where his wife had been shopping, to pick her up. Under different circumstances, we would have jumped at the idea of meeting our aunt especially after such a long time, but at that moment it only meant we would have a pretty hellish ride.

As we had envisaged, the ride was quite unpleasant; and it had nothing to do with the car’s upholstery or bumpy roads. It was all my aunt’s doing. See, in a nutshell, she’s very outspoken and if you ask me, she doesn’t really give a rat’s ass whose toes she steps on. I remember her asking my uncle in hushed murmurs, how our house looked. That didn’t catch me off guard because I knew she was capable of that and more but I was disappointed because I thought she would have the decency to ask that discretely, preferably in our absence. Then again, maybe she thought we didn’t hear.

“It’s big,” my uncle replied reluctantly. I bet he too felt uneasy about his wife’s indiscretion.

Hungry for information, she went ahead to ask- in her own words- what the house was ‘filled’ with since it was really big. The blatant derision in her voice irked me. At that time, I didn’t know how to react; I was torn between bursting into a fit of laughter at such barbarism, and cutting in the conversation just to express my outrage; but I knew better. I don’t recall my uncle answering her; I guessed he didn’t want to partake in such unmitigated savagery. I respected him for that.

Now in reference to James A. Baldwin’s quote, I try to imagine what would have happened had my sisters and I been at an impressionable age? If we weren’t the ones on the receiving end. We would have possibly repeated my aunt’s scathing words later, when mingling with other kids, just like my neighbours’ kids had.

In my opinion, if you want to know how people refer to others behind closed doors, just listen to their kids or see how they act while in the midst of other kids… They’ve never failed to imitate. My take here may be deemed uninformed, but if my cousins (my aunt’s children) are anything to go by, then I know I’m right…

What to wear?

Dressing up for family get-togethers is just a task. I say that because my relatives-most of them-make it their business to openly ridicule anyone they feel isn’t dressed right. Problem is, when it comes to matters dressing, it’s difficult to describe, ‘right’.

If one shows up, say in an outfit my family- extended paternal- don’t like, they will blatantly make fun of it, and if it’s too classy they’ll still make one feel bad about it. A few years ago, my sisters and I showed up at a family gathering dressed in denim pants, stiletto heels and some fancy tops. The next thing we knew, we were the topic of a very unpleasant conversation. “Who were you coming to impress?” One of the cousins mocked, and everyone else burst into a derisive laughter.

Obviously they had never been to our closets, because then they’d know we were actually dressed down. Once, one of my uncles took my sisters and I shopping. It was entirely unprecedented because he had come to pick us home. My sisters and I had turned down his invitation to attend the annual get-together. He cajoled us on phone but it didn’t work; he decided to show up in person. Usually the event takes more than one day but he promised we’d be back that same evening.

Seeing as he’d made the effort to come for us, we couldn’t say no. Mom wasn’t going and dad had chosen to stay behind to keep her company, which happens rarely; normally he attends most of the parties alone. We didn’t pack any clothes because we hadn’t planned on sleeping over. On the way we stopped at a mall. Apparently he had duped us; we were going to spend the night at our cousins’. He asked us to pick all the items we’d need. He seemed happy we were with him, so neither of my sisters nor I wanted to burst his bubble; compliantly, we picked anything we thought was necessary. While shopping, I picked out a cute sleeveless top which was very decent, only that it wasn’t covering my arms.

Light-heartedly, he asked, “Did the tailor run out of fabric or what?” We laughed, but at that point we understood one thing; he was a bit conservative. The last time we had attended any family function was about five years before then. We hadn’t seen much of each other when we were transitioning from girls to young women. The clothes we bought then were clothes we wouldn’t buy on a normal day. They just felt too plain.

Since that day, we were always too careful not to dress in anything which revealed too much skin, or any skin for that matter. The next time we attended a get-together, we had to go shopping for clothes that would be more apt for the function, not because what we had was indecent, but simply because we thought it would be good to wear something that was ‘conservative’.

After wearing denim pants, t-shirt tops and blazers to subsequent functions, we got tired of it and went back to our usual clothes. Normally, when choosing an outfit, there’s that fine line between elegant and skimpy. All short dresses/skirts don’t exactly fall in the trashy category, so one doesn’t have to particularly wear maxi dresses in order to look decent. It’s all about striving to make it all look stylish.

In the last function my family and I attended a few weeks ago, one of my cousins showed up in a print maxi skirt. Another one of my cousins ridiculed her, “Is it the skirt that’s big or it’s just you who’s big?” I wasn’t the one under attack, but I thought some comments were better left unsaid.

When my big sister was in high school, one of her classmates told her, “One doesn’t always have to say what comes to mind.” Basically it’s all about applying brain filters. Essentially, when it comes to matters dressing, no one wants to be ridiculed about what they wear; one’s physical appearance has a lot to do with their self-esteem, and again, it’s always upon an individual to choose what they want to wear.

People have different tastes and preferences; that’s given. One’s idea of indecent or elegant might be viewed differently by another person. It therefore becomes an issue if one has to pay attention to everyone else’s opinions when picking out an outfit. I’m thinking, maybe when my cousin was dressing up for the party, she thought everyone would be okay with it, but as it turns out that wasn’t the case; she was ridiculed for it.

If you ask me, one should wear what they are comfortable in. Obviously the occasion dictates the dress code, but one should own their style, so that if anyone was to raise issues about it, one would defend it. In my opinion, it’s better to fail for being you, than to fail for trying to do/be what everyone else thought you should do/be, because even though I consider it wise to pay attention to other people’s opinion, sometimes those people aren’t always right.

 

Negative competition

When I was a kid, the main reason I loved celebrating birthdays, Easter and Christmas was because we (my sisters and I) always got new clothes, and most of the time they were matching Cinderella dresses. Mom always bought us the dresses that were in vogue at that time, and as we grew up it became a little tradition. The best part was when it came to attending mass on Christmas day, because then we’d get to wear our cute ‘princessy’ dresses. In that light, my least favourite Christmas was year 2000’s because we didn’t get new clothes; mom didn’t have a job and dad wasn’t willing to part with his money.

Given the circumstances, we were so disappointed; we refused to attend mass. It felt weird not wearing new clothes to church. Mom was so strict when it came to matters church, but I guess that day she understood our frustrations so she didn’t force us to go. In my family, Christmas has always been treated like an extended family affair so most of the time we hold our annual get-togethers around that time. That Christmas was being celebrated at one of my uncles’ place. Dad went alone.

Seeing as we didn’t attend mass that day, one of our second class cousins, who lived nearby passed by our place. Maybe the frustrations of not having new dresses made us myopic, because I remember feeling like she had only come to see what kind of clothes we had.

It sounds foolish when I think about it now, but we made that deduction based on three facts: firstly, their house was a thirty minutes’ walk away from ours. Secondly, she brought us an old black card with a wine bottle on the front page and it wasn’t even enveloped. It didn’t seem like a Christmas card and given that I’ve never seen it since then, I’m assuming we threw it away that same day. Thirdly, we weren’t really that close. The relationship we had with them was a very unhealthy one; it was more of a competition; seeing who went to the best schools, who lived in a fancier house, who got a boyfriend first (we were still very young but that was also an issue), seeing whose parents drove the best cars, who got the best grades in school…

Based on that, it was difficult to believe she’d walked all the way just to bring an old card; but maybe we were just being paranoid… the only good thing about that day was that one of our aunts-she was estranged from her husband at the time so she also didn’t attend the get-together- brought my sisters and I some cute knickers.

As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, the things-habit wise- we pick up as kids stay with us longer. In that respect, I’ve always detested any form of competition I deem negative; with my cousins for instance. The madness stopped when we moved to different parts of the city. I don’t think the competitiveness stopped, on their part atleast, because even when we meet one can still feel the tension; the only thing is that distance brought some sanity.

When I was a kid, the relationship we had with the rest of the family didn’t feel any different and as I grew up I started appreciating the distance. We only met up when it was inevitable. For the better part of our preteen and early teenage years we still were linked by the mere fact that somehow my sisters, female cousins and I all went to the same boarding school. So even if we lived far from each other we’d still meet in school.

Slowly, I started hating anything that felt like a competition, because if whatever I had/did wasn’t the best, I’d lie so I wouldn’t feel so bad about it. I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Luckily we went to different high schools and seeing as we were old enough to make our own choices we (my sisters and I) avoided any unnecessary meetings. Sometimes distancing oneself from negative influence is the best solution.

Someone who reads my posts regularly might think I hate my extended paternal family. Truth is I don’t hate them. I just don’t like the person I am when I’m with them. Our relationship hasn’t changed. It has always felt like a competition, and looking back at the life I had as a kid, I know I wouldn’t want to go back to that. If I have to constantly tell lies or lash out at someone because they make it their business to pry into my life, making me feel bad about what I don’t have or what I have, just because they’re not okay with it, I would rather sever all ties with them than do something I might regret for the rest of my life, in an attempt to always top the charts.

second chances

Weight Issues

weight issues

The last time I met up with some of my relatives from my paternal side a few weeks ago at my uncle’s birthday, I had a hard time bonding with some of them because whatever came out of their mouths was infelicitous as usual. One of my cousins approached me asking, “Where’s the baby?”

I was in the kitchen when she came up to me. With an eyebrow arched I was like, “Seriously? What the F…?” Only I was courteous enough not to say it out loud. Lifting my head up I smiled at her, “Why do you ask?” I already knew why she was asking that-another one of my cousins had asked that same question earlier-but I just wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Well, you’ve put on so much weight,” she explained, “the last time I saw you, you looked like a stick.” Such polite words you have there cousin, I thought. I would be lying if I said those words didn’t irritate me, but knowing she was just being herself- failing to be courteous and all-I calmly reminded her the last time we’d met was about three years ago. My sisters and I had deliberately skipped all family functions; it takes so much energy pretending one’s happy when they’re not, putting up with crap when one feels like they would explode. We didn’t have the grace to turn the other cheek, so we avoided attending the functions entirely.

Like I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, this ‘funny’ relationship we have with them dates back to when my parents were dating; dad’s family was rich, mom’s was poor, so we automatically earned the ‘poor cousins tag’. Even when God bridged that gap the tag still remained. Initially I used to feel bugged by it, but as I grew up I realized judging people based on what they have/don’t have, or where they stand socially is just tacky.

“There’s no baby, it’s all food,” I added, straight-faced. I let it pass without making a fuss.

I wouldn’t take any offence if I thought she only asked that in jest, because honestly some people have a ‘painful’ sense of humour, but I could tell, it was actually sarky.

That’s one of the reasons I hate attending any family get-togethers; from my paternal side especially, because it’s like every one of the members has been gifted in offending others, and we (my sisters and I) always have to play it cool; taking it all stoically. With my cousin for instance, I was so tempted to give her a piece of my mind, but I didn’t see the point. I didn’t want to be the better villain. It’s something I’m trying to overcome, given the circumstances-my ‘violent’ childhood. I chose to take the high road.

The last time I saw my cousin and the rest of the family, I really had lost too much weight; the job I had at the time was too strenuous; it was actually one of the reasons that made me opt to quit. I remember one of my uncles asking me why I looked that scrawny. “If it’s the job that’s taking such a toll on you, just quit,” he’d told me. I understood his concern.

Now three years later, a few of them found it an issue that I looked bigger than the previous time. One thing I’ve learnt in life is that it’s practically impossible to please everyone. If I decided to dance to their tunes, I’d lose myself, suffering from eating disorders because I’m either too big or too small for their liking; just not the right size. Good thing is, I couldn’t be happier with how I look, and to me, that’s all that matters; how I feel.

 

 

 

Children are like clay

clay in potter's hands 2

Children are like clay; the environment moulds them. Naturally when a baby is born, they are without knowledge of the numerous ‘how to’s’.  For instance, when a baby is born, he/she comes into the world, unable to speak. With time, they pick up the words they hear around them, and as they grow they learn to verbalize their emotions. For instance, if a baby is raised in a family where expletives are used a lot, he will use them even when he’s not so sure what they mean.

A conversation I had with my sisters made me realize that most of the things I do are just a slight modification of what I learnt as a kid.

My sisters and I started walking down that familiar road to the past. Our conversation was just a normal one, talking about one of our uncles’ birthday party, which we’ve been invited to. It’s a rare gesture from our relatives because since I can remember we’ve always had a strained relationship with them. I’ve referred to the genesis of that beef in some previous posts.

When we received the invitation, we just said we’d take a rain check. It’s a party which will be held this coming Sunday and honestly it wouldn’t take much effort for us to avail ourselves, but the nature of the relationship we have with them makes it one of those things one has to seriously mull over before jumping on the band wagon.

Earlier in the day I asked mom if she’ll be going but she wasn’t so forthcoming about it. Actually her reply was more like a retort. She, in her own words, felt bothered that we would contemplate going to such a luxurious event when her own mother-our grandma-is admitted in hospital. She got admitted today and the issue has had mom stressed up all day because the doctors said she was seriously ill. She thought we were being insensitive, but truth is we were only trying to distract her so she would atleast stop worrying about her mom too much.

While discussing the issue with my sisters, we started recounting some similar events from the past. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, this beef with our relatives didn’t just start recently; it started when my mom got married to dad. When my cousins and I were born, the beef hadn’t been settled yet; our parents passed the beef down to our generation. We’ve always treated each other with meticulous caution; in most cases it just feels like we’re perfects strangers; we hardly keep in touch during the year, so when we hook up for our annual get-togethers, that’s when we start acquainting ourselves with what others have been up to. Honestly I find that little set-up mind-numbing.

Mom’s reaction didn’t come as a shock to me. Chances are, even if grams wasn’t sick, she would still have found a valid excuse to sit out this party . She’s done that so many times before. While recounting some of those instances, we opened the flood gates to our past and we moved from one thing to another. The conversation made me realize that kids are shaped by their environment; the beliefs I have today, I acquired them as a child; most of the habits I have today, both good and bad, I acquired while still a child. I grew up of course, but what I learnt as a child has stuck. I realized it’s difficult to change the things we learnt as children, because those are some of the first things our minds captured. One would need to undergo major reprogramming to change them.

When we were small, mom made us stay in the house a lot; at the time it felt like the best option given the circumstances, and as we grew up the habit stuck. I’m not very okay with the idea of just staying in, but high chances are if I’m not out on appointments, running errands, etc. I’ll be in the house taking part in some indoor activity. I can’t say it’s boring, but it does feel monotonous at times. The worst part is even when I decide to break the monotony, go out and have fun, I end up feeling like staying in would have been the best option.

I attribute this to the fact that when growing up we were made to believe it was the right thing; from what I’ve realized, it will take a lot of will power to break the wont. This is just one of the many things I still do that I learnt when I was a child.

With this in mind, I’d love to believe that children should be handled with so much care. The lessons we impart to them determine the kind of lives they lead when they grow up. If a child grows in an environment that makes them so afraid, chances are they’ll grow up into fainthearted adults. Ergo, if one wants their child to have some certain qualities, they should instill in them those qualities while they are still small, because when they grow up it becomes difficult to shape them.