In Uganda, children get a long break from school over the Christmas holiday. Most kids are out of school from the beginning of December to the beginning of February. My husband and I decided it would be good to have Harunah, the boy my mother-in-law takes care of, come stay with us in the city and experience Kampala.
But in a moment of brilliant thinking, I recommended inviting another boy who is Harunah’s age to stay with us too. My logic was they would have each other to play with. It seemed harmless, but I wasn’t prepared for all that comes with taking care of two boys. After three weeks of temporary parenting, here are the lessons I learned as a mom aka meal-making machine.
1. I’m the one in charge
Because I was trying to juggle working from home and keeping kids alive, I had a rule to only come in my room if there was an absolute emergency. I guess the word “emergency” is vague because I heard knocks on my door every fifteen minutes. Sometimes Harunah would come in, tell me what Jeremy did wrong and then I would say, “Oh, that’s too bad.” Until it dawned on me that I was indeed the one in charge and supposed to lay down the law for these children.
So, I had to pretend like I knew what I was doing, but really I made up everything as I went along. How did I suddenly become the adult around here? It shocked me when I would enforce a rule or act of discipline and the kids would actually listen. Is this how parenting works?
2. It’s okay to hide in your room and eat snacks
I may have had all my work done for the day and would still hide in my room to eat popcorn and watch a Hallmark Christmas movie. You can judge me all you want, but I call it taking care of mental health. I also kept a stash of chips in my room, so I didn’t have to share. These are my confessions. Please embrace them.
3. This is why we can’t have nice things
It didn’t take long for the kids to tear up everything we work hard for. You know that mosquito net that’s been effectively covering the bed for YEARS without being moved? Torn up. The colored pencils that I’ve had since I moved here two years ago? Broken in half. My pictures I displayed on the fridge? Ripped up.
4. Be prepared for ALLLL the questions
Kids ask tons of questions which does make me happy because that’s the only way you can learn. But the questions that left me laughing the most were, “What are those spots (freckles) on your skin and why don’t we have them?” Or the kicker of all questions asked around the dinner table, “Where do babies come from?” We thought we were in the clear as Jeremy took the lead describing a C-section in great detail. We breathed a sigh of relief as he finished his explanation. But then Harunah said, “I never asked how the baby gets out. I asked how the baby gets into the stomach.” My husband began to ask Haranuh (who has chickens) how he thought the egg got in the chicken. A conversation about mating ensues and I have to excuse myself from the kitchen table to laugh uncontrollably in my room. If you need to have the “birds and bees” talk with your kids, Ashiram and I are available via Skype to cover this delicate topic on your behalf.
5. Make life fun…but not too fun
We made forts, created Christmas plays, had Saturday game night, looked at Christmas lights, watched cartoons, made crafts, and went to Fun Zone. But suddenly all the fun things weren’t enough. They wanted more. More days at Fun Zone. Different food. A drone for Christmas (not even kidding). Ashiram and I knew then we were spoiling them too much and had to limit the amount of fun.
P.S. Once you have one child, it’s like they multiply right before your eyes. Here’s proof. How did this happen?
6. Bedtimes and morning routines work like a charm
Bedtimes and morning chores were the best parenting technique I implemented. Luckily, the kids didn’t have a watch, so bedtime could really be whenever we said. Usually, the earlier the better so “mommy and daddy” could have some alone time. Every morning they woke up to do the chores listed on the fridge. This was mainly to keep them from waking us up at 6:00am.
7. I am my mother
As a kid, my siblings would all gather around my mom in the kitchen as she was cooking dinner. She would suddenly shout at us (and the dogs), “Get out of the kitchen!” I get it now. I found myself saying the same things as the boys crowded around me in the kitchen and tried to get a look at what I was cooking.
Also, I wanted to call my mom and apologize profusely for every single time I disobeyed her or gave her an ugly attitude. I see what it’s like now and I repent for my actions.
8. Kids really are great
Despite wanting to pull my hair out and praying for my husband to get home before 6pm most days, kids really are great. I mean Harunah killed our Christmas chicken and cooked a better omelet than me. He’s the most mature kid I know. Kids test your limits, but then hand you a card that says, “Aunt Tiffany you are the most kindest person I have ever seen. I love you.” And your heart melts. And you think let these little angels break all the things and make all the noise.