Monday, July 23, 2012

It's a wrap people

Wrote this post just before I left the US to return to Kenya.  I'm finally back and plugged in enough to post it and plugged in enough to return to the wonderful community of writer/bloggers at yeahwrite.

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I'm sitting here with my bags nearly packed, already overflowing with detritus from an unexpectedly extended 2 month trip home: presents for the boys, new clothes, toys, old mementos I'm finally taking with me. I've been here so long it's starting to feel like home again and I wonder if I'll have reverse-reverse culture shock upon my return to Kisumu.  Whatever that means.

There's a lot I'm going to miss and a lot I'm looking forward to returning to.  It's the obvious stuff: my husband, friends, privacy, just being in space that I had a part in making home, a space that's a reflection of my family and my identity.

Bla bla blah. It's the normal stuff.  But I can't seem to get my head around what all this transition means for a three year old. He talks excitedly about seeing his papa and his toy motorbike and every once in a while says, "Mama, you remember Esther?" (a Kisumu friend).  But he can't not notice the differences in what is available for children in the US versus Kenya.

Partly because this is a vacation and partly because we can't get this kind of stuff in Kisumu, we took full unabashed advantage of the whole North American child-centered culture.   We went to parks, children's museums, kiddy pools, places that allowed kids to dress up as princesses and pirates and muck around pirate ships and fake castles,places filled with inflated jumping castles. We went to children's concerts and children's theaters.  Every restaurant had a kids menu and he's eaten more grilled cheese in the past 2 months than he has in his entire life. It was a veritable bacchanal of childhood revelry.

The Jump Zone.  Or a rainbow threw up. I'm not sure.

Water play at the Children's Museum.

This place is called Make a Messterpiece. This is where your art class went when the school budget was cut.  They privatized it.

And Children's Theater (for those under 10 and those tripping on acid)
Even when we didn't have an activity planned, we go to the park. We take our pick of 4 parks within a 15 minute walk of my parents house. They are all plastic and safe and the product of the most current concepts in child climbing, swinging and sliding theory.

But we're leaving this carnivale of child-centered fun. Kisumu has none of any of this. There are a few rusty metal playgrounds in schools and the odd country club, but transplanted to the US these would be ignored for safer more interesting options or simply condemned. On a recent walk to the park, I considered what leaving all of this must mean for Caleb and wondered if we were being fair to deprive him of this.

I was interrupted from my worry by Caleb who turned to me and asked expectently, "Mom, will there be kids at the park?"

"I'm not sure Caleb.  There might be." I replied.

He looked disappointed and started walking a little slower, not quite as excited about the prospect of an afternoon at the park with nobody but his mom to play with.  But when we got close enough to see the playground and the lone child climbing up the slide ladder, Caleb literally took of running, shouting over his shoulder, "Look mom! A kid!"

A smile broke out on my face.  For his unrestrained and enthusiastic sociability - one of his most endearing characteristics. But also for the well timed reminder.

A reminder that children, especially extroverted kids like Caleb, don't need a ton of fancy and colorful equipment.  They need playmates and the outdoors and chances to create their own worlds using only their imaginations. Isn't that what we remember best from our own childhoods?

So, I'm trying not to feel too bad about depriving him of trips to children's concerts and fantasy play lands.  We'll sing our own songs and he'll make his fantasies. He'll run around with the neighborhood kids creating his own fun.  And maybe he'll even be better off for it.  At least that's what I'm telling myself.

8 comments:

  1. I had so many emotions reading this, but here is one thing I can tell you. There's not a Mom in this Universe whose kids did not hate them for one thing or another while they were growing up. It won't matter whether it was for state-of-the-art playgrounds, or not extending curfew, or embarrassing them in front of their friends. The good news is -- there is light at the end of the tunnel. They will forgive you your trespasses and grow up and tell you they love you.

    Love,

    MOM

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  2. This made me remember of my childhood in the Philippines. It's true there's not much to play in or with in a 3rd world country, but childhood, nonetheless, happens - abundant with happiness. A good childhood is possible without all the fancy stuff that is readily available to "American" kids. For this, sometimes I wish I could take my kids to the Philippines for a month or so, just so they could experience life a different way - and be grateful, and see the beauty in everything. You know what I mean?

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    Replies
    1. Definitely! I think as much as the kids seem to love all the American amenities they either don't need it or (perhaps) it allowing them to forget how to create their own fun. Just the same, we enjoyed the heck out of that stuff during our visit.

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  3. You are such an awesome mum! Childhood is not made beautiful with materials. But love, joy and experiences. I'm sure when Caleb grows up, he'll remember what a wonderful childhood he has had ;)

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  4. I probably have no business posting about this or here (I'm a single 33 year old male living in a "bachelor pad," leather couch, big screen TV, PS3, and all) but I really love your blog, Kim, and I miss you and Colin a ton. I wish we were able to meet up when you guys were here.

    Anyways... When Tom, Soraya, and Saba were visiting a couple of months ago, we dragged poor Soraya all over the city to all the adult-like things that we thought she'd enjoy, i.e., High-Line, brunch, shoe store, etc., and she was pretty much bummed out the whole day... then, around 5 or 6, we got to Central Park and she just lost her mind with excitement and started running away from us towards the equipment through a crowded park (when we realized she wasn't going to stop and was pretty far, we started running, too). I'll never forget how happy she was with the park, bouncing around all over the place, taking me up and down the slide, swings, playing with balloons, face painting, and all the other park activities. Really awesome time... No moral here... just a great couple hours in the park with a happy kid and a happy adopted uncle.

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    Replies
    1. Wait... there is one moral: you can fit a family of three and probably 4 in my apartment in NYC... I'm waiting.

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  5. Honestly, I think we had it better when we were kids. We didn't have XBOX, cable TV, the internet, iPads, iPhones, Facebook, but we did have friends, the outdoors, and our own wild imagination. I find that a lot of kids these days lack imagination. The don't because around every corner they are being spoon fed by television, movies, and the internet.

    Great story, enjoyed it.


    Michael A. Walker
    Defying Procrastination

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