I stayed up last night writing down all the different lessons that I have learnt from my Mama. And they are numerous. My mum was born a village girl, in a very progressive family. Both her parents had a career, granddad worked in the Railways, the biggest employer in the colonial times. My grandmother was a teacher who loved to teach; which rubbed on to my mum and my aunts.
My mum went through some tough times in life which shaped her world view which definitely impacted how she raised us. I have listed a few of the things that she taught me consciously and unconsciously that have influenced greatly who I am today!
- Be truthful
My Mum always says “adiera ber”; it means it’s good to be truthful, in Luo. She would say that mostly after a reprimand, it was her way of reminding that it was correction out of love. She always told me stories of the normal and at times comical disagreements she would have with her siblings, and how they always argued it out based on truth. In my Mum’s family people said it like it is. If anyone exaggerated, they would be called out there and then. And with that simple act; there were no grudges held. I remember when my Dad died, at the funeral; one of my mum’s sisters was just being a pain. The sisters locked themselves up in mum’s room argued and called the rogue out. When the door was opened, everyone was laughing. I learnt with truth. You resolve things faster, get rid of grudges and live with a clear conscious.
- Be proud of where you come from
When I was younger, nearly every school holiday we would always travel to our rural home. It was fun at first; but as I grew older, it was an irritating distraction. My mother believed it was essential for me to know “where I came from”. I would wake up at 5 or 6 am to go to farm. I would fetch water from the river with a bucket balanced on my head. I learnt how to cook on a three stoned stove fuelled by firewood that I fetched. I always asked my mother why.
“This is the 20th Century Mama; people use gas now?” My mother’s response was simple. “It is important to know this. You will appreciate it later.” That response used to irritate the living daylights out of me. She wasn’t lying. I do appreciate those lessons now.
- A woman needs a career
The first time I heard the word PhD I was 4 or 5 years old. A cousin was visiting with us on holiday. She was in the city studying a PhD in what sounded foreign at the time; computer science. After that, I started to meet more family getting PhD’s mostly women. I never knew that was an anomaly. In my family everyone went to college and had careers. My mum would always say, look at your Aunties they are teachers, administrators, lecturers. Look at me, when I met your father I had my own career and so did he. My mother believes that the order of life was career then family. Why? You earn money and are an equal contributor in your marriage.
- Love your family no matter what
I love my brother, but like brothers do, he used to taunt and bully me for his amusement. I used to whine, cry, yell and at times fight back. At times I would be too overwhelmed and exasperated by it all. I would tell mum, yeah, I was a snitch. At times she would laugh and say “that’s what brothers and sisters do.” And she would tell me about my uncles and what they would do to her growing up. She would laugh reminiscent and make it all such a light hearted affair. I would soon forgive my brother and we would be playing again.
- Men and Women – who cares? We are equal.
My mother was a teenager at Kenya’s independence in 1963. She had 2 brothers and 4 three sisters. She is a middle child. They were raised equally. If it was my uncles’ turn to make breakfast as the girls went to fetch water at the river they made breakfast. Chores were never gender specific. It was all hands on deck. That is how she raised me with my siblings. I only realised the difference when I went visiting other relatives and friends. To this day, I question gender roles. Mama didn’t raise me like that. In our house, whatever we wanted to do, Mum and Dad said go for it irrespective of our gender.
- Laugh Out Loud
One thing we do well as a family is laugh. Laughter has kept us sane through some of the most devastating experiences. I learnt to laugh at myself from Mama. Mum would do things and start laughing at herself. She would make light of so many heavy things. It would release any tension. I remember at the dinner table after a long day at work, she would be in the middle of telling us a story, when everyone was engrossed, she would dose off. Eyes closed, head bobbing. My dad, would call her and ask her, “what is going on?” Mum would jolt on her chair confused look around the dinner table asking, “what happened?” We would all laugh; she would laugh at herself as well. It makes me laugh; writing about it.
These are just a few of many many lessons Mama has taught me, I will continue to share more. But in summary, when I look at where I am today, my mama has been a guide a beacon and a role model. She has inspired me to be the woman I am today. My mama is my hero. And I love her with all my heart. I know I am greatly blessed to have her. I love you Mama. Happy Mother’s Day! May the Lord continue to bless your days on this earth! Big Hug!