READING, WRITING AND (LIFE) RULES
Text: Susie Brown
It is a very large job we take on as parents, is it not? Even if we leave all of the book-learning to school, (which of course we wont), we still have a lot of other matters of importance on which we can focus our teaching efforts. Kids have a lot to learn. So do we, even though we are adults; perhaps though, through life, and years, and experiences, we have a few insights to offer. Maybe.
WHAT CAN WE TEACH OUR KIDS?
We teach our kids to be the example kid in class. We teach them to be the one that their classmates go home and tell their parents about at the dinner table because they admire them so. We want them to be the kid that other kids want to be, and not because they are the smartest or the coolest, the fastest or the funniest. Those other kids want to be like ours because ours are the kindest and because they reach out and they include.
We teach our kids that sometimes we have to do things that are scary and big. Sometimes we have to do things we are afraid to do. Even big people suffer from fear. We teach them that by doing these scary things, we grow a little bit, and learn a lot. The world is full of scary things; still, we dont cower. We teach our children how to take a deep breath, and to find our way. The second time wont be as scary.
Social skills and Manners
Children are little monkeys, mimicking what they see their favorite big people doing. They see the food choices we make. They hear the words we use. They see the actions we take. Both good and bad behaviors and interactions; they see and absorb it all. We teach our kids to be the force that embraces rather than rejects. By encouraging our kids to use those big hearts of theirs, and including, we are teaching our kids the beauty of friendship. One can never have too many friends. Lessons can come from more than just books and the classroom. Lessons can be learned anywhere, and you never know from whom you will gain knowledge. Teachers? Absolutely an invaluable resource. Friends? Yes, them too. Those they have not yet had the privilege of meeting? One can never know, so it is best to reach out and include.
We teach our kids that we love them. No.Matter.What. No school or athletic accomplishments can change that; being best does not add to that. They do not have to earn our love or pride and they cannot lose it. There will be scores of contests at school and in life; we dont care if they win a single one of them. We dont care about straight As, if the other kids think they are cute/handsome/beautiful or if they are picked first or last for soccer during class break. We dont care about being the teachers favorite or if they are the pill in the back row. (Well, okay, maybe just a little bit.) Theres no need to have the most art pieces, or to have the best handwriting. We teach our kids that they are loved. Period. Children who are confident in the affection of their parents are happier, more settled, more even-tempered, and more confident.
Values, Preferences and Tolerances
What and who are important to you will likely in turn be important to your kids. Our goal as parents is to make a positive mark on our childrens behaviors, sure, but also on their hearts. We teach our kids to be 100% themselves, to be proud of who that person is, and to help others be all that they can be as well. There is much less to be angry about when we realize what we believe in and stand for does not necessarily resonate for everyone else. And that is 100% okay.
Words and actions matter
We teach our children that they are responsible for their actions. Their actions matter. What one does, every day, has an impact on another person. It is important to be the one taking deliberate action. You are the one acting. Every person is impacting others. Every person is also the one choosing whether to have a positive or a negative impact. We teach our children to choose wisely; it is important. Small words, but generous actions. And they make a big difference. Its powerful to see when kids see how big an impact their caring words can have on others. Words are tools one can use to create warmth, harmony and inclusivity. Words are also tools one can use to harm and impair. It is important to consider wisely the impact one has.
We teach our children when we fall or fail, we dont give up. When we dont hit our mark, we dont throw our hands up. When we step back, it isnt to turn around and leave, but to take a better look, and see how we can try again and maybe do better.
Photo: GEMS Cambridge International School
We teach our children that with gratitude comes awareness of what and who is around us; with gratitude we are more well-balanced and aware of our abilities; with gratitude we are more open and joyful. We teach our kids that a grateful person is a more settled, content and happy person.
We teach our kids how we define home and why that is important. Beyond values, we all define home in a manner that is unique to us. In our home, we embrace where we come from, where weve been, and where wed like to go. We bring Grandma and Grandpa with us, even if they physically reside on a different continent. We Skype, Facetime and Message to keep extended family as present as possible. We bring foods and sounds from home, we wrap these pieces around our little corner of the world, and turn it into a pocket all our own. Pictures, sounds, smells, tastes all glued together in a puzzle that perfectly depicts home. The amazing thing is, no matter how many times we move, no matter how far we travel, we can create this home.
Are we the greatest of educators? Maybe, for certain things. What I know for sure is that the lessons we teach our children are life-long and far-reaching. And maybe, just maybe, they serve us as well as they do our kids.
We have talked to a lot of parents these last few weeks about what they wished they had known or been told when they first arrived in Uganda. Here are some of the highlights.
The rain can bring Kampala to a standstill so don’t plan to cross Kampala with the kids in the car when it’s raining heavily. Kampala also comes to a standstill on the days national schools open and close so don’t plan to travel across Kampala on these days either.
Come with a car seat to Uganda. Car seats here are low quality and expensive.
Seat belts are not commonly used in Uganda. If your children will be in a car with a nanny or driver, you cannot over emphasise enough the use of seat belts.
All travel seems to take forever. Make your kids an I-spy sheet and laminate it so you can reuse it again and again on journeys.
There are few places to go for a walk around Kampala, mainly because there are very few pavements. Big pushchairs or travel systems are a waste of time, bring a lighter stroller or baby sling for airports and for when you do find somewhere to go for a walk.
You can drive on your home country Driver’s licence/permit for 6 months and then you need to get a Uganda licence. It is a simple process.
Doctors here are happy to hand out their phone number so get your favourite doctor’s number and keep it on speed dial. However if you don’t like the diagnosis you were given or your child is not getting better, seek a second opinion.
Bring or buy pop up mosquito nets for the children so you can set them up in bed anywhere and at any time, especially if you’re travelling and arrive late or have other kids over for a sleepover.
Give your children malaria prophylaxis when travelling up country.
You can buy small elasticated mosquito nets that fit snuggly over a car seat or buggy which are great for allowing your child to sleep out in the fresh air or if you are out after dusk. You need to buy these before you come to Uganda or get them made here.
Birthday Parties & Playdates
Expect people to be late both arriving and picking up their children at the end of parties and playdates. Expect siblings to stay for parties too.
Food is expected at anything you host, so if a party is anyway near a meal time, your guests will expect food.
If you’re taking the kids out for the day, go early, as everyone visits places late so that’s when places get overcrowded.
All baby products are sold for the same price you buy them overseas, if not more, so bring as much as possible with you. Many items in Kampala are cheap plastic items or poorly made and don’t last long.
Facebook groups are great for buying and selling items.
There are very few maternity products available in Kampala so bring them with you from home if you’re planning on having a baby.
If you are fussy about certain brands (for example baby formula), bring it with you as whilst most things are available here, it might not be the brand you require.