Friday August 26 2011

One super mum’s tales of living and loving

One super mum’s tales of living and loving

Langariti at home happily them through the activity for the day. photo by ISMAIL Kezaala  

By Agnes K. Namaganda

Since I decided not to have a maid, I had to become creative on how I managed life. I am a morning person, eight months ago, I decided to experiment on waking up early. I started with 5a.m. and then later on when I plunged myself into a raw food diet with the mental alertness and energy at large, I pushed it to 3am which gives me more hours in the morning. I love the feeling of being up at 3am all by myself – I find that the morning time is the best for me. I am fresh, I love the quiet and there is absolutely no interruption – no phones, no children crying. I tend to start my day by doing things that require a lot of activity like mopping the house, preparing meals and then I am ready to stop and have some time for prayer and reading, then go through the plans for my day.

Before I know it, it is already 6a.m, time to wakeup the children, get them breakfast, have them bathe and prepare them for class which usually starts at 8:15a.m.

Home schooling programme
Our class structure comprises Skills development, Activity time, Phonics, Numbers, Writing, Language development and Bible (She tells the children to recite about five verses for me and they all take off in unison quoting the book, chapter and verse prior, in crisp clear English).

Midday to 2p.m. is nap time for the children. I keep them together in the sitting room, so that I can keep an eye on who is pinching who as that falls within my job description. It is also my free time and I can choose to nap until I drool or put my gift of talking to good use on the phone. I serve them lunch when they wake up, give them an afternoon bath outdoors which is fun, and then do some review, writing, colouring and play.

5 p.m. is time to eat again and at 7 pm, they are getting ready for bed. After 9p.m. my body gets into shut down mode and if I do not quickly find my bed, I will end up curled up under our car in the garage.

Parenting an autistic child
Stephen our first child was born a normal baby in the US. When he was about 18 months we realised that he was not making progress developmentally – the boy who used to talk to us shut down completely and begun acting strange. We were thrown into a dilemma. A year later we got a diagnosis and it was confirmed that he was autistic. The cause of autism is still a subject of debate. We decided to focus on how well we can help him live a life that is as normal as possible through behavioural therapy. This I must confess is not for the faint hearted.

Stephen does not like to find water spilled on the floor and many times cannot use the toilet until he has first flashed it. He does not appreciate sudden changes to his established routine. But because of all the work that we have put into training him, among other things, he is now able to ask for food, pick up after himself and help out with simple chores like taking his plate to the sink after eating.

Our decision to adopt
We always wanted to make a contribution to the plight of underprivileged children, and having an autistic child seemed a good reason for us not to take on more children but deep inside there continued to be a yearning to adopt. We made a trip to the babies home, and after a long process, we identified two children who were not doing well health wise, but we were ready for the challenge. Just before the children came home, we found out that I was pregnant. This was the first test of our commitment to adopt. The girl was hospitalised at the time and the doctor kept calling us saying the girl badly needed a home to get better.

Why I don’t have a house help
There are maids out there who are amazing, but my personal experience stems from childhood. I find satisfaction in doing things myself. I tried at some point to have maids but I found that over time, it was emotionally exhausting. It’s coming to two years now without a maid, and my pulse rate is still normal!

The decision to home school
In my understanding, it is my responsibility to train our children as their parents. After a lot of research, home schooling seemed the most suitable for the varied needs of our children. For example the adopted children still needed to bond with us and I just did not feel right sending them out to the world on their own.
Most schools are designed for normal children, so our autistic son would be quite overwhelming for both the teachers and pupils. From the first comments that visitors to our house made like, “he is so stubborn”, and yet the truth is that “he is autistic”, he would respond in a different way is what made me take on the decision. We are borrowing the US curriculum and integrating it with the Ugandan curriculum. For example, instead of learning about the US flag, we learn about the Ugandan flag. But the challenge is that it is subject to interruption from guests or illness of the teacher or when the teacher has a bad hair day!

My role as a housewife
It is an honour to be one and granted this is also a season in my life. I want to make the most of it by being home when the children need me most - especially during their dependence and formation years. I guess it’s also a reaction from my mother and father separating and the fact that I grew up with no one to share my struggles and joys with, this has been so important to me. But this is so challenging because it’s very isolating and financially hard to sustain. You have to be dependent on one salary or scale down on your expenses to be able to manage.

My day off
I like to get away on Saturdays, just to do shopping and pamper myself if I can afford to. I hand over the children to my husband and disappear. Even just driving out and putting on loud music relaxes me. My favourite place to visit is Aristoc where I do some reading, and I also like to have random conversations with strangers which my husband finds very disturbing. Going to church for me is like taking a car to a service station. It refreshes my spirit and sets the pace for my week to be a healthy mother, wife and friend.