Raising Atek: Sleepless nights and countless joys

Saturday September 19 2020
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Atek makes 18 years

By Min Atek

Rushing up the steps of the third floor of the building which housed the editorial department, my phone rang. I picked up and the voice on the other end announced firmly that the child had collapsed and they were at the doctor’s.

There wasn’t much room for a lengthy conversation. I stopped immediately and rushed to my desk to pick my bag before dashing home as quickly as my legs could take me. I was trying to be brave.
Earlier that day, I’d spent the better part of the morning at Kibuli Hospital. They had done all manner of tests on the child and given us medication. After we were discharged, I took the child home and left her in the care of the nanny. Between the time I dropped her home and getting back to office, she had convulsed, hence the call.

Thankfully, we had a medical doctor in our neighbourhood, who we fondly referred to as Uncle Papa. Fortunately, he was at home. He had previously served in the army in Somalia. 
He promptly attended to the child and by the time I arrived, the little girl had been brought back to life.  I vividly recall how she broke and cried when she saw me at the door.  She had lost so much weight already. 
Uncle Papa remains a great part of our story. We regularly sought his opinion on many paediatric matters and his family holds a special place in our lives.

When this year started, one of the things that kept ringing in my head was that this particular child, the little girl who convulsed three different times during her infancy,  was going to make 18. Wait a minute! Eight what?! How was that even possible?
Honestly, where and how did the years go? How did the helpless little angel that I once held in my arms make it to 18? 
How did this little creature, who cried endlessly the moment she was born, grow into a tall woman who cannot sit comfortably on her mother’s laps? 

There was a time when life was about colic, finding remedies and celebrating the night whenever she slept till morning.  Memories of buying diapers, expressing and storing breastmilk are still vivid in my mind. During those days, life’s concerns revolved around the baby and what the baby needed. 
I think about those years and some of the most memorable experiences keep coming back as flashbacks. 

When she started kindergarten, as curious parents, we waited patiently for our daughter to feature in the day’s activity but nothing happened. It was sports day at the nursery school. 
Finally, there was a race in which the little girl featured. You should have seen this mother cheering while jumping up and down like my life depended on it. As you can imagine, the child won the race and as someone carried her to the winners’ table. Her teacher repeatedly exclaimed that the child had shocked all of them by performing so well. Clearly, they had very little faith in my little lioness. 


Many years later, one afternoon, our domestic assistant called me while I was at work and informed me that the little girl had shifted from our home. As dramatic as it might sound, I laughed out loud. 
Apparently, the little girl had packed her belongings and shifted to the neighbours’ house. She left a note explaining her predicament. I still have a copy of the note she wrote that day, accusing us of not loving her enough. That note is a very interesting part of our rich history. 

Another particular event that stands out in this historic life is a random Saturday morning, when she was part of the entourage as her aunt and uncle walked down the aisle as a flower girl. Although, she was excited and had been looking forward to the day, she was very shy and almost run from the entourage. 
Watching her in that pretty white dress, holding a bouquet of flowers  made me realise that it wasn’t going to be too long before I let her walk from my path into her own destiny.  It was a startling and uncomfortable feeling. Suddenly, there was the realisation that this wasn’t my child for good or if she was, it was just but for a matter of time. I had to suppress a tear!

Navigating the teenage years is yet another story. I remember there were days I wanted to put this child up for auction. In fact, you wouldn’t need to pay much, all you needed was to take her away.
Raising a teenager drove me to the wall and there were moments I almost gave up.  On one particular afternoon, I remember entering a room and I literally got my child and by faith I cast her to her maker and her God. I asked Him to handle her His way and to keep her while at it. After that particular experience, I got peace. I ceased to worry about her attitude and I spoke less. Prayer works and prayer sustains. 
Last Saturday, two days after the actual birthday, we held her scientific birthday celebration. It was an event that had been meticulously planned for months. The plan was to make it memorable for her and to celebrate every milestone. 
The other reality is that since her first birthday, many years ago, we hadn’t held a birthday party for her again save for small celebrations with her classmates at school. The party was intended to usher the young lady into her next phase of life with intent and purpose. She drew her guest list and sent the invitations. She didn’t know any further details. 

Prior to that and throughout the months of this year, I specifically requested some great friends to write a note for the birthday girl. The request was that each person writes and speaks the way they would to their 18-year-old self.
The letters trickled in from many different parts of the world. It was very heartwarming to collect the writings and to compile them in a very special folder, not just for the birthday celebration but also for future reference. 

It’s really amazing just how quickly the time has flown by. It’s unbelievable that just the other day, she was born and that right before our eyes she’s evolved and become an adult.  
From a shy and self-conscious child because of living in the shadow of her first-time parents to the exquisite young lady, is more than an achievement.  One day, she was crying in my hands and wanting to be carried. One day, all she did was tear down my books when I tried to read.

This journey starts and ends with thanksgiving. To our loving and gracious Father, be all glory, honour and praise. We are deeply thankful for the journey thus far and we are confident of God’s favour and faithfulness that He who began this great and amazing journey, will bring it to a beautiful and remarkable end.