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     Volume 4 Issue 67 | October 14, 2005 |

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Straight Talk

The Learning Curve

Nadia Kabir Barb

When we have children the amount of advice we receive is endless. Whether it is parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends or even people we barely know, everyone has something to say. The information that they pass on to us from experience or otherwise can sometimes be exceedingly helpful. One common theme that recurs in all the guidance that is showered upon us is that it is the biggest step we are ever likely to take and we are told in no uncertain terms that our lives are about to change totally and irrevocably. I am sure we all agree that this would not be an understatement in the slightest. Those of us who have children know that the addition of offspring gives you a whole new perspective on how you view life. And equipped with this knowledge we try to mentally prepare ourselves for the changes to come. For a start we learn to give up things we took for granted. I think every parent will agree that sleeping through the night becomes a distant memory. You learn to understand when your child is hungry or tired even before they know and to respond to different cries before they learn to speak. In other words, their needs take precedence over your own. You no longer have the freedom to do things when you want to as you have to accommodate everything according to your child/children's eating and sleeping habits or their school, homework and playtime!

Suddenly you find that your home becomes a scene from 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' with danger lurking everywhere. Staircases become cliff edges where your children can fall and hurt themselves, table corners evolve into lethal weapons and the kitchen holds devices of all natures able to injure your child i.e. knives, drawers, cookers etc. Medicines become health hazards and have to be put where little hands can't reach. Gone are the days where your mirrors and glass top tables stay free from tiny finger marks. Your house turns into a refuge for cuddly toys and numerous pictures and paintings lovingly created by your progeny take up residence on fridge doors, cupboards and any space one can find to display these works of art. Move over Picasso!

Now what no one ever told me was that when people said bringing children up was part of a gradual learning process, they meant it quite literally in some respects. When kids start talking it is the most endearing sound in the world until they are at the stage where every sentence ends in a question mark. Then of course we are inundated with a tidal wave of questions. 'Why is this…', 'How is that' are constantly thrown our way and they look up to us to provide all the answers. Touchingly our children feel that we have the answers to all questions and the solution to all their problems, therefore it is good to keep abreast of certain topics that they happen to be interested in even if it means memorising the names of their favourite cartoon characters. It also seems quite advantageous to have a quick look through the encyclopaedia every now and then just to make sure you can answer at least some of their questions and thereby keep your dignity in tact. My youngest daughter recently went through a phase of asking me questions about how tall the tallest person was and who had the longest nails in the world etc. After a short time I had to accept defeat and buy The Guinness Book of World Records for her and now we are both happy as I can take some respite from the barrage of enquiries and she can amaze herself with bizarre facts such as how heavy the heaviest lemon was (5.26kg!!).

When you have school going kids like me, you somehow find yourself going back to school with them. I thought I had left the world of physics, chemistry, trigonometry, biology and God knows what else, for good, but foolishly I was deluding myself. I now find myself having to dig up information that I once acquired as a child but subsequently seem to have fallen into the dark and dusty recess somewhere in my mind. Everyday when I sit with my children while they do their homework, I feel like I am being re-educated. Once again certain cogs in my brain that had become excessively rusty with the lack of use are once again being put into motion. Little did I know that having children would require me to learn British History or Latin from scratch or make me recollect all the capitals of all the countries by heart! As Latin is part of their curriculum, I have to test them on their vocabulary and sentence making skills so I now am able to differentiate between 'feminam' which means woman and 'uxorem' which translates into wife!! Then again I am now clued in on the causes and consequences of 'The Black Death', and know all about the Viking Invasion!

Being a parent is an eye opener if anything. It teaches us a fair few lessons in life and you really never stop learning how to be a parent as each day and each experience teaches us something new about ourselves, our children and about the world around us. We are always on some point on the learning curve. Right now I am on the point where I have to learn the properties of acids and alkalis with my daughter for her test tomorrow…

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