Sehin Teferra

Sehin Teferra

Saturday, 30 September 2017 06:40

Setaweet Parenting

I was recently speaking to a leading Ethiopian feminist activist who has parented two remarkable women and who is now a grandmother to two boys and one girl. She was taken aback when I said that I think that in Ethiopia, becoming a man is as difficult as becoming a woman. Let me explain. The more I learn from parenting my six-year old daughter and my four-year old son, the harder I have come to believe that the path of parenting children of either gender requires a surgeon's precision and a vast amount of the purest love that you can access.

Sunday, 30 July 2017 23:20

Saving Graces: Endezih New-a!

Sometimes, it is the uncomplicated wisdom of a teenager that saves you. I was squatting on the floor of the hospital bathroom, willing my three year old to go 'pee pee.' The chickenpox we were waiting for him to get from his sister was severe enough to land him in the hospital for five days where my life took on a pause. I left his sister with my mother and spent every minute wiping away tears and massaging small swollen feet. I wasn't tired but the magnitude of single motherhood suddenly seemed insurmountable. Leeben is only three and his sister Rekka is six years old. By my calculation, that's another fifteen years of responsibility, of my heart swelling open and shut with love but also worry. It is little sleep and a lot of prayer. It is not having the right to get sick or feeling guilty for a nap. It is a physical exhaustion I did not know I had in me.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 09:46

Eyes Wide Open

Our dear readers will excuse me. I had to be reminded by my wonderful co-blogger that I had failed to post not only one, but two posts. My excuse is a simple one; I have been going through, and processing, one of the most difficult chapters of my life, and it has beenan-all consuming process.

Sunday, 08 January 2017 08:21

Learning to Matter Equally

 Recently, a friend of mine sent me a link to an essay on feminist parenting by the excellent Chimamanda Ngozi Aditchie (1). The piece impressed me so much that we had it sent out as reading to the Setaweet mailing list and it came up on the next discussion of the Setaweet Circle which coincidentally focused on the topic of 'Being a Mother and a Feminist.' A writer leaves her mark on the mind of her reader when she strikes a nerve, when a certain combination of words hit a chord that chimes long after. I keep thinking of a phrase from that essay, addressed by Aditchie to her friend who had recently become a mother and had asked Aditchie for advice on raising a strong daughter. Aditchie states, "The first is your premise, the solid unbending belief that you start off with. What is your premise? Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only.’ Not ‘as long as.’ I matter equally. Full stop."

I haven't parented like I matter equally. I have given my five-year old daughter, and my three-year old son, everything I have. I think nothing of going to the Pediatrician twice a week to get every cough checked out but my own asthma would some times flare and clear, unattended. I still carry my son on my hip because he likes it even though my back never healed from bringing him into the world and I often ache afterwards. If we eat out, I will order what they like and finish that off as I hate to waste food. Until recently, I could have counted on one hand the number of nights I slept through the night since my son was born.

Sunday, 16 October 2016 08:02

My Wonderful Son

When you noticed that the rear view mirror of my car was broken, you asked, kindly, 'Mama, can I fix it?' And when you noticed after a few weeks that the said mirror was fixed, albeit badly, you exclaimed triumphantly, 'Mama, I fixed it!'  The world is that simple for you. There is no problem that is too big for you to handle. Life can be hard but you pay it no mind. We have shielded you from harm all your life so you are not afraid of anything. You walk up to strangers to greet them with energy that surprises them and if I let you, you would kiss stray dogs.

Three whole years on this earth, and you, my son, have made every day count. You make me ridiculously happy but you make me work for it. We have had a few challenging days over the last year, haven't we? There was that difficult night at the hospital where your grandmother cried to see you so small on the big grown-up bed but a mere 24-hours later, she was running after you as you took off on a run in the hospital corridor, your illness long behind you. You are strong, and your bubbling joy - laughter like sudden Kiremt rain - is larger than your tantrums.

Monday, 01 August 2016 04:45

All We Need is Love

Sometimes life is reduced to cliches.

You don't know how much you love what you have until you lose it. All we need is love. Money can't buy you love.

My friend asks her three beautiful children, all under the age of ten, the usual. 'Who do we love?' They all answer, 'Hulum Sew Hulu Bota'. Every person, everywhere.

This message is particularly important in the case of this unique family as the children are the products of an inter-faith relationship. I believe that their mother is doing a great job in helping foster empathy for others - all others - in her children in their formative years. The instruction to love is easier said than done but I have taken its simple message and made it my new mantra. It has not only brought joy into my life, but also enabled my communication with the world. Most importantly, it has provided me with an enduring sense of peace because love sheds a clear light on my path that leaves little room for resentment or conflict.

Saturday, 30 April 2016 03:15

Seeking my grandmother's courage

Lately, I have been looking for my Emmama's spirit every place I can think of. Sometimes, I think I can smell her on my daughter's face, the earthly combination of Afer and water that was the undertone to my grandmother's scent, overlaid with the Ariti that gently came off her worn clothes. She was of the earth, my grandmother. Her cows wandered into her living room at will and she delivered at least a couple of her calves by hand, with help from a strong dose of Tebel. Before she gave birth to my mother, her only-ever child, she carried her dog Mechal on her back, in a Netela. As a teenager, if I laid on her sunken old couch to kiss her, I could well expect a couple of kittens to pop her from her side, I often wondered how there were so many kittens that did not seem to grow into cats. There were always animals and children in her simple, mud-floored home by the river, a place I loved beyond all reason.

My grandmother was a nurturer for sure, but if your mind is conjuring up a sweet little old lady, I have got you fooled. My grandmother was a warrior. The strongest woman I know.
She could not stand weakness, physical or otherwise and once slaughtered her own sheep as the local Araj was not quick enough for her. She was beautiful and she knew it, she enjoyed being courted and reveled in the attention of men but she only loved one man in her lifetime. She left a comfortable living in Addis, with a well-off, educated husband who did not treat her as well as she thought she deserved, and traveled with her four-year-old daughter hundreds of Kilometers to Wollega to work in a hospital. With little formal education, she taught herself Afan Oromo and transformed herself into a single working mother. She turned away every suitor who came her way and she was known to take her daughter's teachers to task. When my mother completed elementary school, the same formidable willpower ensured that she was accepted into the prestigious Etege Menen school in Addis Ababa. 

Saturday, 16 January 2016 09:01

I am Worthy of This Blessing

I write this entry reclining on a swinging bar stool a few feet away from the Indian Ocean. This is perfection for me, my kids playing non-stop barefoot, dipping in and out of the two pools, my husband relaxed and all of us soothed by the warm salty air, good food and the most precious resource of all - abundant greenery.

This vacation is a defining moment in my life because it's the first time I have allowed anything good to happen to me guilt-free. When my husband first suggested taking this break, I fretted privately, 'Is it an appropriate time to take an international vacation?' There is so much wrong at home and in the world, so many people are suffering. How can I be thinking of granting such a luxurious experience to my kids when I know there are children who live not too far away from us who go to school with empty lunch boxes? Isn't it wrong to fly to another country purely for leisure while my fellow humans and fellow Ethiopians are risking life and limb in search of security?'

Saturday, 07 November 2015 00:00

Leeben Lion's Letter

My Leeben Lion, My Golden Boy, you are now two years old. I'm not sure how well you understand this as  when I informed you on your birthday, you remonstrated loudly, 'No way!'

You have grown up to be the little boy of my dreams. If I comment on your tendency to shoot a ball straight at the TV or how you sprint at full speed in the grocery store aisle without even looking back to check that I am following, your grandma and others remind me that you're the Rebash (hyperactive) kid that I always wanted. Perhaps that's why my patience has yet to run dry - when you finally fall asleep after a full day of running, kicking and a fair amount of floor thumping, I cuddle up very close to your warm, still-small body and fill up with enough love to get through another day.

Tuesday, 06 October 2015 02:54

On Love

I just got back from an overseas trip which was significant as much for its purpose as for the watershed it marked in my parenting. I started preparing for the trip weeks in advance - I stocked the house with food and diapers, I warned my daughter's teacher and yoga instructor that I will be traveling. I changed milk brands so that expiry dates wouldn't be an issue. I over-prepared my four-year old that Mama had to go away and made her cry too many times. I asked all the grandparents, aunts and friends to check on my kids and to offer their support to the dad who knew he would manage just fine. I had no choice but to revise my own 'no nanny' policy and welcome the affection that our house help, a godsend in our lives, has for my kids, and she was patient with my lists and my notes. A few days before I was about to leave, as I made yet another trip to the supermarket, I started laughing at myself. I was not prepared in the least for the trip itself, I had not shopped or packed, and I made my visa request at the last possible day. I had made my planned travel about the time away from my kids and over-analyzed and prepared in too much detail for a trip that was to last all of six days.

I arrived in London on a rare sunny morning and afraid that I would wake up feeling lost  without my toddler's soft body snuggling beside me, I skipped napping and sat in the park. I
told myself how much my daughter would have loved the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain where kids splash barefoot, the soft ice cream, and the giant bubbles blown by a street performer. I missed my baby girl with an intensity. I couldn't wait to call home and when I did,I was given a much-needed adjustment to the hype I had put into this short trip. My two year old was sweet on the phone but entirely incoherent. I gave up and asked to talk to his sister who could barely pull herself away from playing to talk to me, I could tell she was well and happy. And their dad, always the realist, responded to my 'I miss you all so much!' with a  flat 'But you just left.'

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