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Few Days in My Wife's Shoes

I could not understand why my father was giving his in-laws the one cow that provided milk for our family. Through family discussions, I had learned that my father's family had given my mother's family more than the traditional token of appreciation, commonly known by the West as dowry.

Since my younger brother and I were the ones asked deliver the cow to my maternal grandparents, I asked dad why?a 17-year old son needed an explanation for the meaning of this transfer. Dad said that when a man is blessed with a good wife, he has to show his in-laws his appreciation from time to time. He mentioned that there was no price for a good wife and the gifts given to in-laws was a continuous way of saying thank you.

Of course tradition of dowry has been misunderstood and misused, especially by those less attached to its significance.

But it is the value of a good wife that has kept my mind thinking of my father's words. I have nursed the knowledge that I been outrageously blessed with a marvelous wife for almost twenty years. That said, the challenge of being in my wife's shoes for few days was humbling and revealing.

For months I knew she would attend a conference for a lengthy period of time-4 days. That meant my being home with two of our three daughters (13 and 10) and son (6). I kept the thoughts of her being absent in the back of mind until I realized I could not ignore the fact I afraid of being home alone.

A week before she left for the conference, she had to leave early in the morning for a meeting. By default I was in-charge of getting the children ready for school. One of them was sick and I had to call my wife to ask which medicine I was to give her. By the time I had found it the sick child and her brother had rushed to the bus. I rushed to the bus too, not only with medicine but also with another form that needed a parent's signature but had slipped my attention. The gracious bus driver just laughed when I said this is parenting 101 as I gave medicine to my daughter and signed the form.

At dinner time that evening, as I bragged at my effectiveness that morning, my daughter told me that I gave her nighttime medicine. Further, my son let me know that the form I labored to sign had been due a month earlier. Oh my! I induced my daughter to sleep in class. And my son had a worthless form signed by me.

Two days before my wife's departure, my daughters surprised me on how concerned they were in having dad as their cook. The 13-ear old one said, "I know what we are going to eat until Mom comes." "Ugali in the first day, followed by Ugali every night." Ugali, corn meal is the meal food in East Africa. Without hesitation, her 10-year old sister looked at me with appealing eyes and said, "I know Dad won't torture us that way. He will get us a pizza." My wife laughed so hard I had to join.

On the day my beloved left, I had to pray for my children while I was still in bed before they left for school-they had prepared themselves. I had not slept the previous night, since I spent it preparing myself mentally to be home alone with children scared of my cooking.

The after school activities were the next test of my parenthood. Knowing that the 13-year old had a basket ball game, I had to pick the other two from their school and head to the game. Out of my heart's goodness, I decided to carry snacks. But the way they found the snacks and just started eating forced me to ask, "Does Mom bring you snacks to eat before you go to the game." And the answer was a definitive "YEAH."

One day with my wife away from home felt like a decade of crisis. My professional creativity and performance recoiled to levels I am ashamed of. What mothers do can only be understood by being in their shoes. Now I understand why dad found fulfillment in giving his in-laws the cow that was invaluable. It was a token of his appreciation for the invaluable child (my mother) they had blessed him with. God bless wives.

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