March 16, 2016. It was basically yesterday, right? 😉
It was the day this guy turned 11 and wanted a bucket of chicken wings to celebrate.
And donuts. Obviously.
Full disclosure, Zach and I were actually in Punta Cana on his birthday. I’m still releasing some guilt for not being there on that day but he spent it with his grandparents getting virtually anything he wanted so he didn’t seem bothered by it at all. Still, I wrote in the sand and sent it to him so that he would know I was drowning my guilt in cold drinks by the beach. Kidding…mostly.
We celebrated right when we got back. He invited what felt like the entirety of his 5th grade class over for a night of basketball, games after dark and stinky snore fests. I’m fairly certain whoever came up with the expression “ride or die” was witnessing Tariku in action. If he considers you a friend he is the most loyal person there will ever be. I’ve heard someone whisper something about his friend to someone else and he wasn’t having any of it. Kindly he set the record straight and encouraged that person to not talk badly about someone else again. You get in with Tariku’s crew you are protected for life. He’s a ride or die kind of guy.
Also animals. If he isn’t a veterinarian or one of those guys who ropes himself to dolphins to protest their slaughter when he gets older we will all be shocked. I happen to think it’s because they share their unending ability to be loyal but whatever it is-he’s drawn to animals and they are drawn right back. We were at a baseball park and he and I asked to pet a dog. The owner said, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, he doesn’t like kids so we are trying to slowly help him adjust.” And then before we knew it the dog pulled hard enough on the leash that he got close to Tariku and licked him for 3 minutes straight. “He never does this. To adults OR kids. That is crazy!” And every time Tariku walked by that dog he whimpered until Tariku came to pet him.
If you look close enough you’ll see Tariku’s face in there. With Evie D sitting on his hair, Hagrid on his neck and Barbara Streisand on his stomach.
I’m on Snapchat: tesileagh
And younger kids. Oh his heart for younger kids! I genuinely cry every time I see him with my younger nieces and nephews. He is NEVER patronizing and has unending patience when they ask him to watch them do the same thing 422 times. He currently claims he is never going to have kids (which will devastate me because the world needs millions more just like him) but I’m not sure I believe it. Maybe he will just be the best uncle in the world, but whatever he does it will involve making kids feel beloved and adored wherever he goes.
Let’s not forget siblings. Once in awhile he gets a bit snarky with them (they usually deserve it) but for the most part he is my only child who willingly helps the other kids with whatever they need. Binyam took his brand new remote controlled car completely apart trying to figure out where the batteries go? No worries, Tariku will work for the next 2 days trying to put it back together for him without even being asked. Dailah spilled paint on the carpet? Let’s watch YouTube videos to find out the best way to get it out of the carpet before dad sees it. (I grabbed this old picture of the two of them because OH MY GOD THEY ARE SO CUTE AND SO AMAZING AND I LOVE THEM SO MUCH).
Tariku continues to love and live for sports. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because he has to be fully in the moment. This one is an over thinker to the highest degree so there’s got to be so much freedom in being so fully awake and alive and present. And he’s good. At whatever he tries he’s really good. Because he’s got the brains to understand the many moving parts in any sport and he’s got more natural ability in his right leg than most have in their bodies. He once scored 7 goals in a single soccer game and I started crying behind my sunglasses. Not because I was proud of his 7 goals (though I was) but because he also had 3 assists-all to kids who had never scored before. Tariku made the moves and was yelling for the other kids to follow him and right before the goal he passed it to them. One of the boys sprinted back to center field and started crying tears of joy. His mom looked at me and whispered “thank you”. I wish I could take some credit for that but it was just Tariku being quintessential Tariku.
It is because of all I wrote above that I am still simmering over the year Tariku had in school. I have an entire blog post dedicated to this year but in short, he had a teacher who had it out for him. She saw him day 1 and had him pegged to be a trouble maker. For the rest of the year she could see no good in him and she was suspicious of him all of the days. Tariku isn’t perfect and he certainly made some mistakes this year but he had to shoulder a burden an 11-year-old should NEVER have to shoulder that was dished out by a freaking adult. *pauses to sip some chamomile tea, do a little meditation, splash water on her face, say a few Hail Mary’s* The year at school should have broken a kid like him who has already dealt with more than any one child should but it didn’t. I cannot believe this is the same Tariku who is now so sure of how much he is loved that an adult can make up things and exaggerate and he will remain firmly rooted in God’s love and our love for him. I hate that this work has been forged through fire but this baby of mine is a fighter and I’m awed by his strength and grace.
The further I get away from the years that Tariku and I struggled to connect the more I realize that he and I are actually really similar in so many ways. That when things were rocky we were both just trying to piss on the same tree and assert our dominance. This is all normal behavior for a 3-year-old who has been torn from his country and culture but for shame on the grown woman who wouldn’t back down. I’ve learned now that the sweet spot is when I come towards him in compromise because he will then ALWAYS follow.
I really hope that Tariku continues to champion hard for justice. Right now it comes off in the way most justice seekers start I’m sure (it’s not fair!) but I hope if we continue to cultivate that idea of unfairness to extend towards all people that he will be a real revolutionary.
It’s surreal to be in a place of motherhood where my kids inspire me so regularly. Though Tariku has for as long as I can remember, I’m just humbled by the extent with which he teaches me to be kinder, gentler and more loving every single day.
Love you so much my Chooch.