My teething seasons had come. I knew they were inevitable. I knew it would take some years before i shed all my teeth. So I had to meet a man that was known to do the job.
I found people calling him Africa, like the continent, not Africa. I was a child then, so questioning whether his mother gave him that name would have come out as rude and disrespectful. Come to think of it, mothers in his time, though in my little head, he didn’t seem to have had a mother or even been born, didn’t let things like a name bother them.
They were so busy trying to make ends meet that the months would fly away without her ever thinking that they would eventually name their child. These days, I won’t be surprised if people are now creating WhatsApp groups to analyze the name they would give their yet-to-be-born child. We’re sorry. Talk of seasons changing.
Otherwise, kitambo, women knew that a name would come, you know, “Mungu akileta mtoto, analeta na sahani yake,” (when God brings a child, He brings its plate too). We Kenyans heard, I mean Africans, but Sauti Soul said, “saa ni yake,” a translation for “time is His.”
Who blames Africans anyway? We hear and sing what we want, so long as it ministers to us, we would even change the lyrics. I bet we are also a hungry continent because was “sahani” all we could hear? I still put the plates on anyway.
The significance of teething in life
So yeah, Africa. We revered him. He was not only a cobbler but the man that helped us pluck our teeth and give them to the tooth fairy/grandmother for a replacement with better teeth—talk of being self-centered from an early age. Grannies didn’t have use for their teeth. They had lived their share anyway, and if mine gave me her name, what is a tooth?
The night before, I couldn’t help but keep wondering why I had to go through all that at a young age. Why wouldn’t the one who gave me the teeth in the first place give me good ones? I asked my mother if there was another way we could ignore the tooth and go on with our lives.
Mom said that the plucking was inevitable, and if I didn’t pluck it, some other tooth would grow just above it, and I would regret it when I grew up. She said that people would take me as a coward. People calling you a coward while young is not much of a big deal, but when you grow up and discover that everyone went through the same experience and didn’t cringe, that would be something.
The journey of shedding old teeth for new ones
I dragged my feet to Africa’s place. No words were exchanged, just facial expressions. The fewer words, the better. If every other child is going through this, then there’s no need to throw a pity party and scream that it wasn’t fair. Misery loves company, after all.
To make a story short, I didn’t tell Africa thank you. I ran away with the tooth in my hand, bleeding. I did the selfish “ritual” of asking grandma to give me her tooth since mine was terrible. I don’t know why we never used to ask grandpa for his. I think he still needs to finish them.
Teething as a universal experience
My niece is teething currently, and I can see the discomfort that those tiny teeth are giving her. Adding this to the fact that they are just temporary worsens the whole issue as I think about it; the fever, rashes on her face, diarrhea, and her discomfort in eating. She is not as jovial as she is typical. If there were trading places, her mother would gladly do it.
I feel like whispering to my little niece that she should brace herself and that the journey is not for the weak or the coward. I want to tell her that this is the greatest equalizer of all babies, whether African or Asian. They are all teething, maybe this will calm her as it did me, but she is only a toddler.
I want to whisper to her, “Saa ni yake.” That is not only her time but also God’s time; he will provide whatever she needs at this stage. “Sahani Yake.”
The bittersweet experience of life
The inevitability of Life is a bittersweet experience if you ask me. Whether you want it or not, Life will always happen. You either flow freely to its melody and rhythm or grudgingly succumb. The tooth will shed; if you don’t pluck it in good time, another will grow above it.
Teething will happen to a month-old child whether we think it is fair. If God wanted, he would have made babies like my niece to be born with teeth; think about it. Of course, you can’t since we are already familiar with this. But he would if it wasn’t necessary.
Life demands that we be flexible. It requires us not to be too clingy to things because the ‘teeth’ we can’t wait to have will sooner than later need to be plucked for better permanent ones. It teaches us that everything is temporary, whether teething or shedding. Life teaches us to appreciate other people’s experiences; that though I could classify my pain as immense, I shouldn’t downplay another person’s pain.
The importance of appreciating other people’s seasons
It tells me that people deal differently with pain, and I shouldn’t try to box them all in how I handled mine. It whispers to me that we are all unique and are going through special situations, but the end goal is the same: To become the best versions of ourselves we could ever be.
If it helps, Life is happening to everyone. You’re no exception. And if you’re keen, you’ll see the plates set just for you in your particular season.
Life teaches me to appreciate every person’s season. My shedding season shouldn’t make her teething season feel unimportant or unnecessary. That kindergarten is as necessary as college, and my delay in either shouldn’t make you conclude that I am done case.
Until now, I don’t know why they called him Africa or accorded him such a great name. How the name stuck, I will never know. I know that Africa played a significant role in my Life. He made sure that when I am older, I will never have to explain why Africa didn’t pluck my teeth. Well, of course, granny gave me her teeth too. I think of Africa, and I see God.
Seasons happening to everyone, no exceptions
What a pruner God is? When we think that we have made it in Life, just when we start eating sugarcane, He comes and disorients our comfort zones. He comes and plucks out everything that is stunting our growth. He comes and says, “well, you know what, milking time is over. You have to be made ready for the meat.”
God allows some things to grow, like my niece’s teeth, while others He uproots, like my canine, all in good time. We have to trust the process, that He is not a fun kill, and that if He asks us to let go of something, then He has a better and more permanent replacement.
Trust that if He is “teething” us, we will not die in the process; we can handle it, fever and all. Trust that “saa ni yake,” and the time and season come with ‘sahani yake.’