I love teaching and being around my Sunday school children in Church. It is one of the very few places where I can always be myself – nothing to worry about, I don’t have to care how I talk, how I laugh, or how I walk – because it’s fun from start to finish. I know, I know, I know, they sometimes wear me out, and make my voice disappear from having to repeat the same word or phrase twenty times. But in all these, it is always FUN. Believe the Bible when it says there is fullness of joy in God’s presence.
I love these kids and they are absolutely fun to be with. When they talk, I can almost complete their sentences, even the baby talks; until this happened …
Genesis is a sweet lovely 3 (or 4) year old girl. I don’t get to see her regularly since her parents usually go to a different Church. But when she’s around, her smile is one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen.
Caycee is another 4-year old princess. She looks quiet, but when you get to know her well, you will find out that she’s not close to being quiet at all. She has the smile of a caring mother, it always brings warmth to the heart.
On this fateful day, our Sunday school class started with so much energy. My kids were getting into the vibes of the day. Shortly into class, Genesis came up to me, and whispered into my ears, “Kaka”, her smile now upside-down. I automatically assumed she wanted her dad. That was my interpretation of KAKA. My first resolution was to calm her down, and make her get back in her seat. I turned to her, wrapping my arms around her, and said “it’s okay Gen-Gen (as she’s usually called), you can sit next to me today and be my assistant. You will see your daddy after Church”.
That did it! She brightened up again as she sat next to me on the floor.
Class continued in full swing now without distractions … until Caycee walked up to me. With her motherly smile, she said “Susu”. Not understanding exactly what she wanted, I immediately assumed this was a tactic to get my attention. I also assumed ‘Susu’ was her slang for ‘sleep’.
I discourage sleeping in Sunday school class, so I brought out my trick card again and had her sit next to me. I had two great assistants!
Few minutes later, I turned to my side to take a glimpse at my first assistant. I was surprised to see tears rolling down Genesis’ eyes. “What’s wrong Gen-Gen, did someone make you cry?”
Again she whispered amid her tears, “Kaka”. I tried to play another card. “Okay, everybody let’s sing for Genesis”. The whole class sang “I’ll give my heart to Jesus” – one of our favorites in Sunday school class. Genesis calmed down while the song was being sung and again, I was happy my trick card worked.
On the other hand was Caycee. She was now pulling and tugging on my dress and saying “SUSU” repeatedly, her motherly smile slowly diminishing with each SUSU that came out of her mouth. I played the same card as I did for Genesis earlier.
Fast forward 15 minutes later, both girls were now seriously and visibly crying. I was a little upset that it caused distractions for the class but I still had ONE more card to play. “OKAY, Genesis and Caycee, let’s go get some juice”. Each one of the girls got a pouch of caprisun.
That was the solution, because they girls calmed down for the rest of the class. They held back their smiles, but at least they were not crying.
Usually at the end of class, I make the children clean up after snack-time. We always sang “Clean up, clean up, everybody do your part, clean up, clean up, everybody do your share“, and the kids always loved that. On this day, everyone got up to do their share except for Genesis and Caycee. I didn’t want to trigger the ‘daddy’ and ‘sleep’ words again, so I left them alone and interestingly, they both sat there on the same spot for the rest of the class. At the end of class, just before the parents walked in to pick up their kids, I had to make the girls get up for closing prayers. What I saw and found was so shocking and surprising. I felt bad for the girls. I pulled both of them up, and behold, they were both wet – yes, pee, wee, peepee … call it what you may – the girls were wet. I felt so bad. I shouldn’t have given them that drink, I should have been able to read their body languages to know they wanted to use the bathroom, I should have …
“Genesis, why didn’t you tell me you wanted to use the bathroom? Caycee, you too?”
Genesis’ mom walked into class at this point. I tried to put words together to explain. “I don’t know what happened to Genesis today, she cried a lot and she kept asking for her dad. I didn’t want to disturb you so I didn’t bother to come get you. She even had a bathroom accident”.
Her mom was as shocked as I was when I found out. “But she’s potty trained!”, she exclaimed.
“I don’t know what happenend”, I continued, “she must have really missed her dad because she kept saying KAKA”.
Genesis’ mom looked at me and laughed out …”Oooooh, KAKA means bathroom” she said, “it means she wants to use the bathroom”.
What? Where I come from, words like that usually mean ‘father’ (baba, dada – for daddy, papa, etc.). I felt even sorrier for Gen-gen. I had even made her drink caprisun when all she wanted was to ‘kaka’. By the way, kaka means poop in Haitian Creole.
I felt ashamed of myself as a teacher that I made assumptions about this word; assumptions that were not true.
Just when I started to apologize to Genesis’ mom, Caycee’s big brother walked in and I had to explain to him what had happened to Caycee too. “I don’t know why Caycee pee-ed in her pants,” I said, “but she kept saying SUSU. Did she not get enough sleep at home?”
You would not believe it but SUSU means bathroom in Swahili.
Where I come from (southern part of Nigeria), SUSU sounds like “sun (pronounced soohn)” which means ‘to sleep’. Caycee’s Susu was not sleep as I assumed, it was Swahili for pee.
I felt bad that I assumed and interpreted what these girls wanted based on my own language background. I should have taken more time to listen, ask questions, and find solutions to their respective issues.
Each time I remember this episode, I always find myself laughing. But the big lesson was learned. Never base interpretations on assumptions.
Listen attentively, ask carefully, and answer wisely. For the fun of abbreviations, this can be shortened to LAACAW 🙂
It is always fun and humbling when I learn life lessons from these little ones.
And so, today especially, as I reminisce on this story, I would like to appreciate everyone who has stood by me in my KAKA and SUSU moments, – those who listened to me, asked me questions carefully, and answered me wisely – I pray that you will always find someone who is ready to listen to you and help you through your difficult times.
If you are reading this too, you’re always in my thoughts and prayers. God bless!!
Reflect on those who have helped you through very difficult moments. Take a minute to make a call, send an email, or even visit them personally to say “thank you”. ‘Kaka’ and ‘susu’ periods are real, and could be very difficult when you go through it alone.
(CibM, October 2016)