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Friday, July 21, 2006

Jaden in an Alternative Universe

Jaden and Rowan love our driver, Paul. Perhaps it is because he drives and they still love the car, but Jaden in particular, has really bonded with Paul. And Paul has resonded with lots of love and affection. This makes me think that Paul is going to be a wonderful father.

You see, ever since I hired Paul, we've been on a baby count down. His wife was 7 months pregnant, then eight months, and then finally nine months pregnant. Although lanugage constraints have dictated that Paul and I have not been able to have deep conversations about his impending fatherhood, I could tell he has been excited. This is his first baby afterall. He even asked me if I could find him a book of baby names, which I borrowed from a colleague. He liked the names Lisa and Carol for a girl.

Although we never discussed it directly, I had been mentally preparing for the day he told me that his wife is in labor, and for the week or two of vacation that would follow. I've learnt how to drive myself to work, the kids have been in a pre-school just across the street for the summer - so haven't been in need of mid-day transportation, and I figured I could get myself just about everywhere I needed to be for a few weeks.

So imagine my surprise when last Tuesday he dropped me off to work and we had our usual conversation (Me "How's your wife?" Paul: "My wife is fine.") but then picked me up later that afternoon (early because I had Swahili class) with the news that his wife had delivered the baby and it was a boy.

"Wow," I said! "Did you go home to see the baby yet?"

"No," he responded.

"Well, just drop me at Swahili class and I'll take a taxi home."

"No," he responded. "I will wait for you at Swahili class and take you home."

"But it is your first baby, don't you want to see him?"

"I can wait," he resonded. "First Swahili and later baby."

And not only did he wait for me at Swahili class, but he offered another student a ride home, as well. And, he refused to take off the next day, or the next. In fact, he hasn't missed a moment of work, even though I have offered him time. You see, he won't. It is not expected of him. In Tanzania, the husband works and the wife delivers. The man has no place in the delivery room (home or hospital) - and there is no expectation or guilt that he should participate in any other way than to give the baby a name.

And Paul took that job seriously. He went through a long list of boys names, but in the end he came to me when the baby was five days old and asked if I could do him the honor of letting him name his son, Jaden.

Of course, I said yes.

But it got me thinking about this Jaden - growing up in an alternate universe. In the US we put such pressures on boys... to grow up to be sensitive but manly men. To bring in the money, and treat their partner with the right amount of respect and affection. To be in the delivery room, when maybe that isn't where they want to be. The list of musts is long. And although the list of musts is not short for a Tanzanian man, maybe it is easier to be Jaden in Tanzania because there is not a lot of whishy washiness about who you are supposed to be as a man and what your role in the family is.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hally, I love reading these. You make me laugh and cry.

please let Paul and his Jaden know that we think that he selected a wonderful name.

Tamar

8:18 PM  
Blogger KathyB said...

Wonderful story. Great insight and perspective into the alternate universe of a boy named Jaden.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

This post is wonderful on so many levels, Hally. I love your insights into the culture via personal anecdotes - and what a tribute to Jaden that he already has a namesake at 2!

Meanwhile, who else in my life can drop "I had Swahili class" into a sentence parenthetically.

6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hal,
I have tears in my eyes. Thanks for an insightful post, and yes, what a tribute! His back-up girl names weren't bad either!
xoxo
lisa

4:12 PM  
Blogger debbie Segor said...

This is a treasure of a story. Jaden will be amazed when you tell her this story...when she can actually understand.

Debbie

12:21 AM  

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