Life lessons from my niece, Nyla


Nyla is my 6 year old niece. Every time I spend time with her, there always something she teaches me from her way of being. When we are together, sometimes asks me the same questions. One of her most favorite ones is “Why do we call you Shemama?” and I give a typical look as she has asked me that question about a hundred times already.  

She will then smile and say, “Ah I remember now, it’s because you have no daughters to call you mama and you were sad then, so you wanted us to call you by that name right ?” 🙂 
Another question is, “Who is Aqil kaka’s and Alif kaka’s father?” (my older boys Aqil and Alif are from my first marriage). She is just beginning to understand concepts of divorce and hence is always fascinated and curious about it. 

When my sister is away, on good days she would come up to me and tell me, “Now that my  mother is away, you are my mother, and I am so happy that you are here.” But that would shift the moment she was upset with me, where she would say stuff like, “You aren’t my mother, you are only Shemama. Only my mother is my mother.” Translation – don’t tell me what to do or you have no right to talk to me like that. 🙂 

It’s always a joy to be with children of this age as they say the sweetest and most profound things and there so much wisdom in them if we pay attention. I might even be biased to say that my niece says the cutest stuff. 
My sister has taught her to articulate her feelings very clearly. She would walk up to us and say, “I have a pain in my heart since you spoke to me like that” or “my heart is smiling and happy today”. The metaphors she uses to describe her feelings are just amazing. Such is her language of emotional expression. 

She is at that age now where she has lost her front teeth and the new ones are slowly but surely on their way out. Yesterday I accompanied her in the car to drop her off somewhere. Before she got off the car, She looked at herself in the mirror and we had this dialogue. 

Nyla: Shemama, aren’t these earrings the most gorgeous earrings ? 

I: Yes, they are and they look beautiful on you! 

Nyla: That’s what I was thinking too ! I look so gorgeous

I: Yes you are Nyla, you are absolutely gorgeous.

Nyla: “Isn’t everything about me gorgeous, even my front teeth? ”

I (smiling): Yes my darling! Everything about you is gorgeous and I am happy that you already know that about yourself”.

As she gets off the car, she looks me, smiles ear to ear,  and says, “I am so happy and lucky that I am so gorgeous”. She then gives me a tight hug and runs away. 

By now, I am guessing you’ve  already picked up that “gorgeous” her newest and current favorite word in her dictionary. What a joy it was to witness her in her gorgeousness, to see her so confident and sure herself, and just love herself the way she is. 

I do like the way I look. And, I have good days and bad days, There are days that I hate looking at myself in the mirror.

There was an exercise I did in a leadership program two years ago, where we were each given a small handheld mirror and we had to look at and appreciate ourselves for a good ten to fifteen minutes. I vividly recall that the initial five minutes was pure torture. I would look at myself and pick every minute detail that I did not like in myself, dark circles, pigmented skin, funny nose, scar on eye brows and so on. But after a while it began to shift, I began to smile as looked at myself. I could find what I liked about my face. I began to appreciate myself. I can now say with confidence, I have ‘gorgeous’ eyes and a ‘gorgeous’ smile too 🙂 

When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror for that long? A lot of us aren’t comfortable with the way we look, we have good sides and bad sides when we have our pictures taken. 

The mirror exercise is a great exercise to try. If you aren’t comfortable with your body, take off your clothes and stand in front of the mirror and do the same exercise every day. Soon you will see the shift. 

The hard truth is that,  this is the physical form we were born, there was no choice there. The sooner we begin to accept and appreciate our ‘gorgeousness’, and help our children see theirs the simpler life gets.

Sheena Yusuf 

August 26, 2017

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