Accepting peoples’ differences — Neziswa Kanju

lifeinfullbloom

A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.

Everybody who knows me knows how much I love chocolate. Chocolate cake, chocolate ice-cream … anything with chocolate … top deck, mint crisp. Chocolate has been my companion for years. I only have good memories with Miss Chocolate. My mother has given up on lecturing me about eating “so much chocolate.” It does not help that I have a husband who constantly surprises me with a slab of this or a packet of that. I know that I am not the only one who has a weakness for it hence the chocolate manufacturing industry is a multi-million dollar a year business.

Because of my love for chocolate and my conclusion that we all need chocolate (like we need oxygen) imagine my horror when my daughter, my mini me, my one and only daughter told me that she does not like chocolate, not just chocolate bars, chocolate anything. For a minute there I felt sorry for her, there was a moment that I looked at her funny as if to say, “You have got to be kidding me. Really?” I could not believe it. I thought she was lying, because who doesn’t like chocolate, right? It turns out my daughter is one of those aliens in our world who is wired differently from most of us. Apparently she likes vanilla!!!!!

(PHOTO: Food Network)

“I like vanilla mama!” “Vanilla? What do you mean you like vanilla? Vanilla is boring.” I actually said that. I told my 10 year old daughter that vanilla is boring. Lol! Looking back it was not my proud mom moment. She loves vanilla! What a disappointment. All those dreams of me and my daughter spending time bonding watching endless amount of movies, eating chocolate ice-cream, chocolate cake, or chocolate bars went out the door. She loves vanilla! My own daughter loves vanilla.

I must admit I am not crazy for vanilla. I tolerate vanilla. With all the flavours of ice-cream ever created someone must have had the reality that I face in my house. Every time we have to buy ice-cream I have to buy two cartons because my daughter loves vanilla. Enter Choco Cara Nilla an answer to the “Which ice-cream are we going to buy chocolate or vanilla or both?” question. Whoever came up with that ice-cream is a genius of note, a hero in my household. Not only is Choco Cara Nilla a combination of chocolate and vanilla there is even caramel. Everybody wins!

Life and different ice-cream flavours
Now if only life was a carton of ice-cream with different flavours where everybody can choose and where everybody can win. I believe that is. I think life is simple. It is human beings who complicate it by putting rules that are unnecessary. The simplicity of life is that we are all different and so we are going to choose different, think different and act different based on experiences. The problem comes when we try to change others to fit our own expectations. Life will have conflicts when two people’s idea of time spent together does not necessarily include chocolate ice-cream and chocolate cake. When two people’s taste in movie watching differs and one insists on forcing their will on another. A conflict will happen!

Life has many choices: choice of study, choice of university, choice of clothing. We can fight about many things as people, as couples. Most of the disagreements come from wanting to change each other. “What do you mean you do not like … everybody loves …” Well obviously not everyone loves … your spouse does not love what everyone loves. “Every woman loves flowers.” “Every woman loves diamonds.” “Every man must wear suits.” “You must comb your hair.” “You must apply makeup and wear high heels.” “Men must…” “Women must …” “Husbands do this …” “Wives do that…”

(PHOTO: Free Range Cookies)

I have three children and I can tell you that they are all different. Even my experiences of them in my womb was different. When I started to feel them move in my womb I noticed that they moved to different sounds. My youngest seemed to move whenever there was loud music, especially drums … I kid you not. To this day he loves music and yes, he loves drums. When it was time to wean my oldest two I put chillies on my breast (yes, I did … it worked). They didn’t even want to go anywhere near my breast after that. Enter Ntando (my youngest) who tasted the chillies, made a face that said, “There is something different with mama’s milk today”, and went right back to sluking the milk. The boy has loved hot spicy food ever since. I had to think of other creative ways to wean him.

Back to the ice-cream, choco-cara-nilla has equal amounts of chocolate, vanilla and caramel in the carton. It is up to the person to choose which one or two (or all) they will eat. My daughter always chooses the vanilla, Ntando chooses vanilla and the caramel and my eldest son and I eat all of them, vanilla chocolate and the caramel. There will be people who are different from you in race, in language, in weight, in culture, or in education. Some will be well-travelled and there are some who have never been out of South Africa (and who, surprise, surprise don’t want to travel). You think “But everyone loves to travel?” Apparently not!

We are all different
Our task in all of our relationships is to remember that we are different. We all wear many hats in our lives: spouse, parent, colleague, sibling, pastor, leader … let us be aware of the fact that others are different from us and it is ok.

If we understood this, there will not be any killings, religious wars, name callings, brother fighting brother, xenophobia, racism, or gender based violence.

Being from the Eastern Cape and growing up on pineapples, fish and the sea, I thought this was part of everyone’s reality. We all like pineapples, we all LOVE fish and we absolutely have to see the sea. I arrive in Johannesburg only to realise that not everyone loves pineapples (what?) some cannot stand fish (am shocked) and really could not be bothered about going to the beach. In fact some have never even seen the sea; they avoid going anywhere it. I learnt to love and forgive them (lol).

We can go through life nit-picking about how different so-and-so is. ‘What is wrong with them?” “They are a strange bunch.” “They talk funny.” “They dress weird!” We can find all the reasons to hate and be irritated by people or we can learn to appreciate their differences and in the process be richer for learning something different. Everyone is a teacher in that they know something that you do not know. There is so much goodness and beauty in our world if we will only take the time to listen and see it.

(PHOTO: Food Network)

Lessons in patience, compassion and love
My mother-in-law is good at catering for her big family. She knows that we all have various taste buds. Somehow when we go to her place we all have something to eat. No one feels that they are forced to eat what they do not like. Being around her kitchen is a lesson in patience, compassion and love. She has given birth to seven children and three are married and have their own children. She attends her ear to conversations that take place in her kitchen and knows what our preferences are. Granted she does not need to. We could all eat what is given and be grateful for having food in front of us but she goes out of her way to make all of us feel special, especially on the day we arrive.

This is love spoken in volumes and volumes. How many of us would slave away at a stove catering for a big family? Many of us are not required to do so. We could appreciate the people in our lives in simpler ways like making tea without sugar when you know that your spouse prefers it like that. By buying the vanilla cake (tough one) because a member of your family loves vanilla cake. Buying carrot cake (I am sorry husband I will buy the carrot cake for you, but eat it? That will require Heaven itself to open and a voice coming from the Father Himself saying … “Daughter thou shalt eat carrot cake.” I can do everything for love but carrot cake … except of course if the Father …).

There is an empty carton of ice-cream in my rubbish bin that was enjoyed by all the members of my family and yes, we all chose what we wanted for our taste buds. There are also mustard and tomato sauces that are sometimes put out because of different taste buds.

As for me and my house we will continue to eat Choca-cara-nilla!!! Because there are less arguments, everyone wins and I have learnt that vanilla is not that boring after all. Great lesson from my daughter….

Shalom!!!!!

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