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What is the Magic Word?Abracadabra!


Special to USAfrica The Newspaper,Houston

I live with three  children, all under six.My daily life is fraught with stress ( who left all these toys lyingunder my feet?) with life-molding decisions ( do we have cereal ortoast and jelly? )  with stimulating as wellas informative conversation ( do you know all the names of thePokemon characters?) and with miracles that we very often take forgranted ( Mummy, he‚'s standing!!He is standing!! ).

After five years, I thought I had seen it all.Heard it all. Until today.

We were at the dinner table and my oldest who has just turned fivewas taking his two and half year old brother through the drill of "Bigboysbehavior". Ral, would not eat his greens. Stef, my fiveyear old was trying to coax him into eating them. "If you don‚'teat your peas, Ral, you will not grow big." That did not seem to be agood enough incentive as Ral just kept staring at his plate with aface as long as my arm ( believe me, it is a long arm).  "If youdo not eat your peas, Ral, you will not go to Belgium with us in thesummer." Ral‚'s face grew even longer as he muttered, "I notwant to go to Elgium." As far as he was concerned, Belgium might aswell  be the church I drag him to every week, where he has to beon his best behavior. No thank you! Then, Stef had a brainwave. "Ifyou don‚'t eat your peas, Ral, Mummy will take your Barney andgive it to another child who eats his peas.", Ral gave me a look ofpained panic and began to pick at his peas. As soon as he threw thefirst forkful in his mouth, Stef gave me a look of satiated pleasure.I raise my children by the book ( i.e by all the rules of themotherhood books I read) Stef, on the other hand, raises his youngersiblings by his book and he is a more successful "mother "than Iam.

At the same dinner table, ten minutes later. Ral lets out a screechy"I want water, Mummyyyy." I ignore him.

I had been teaching him to say "please" wheneverhe made a request. I figured that if I ignored him, he would realizethat something was amiss and correct it. He whined again, "I wantwater, Mummyyyyyy." I concentrated on my food. He turned to Stef , "Iwant water, Steffffff."  Stef asked him in a mature voice, "andwhat's the magic word, Ral?" My younger son, in anI-know-the-answer-voice, replied "abracadabra."
Unigwe, an alumnus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; KU Leuvenand UC Louvain in Belgium, is and USAfrica TheNewspaper contributing editor and columnist. She is based in Canadaand is the author of 'Teardrops', a collection of poems, and hershort story, 'Touched by an Angel', was broadcast on the BBC WorldService.

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