THE SAMOAN MOTHER: White Sunday (a.k.a Lotu Tamaiti)

Ugggh..uunnnggaaaah..effff.  That’s me groaning right now.  Every second Sunday of October, every fri…..kken….year. It’s that time of the year when the majority of Samoan parents pull out their hair trying to help their kids learn their tauloto (memory verse).

I can’t remember a time when I HAVEN’T been an active participant in Lotu Tamaiti festivities.  It started with me reciting my tauloto every year for most of my early years – I stand in a long line facing my dreaded parents who await with proud-slash-murderous anticipation to hear the one line of bible verse that I had been memorising for the past 2 weeks.  Then in my teen years, I take part in some dodgy-cheesily-written tala (play) that re-enacts a bible story – all in Samoan, so at that time in my life with my limited gagana, these plays were like silent films to me lol.  Then I was rescued by the faifeau (minister) who told me to plonk myself behind the organ and play all the songs every year.  Music saved me from having to summon up ugly cries during those dramatic moments in character (fist pump!).

So the normal progression in Samoan life is that you spend every year of your childhood dreading your 5 seconds of fame on stage, wearing some itchy lacey-frilly white dress with matching stockings/shoes; your hair in the tightest french plait that you get a migraine halfway through service, and have to endure an epic 2 hour programme (sometimes 3hrs). Then in your teen years, you have to convince your mother that you DON’T need a frilly dress with the big bow at the back so please can we just get a normal puletasi – which she gives in LATER on in your teen years (yep). AND THEN..you grow up, leave the house, send your kids to your parents every lotu tamaiti season so they can happily get their grandkids prepared for the day and you don’t have to really be part of the rehearsals/service – you just attend as a member of the ‘audience’.

I must’ve missed the memo on that smooth progression from participant-to-audience-member.  Because once I got plonked behind that organ, I’ve been sitting there ever since.  Also, I live in a different country than my parents so not only do I have to prepare the music for the Sunday School kids to learn, rehearse and perform – I then have to help my own kids learn their tauloto.  Then there’s the crazy search for white outfits.  And then I have to make sure my white outfit is ready because I’m part of the Sunday School for this occasion (I don’t have an emoji to describe my thoughts on this paragraph…).

But THIS year I have reason to celebrate!!! My youngest child Osty (6yo) is starting to get the hang of reading  Samoan like his older siblings.  So you know what that means? I only have to write his tauloto up on the whiteboard and then he stands in front of it, reads and memorises his verse without me having to sit with him every day to teach it phonetically.  A.k.a: I’m freeeeeeeeeeeee!

This is a small victory for me and it’s all thanks to the support my children get  from being part of the EFKS church and Sunday School and also the Saturday morning gagana-Samoa language classes at the Polynesian Kids Community Language School here in Melbourne.  So from now on, every lotu tamaiti season, I will enjoy some peaceful early October days and not have to pull anyone’s hair out (mine or my kids, or anyone who happens to be visiting us at the time).   Happy Lotu Tamaiti season to all Samoans worldwide 🙂 and to all the parents who are helping their kids prepare for the big day…good luck and please go easy on the frilly dresses.

Manuia xx

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I’m baaaaa-aaaaack!

“Procrastination….(long pause)….is the thief of time….(serious look)” – A serious-looking Reverend whom I will not name.

Way back in my teenage years, I overheard a conversation between my friend whom I was hanging out with for the day and her faifeau (church minister).  We  were given the most awesome task by her mother, of taking some lunch over to their faifeau’s house.  We jumped at the chance to do this (no we didn’t, we tried to take off but got the dog whistle from my friend’s mother just as we were about to hop into the car).  So like the good Samoan girls that we were (I mean ARE…like we ARE!) we sulu’d our ie lavalavas and took the platters over to the faifeau’s house.  On the drive there my friend – who I will call Tyra – kept muttering to herself.  The words sounded something like: “oh man I don’t wanna see him….haven’t been to loku in ages…oh man I’m in trouble..” before she turned to me and gave me a loud and accusing “Why couldn’t we have gone to your place instead today? ….” I tried to calm her with my “hey..it’s gonna be okay.  Seriously, he’s not gonna fasi you or anything” (and anyway, her family always makes nice crabmeat salad with heaps of Bestfoods mayo for lunch).

So we pulled up to the big two-storey mansion (I considered all  2-storey houses in South Auckland as mansions) with the nicely landscaped front gardens and the iron gates – oops can’t give away too much in case someone knows which faifeau I’m talking about lol.  The faifeau greeted us and welcomed us into his kitchen as we put the platters down on the breakfast bar (told you…mansion).  And I was right, the faifeau did not smack Tyra for her non-attendance at loku in the past year – he gave her something even more frightening – a sermon!. We sat there – my friend nodding her head every few sentences, looking sheepish and guilty for her sins and me looking so relieved that this was not my faifeau and I was not the one getting the growling.  I have to admit, I did look a bit agreeable at times when the faifeau gave me the “don’t you think so Rita?” look.  One particular moment that stood out for me was the following convo:

Faifeau: Tyra..it has been so long my girl.  What’s keeping you from the house of God?

Tyra: Awwwww ….it’s been a bit hectic with my studies and part-time job..and I know I need to come back to loku…

Faifeau: Remember Tyra, procrastination….is the thief of time….the THIEF….of time.

Tyra: Ummmm….

Me: mmmpccch. (That’s me trying not to laugh but still have a serious face on)

It was all over after 15 minutes.  We received our blessings from the faifeau, wishing us “a bright and prosperous week” (seriously he said that) while we walked slowly to the front door.  Once we were out of view we powerwalked it to the car just in case we got called back…..and laughed all the way back to her place impersonating her faifeau’s “procrastination” quote.  I can still picture his face as he said it…hell I can impersonate his exact delivery of that one line 15 years ago.  As much as I enjoy impersonating this particular faifeau and his speech every time Tyra and I catch up, I have to admit, those words ring true in my life right now.

It’s been six months since I last posted in my blog and my only excuse is…. I am guilty of procrastination.  So the moral of my story today is….”procrastination….(long pause)…is the THIEF of time (heavy breath on the ‘h’ in thief and serious face).

Ia manuia xx

THE SAMOAN MOTHER: The Teacher/Parent Interview

“Ain’t no one like me!” – Scribe, 2003

Something happened to me – well, actually not directly TO me but I was told about it and it affected my state of wellbeing so I can say that it happened to me.

So here’s the deal:  I attended my 12yo son’s Parent/Teacher Interviews this week.  It was conducted as a series of 5-minute discussions with each of my son’s teachers.  So that meant SEVEN interviews in ONE hour.  Imagine a school hall with 50 or so teachers sitting behind desks (grid style) and parents scrambling their way among the aisles trying to get to their next interview.  And to make it worse, it was 29 degrees that day – eeek!

The interviews were going well and there was a common theme running throughout the hour regarding my boy: “Jeramyah is such a lovely young man in class…..it is an honour to teach him…..he is such a responsible student…” etc.   Just to take a break from all this gushing, I should note here that my son is no whizz-kid-genius. He is actually an average (if not, just below) learner.  He has to work his butt off just to keep above water.

However, my son is a very meek and humble young man – ask anyone who knows him.  As the eldest in our little family, he is responsible for locking up the house before bedtime, making his little 4yo brother’s breakfast everyday, overseeing kitchen duties, sorting out household rubbish and taking out the bins  etc.  Through him, I see the enormous responsibilities that impact Samoan children who are the firstborn.   And I have huge faith in my son to remain humble and responsible as he grows into a young man.  So far, so good.

But here’s what’s gonna kill my plan – GIRLS

When I met with my son’s Science Teachers, they said all the things I wanted to hear until one of them said with a conspiratorial smile: “Oh and Jeramyah has a few admirers in the class and it so cute watching these girls sneak looks at him”  SAY WAAAT?

You should’ve seen my face.

It was the kind of face your Samoan mother would give you when the faifeau comes over for a visit and you bring his ipu ki without wearing an ie lava lava.

Yep you know the look.  After I received that tidbit of information I could only manage a fake half-smile and trust me, if I was holding a pen it would’ve snapped in my hand.

Coming down my psycho cloud I realised that my son is nearing the ‘relationships’ age.  I understand that he will one day have a girlfriend and then a w..w..wi….wife (sorry couldn’t get that word out for some reason).  And no, it’s not his fault that the girls at school crush on him (yes it is) and I can’t control these things (yes I can) and I don’t want to drive my son away from me (he ain’t goin’ nowhere!).

But times have changed.   Samoan kids these days have a better relationship with their parents than their counterparts 20 years ago.  Even though he is only 12, I am now adding ‘relationships’ to my list of things regarding my journey as a mother.  I am happy to relay any information they need when it comes to questions regarding the boy/girl ‘thing’  (“Dat stupid fing” – as my mum used to call it lol).   BUT I hope my aussie-raised children can understand the rules that we impose on them regarding this.   Ahhh the beauties of having Samoan parents…..

The challenge is to remain true to what my husband and I agree on when it comes to raising our kids.  Making sure that the rules we set are our own and not someone elses.

So yesterday I said to my baby boy:  “Son, you are not allowed to have a girlfriend until you’re 18”

I lied.  He’s not allowed to have a girlfriend until he’s 30 but he can find that out later………..

Ia manuia xx