Dada the Babysitter!

This is what usually happens in my mind every time I see a baby:
“Oh My God! Why are you shoooooo cuuuuttee??? Just look at those big pweety eyes and shoft cheekies for me to smoonch!”

And these are things that usually come to my mind every time I think of babies; soft bums, giggles, heart-melting grins, tiny adorable clothes in so many cute colors, bows (I don’t know why!), that gentle unique baby smell, mushy feelings, butterflies and all that. You get the idea. I do also think of the other stuff like dirty diapers, burps, screaming toddlers and sleepless nights, but not as often.

My experience with babies is not limited at all. I am such an “auntie”! I mean show me a baby and I will stick to your life like a leech. After stamping the “Baby Lover” seal on myself therefore, I settled to daydreaming of the time I will also be a mother with a smile on my face. I mean, with all this love for babies, being a mom felt pretty awesome. I could even picture my womb sitting on a plush couch, sipping an unidentified brew and smiling at me in peaceful anticipation of the coming adventure. Well, that was until I, for the very first time, had to stay with a baby for a whole weekend!

I was pretty excited when I got the request to babysit for a whole weekend. I already love the little muffin and we were going to have lots of fun together. We did have fun, for exactly two hours, after which I learned that babies cry when hungry and cry some more when you try to feed them. Then pause to dance to a random song on TV, only to cry again because… I don’t know. They probably remembered why they were crying in the first place. But the first day went on pretty well. The first night had me waking up every hour to check on the baby who turned out to be a pretty good sleeper. Yet somehow, I couldn’t sleep in peace.
By day two, I was rather sleepy and chipping off a little from my cheerful auntie armor. The baby then decided that I was her very best friend and my arms were officially her personal space. I was then to walk around the house singing as she occasionally backed me up and screamed her displeasure if I tried to sit or stop the march. I walked the house for what felt like hours before madam decided to fall asleep and I in my full grown-up glory and wisdom gave the nanny clear instructions to watch over the baby as I ran out of the house. I’m not proud to announce that I went back five hours later, took up my pacing while singing with the baby until she slept then took my sore back to bed for another sleepless night. Needless to say, the baby’s mom’s face was the best sight ever for me at the end of that weekend.

The three days with madam Cutie-with-the-Talent-to-Scream-Down-a-Generation made me see my life in a very different way. For starters, my womb is no longer a content goddess looking calmly at me, it has now taken the face of my boarding school matron, looking at me with slight disapproval and a good dose of judgement as she tsks and shakes her head. The thought of a future motherhood seems less dreamy now, though still quite attractive. My Baby-Thoughts-Package now also includes; feeding wars, sore back, a very, very high pitched soprano of baby screams, mid-day escapes to a childless place for sanity, and a lot of puree smudges.  All in all, baby-keeping, parenthood, or whatever its termed is not like chewing gum, everybody can do that, duh! So, as we start this week Lovies, I hope we really pause to think before making some tiny humans. I mean it IS hectic.

Old Children

My bibi and I walked into a roadshow once. It had a huge banner with “Siku ya mtoto wa Afrika (Day of the African Child)” on it. A choir was screaming about the importance of talking to children. The message went a bit like: “A child is not equivalent to an animal, you can talk and he/she will understand…”. I recall thinking “yeah, we should really talk to our children…”.
I was eight years old!

It’s just recently that I noticed that I don’t think of my past as my “childhood”.
I just think of it as “when I was younger”. I didn’t see my 8-year-old self as a child, just a young person.
I, like a lot of the people around me, grew up way too fast. Some of us locked our inner child away before even re-growing the teeth we lost. There are elder siblings who grew up to raise their younger sisters and brothers. There are hungry kids who needed to earn their bread and counted coins before they could count their fingers and toes. There are little old guys staring out with big eyes at screaming parents before they can recite the alphabet. There are even those who were burdened with obligations to keep family names, businesses, traditions, before they could see enough to decide their own way.

There are children locked up in remote areas of our beings, forgotten but always there. And once in a while when our guards drop, they come out. They play, they are mischievous, reckless and free. Yet sometimes they come out, see what happened to the shell they have become and feel cheated or a little hopeless. There are old children in most of us.

I used to get confused when the little girl came out, I still do at times. Sometimes she giggles and wants to run around. So, I would call my girls, spend a lazy day at home and be merry. Other times the girl comes out hurt and bruised. So, I lock myself in, try to remember when my parents were taller than life, and rock myself to sleep. There are days when I crave my mom’s favorite dish and nothing else seems satisfying then. So many different ways, triggered by memories, scents, sights. The confusion clears only when I recognize that it is the little girl in me peeping out. A few days ago, I mused on what to do with her. I write today with the decision that I shall treat her like my own daughter. When the little girl who was never allowed to be, peeps out, I will embrace her. I will bathe her, feed her and sing her to sleep. I will pace the room singing on the days that sleep is elusive and dreams are painful. I will make her a herbal tea when she has a flu. I will run when she is restless. I will visit loved ones and hug them when she’s lonely. I will rub coconut oil into her thick wild hair and comb it until it shines. I will gently scold her when she misbehaves and show here what to do differently. I will love her, and protect her for who she is and what she means to the woman I hope to be.

For those who recognize the little child inside, this is for us. This is for all the little old children inside every one of us. May we nourish them. May we realize that we can love them enough to heal them if broken or to grow them from love received before. May we realize that we are these children, and we are the grown-up shells from them. May we love them, care for them and build them. Only then can we gain enough growth to channel positively to the world around us. Here is to the little old children within, may we BE.