My daughter’s favourite new word is “Ha-yaa!!” She says it all the time. First thing in the morning ( even before her eyes are fully open), during her diaper change, as I’m washing her face and trying to stuff her wiggling mass into a pair of fresh clothes, during breakfast (usually with her mouth full), as she runs to the balcony to retrieve her tricycle and often, all the way down the stairs.
The watchman knows it’s her favourite word. So does the caretaker. All the kids in our court are on to it, plus a few kids from the next block of flats. The guy who reads our electricity metre knows it. The water guy too. And obviously all the nannies in our little community know it. I would be surprised if the National Security Intelligence Service hasn’t yet briefed the President about it, because at the rate at which she says the word, it may as well be her national anthem.
For my sassy, lil’ miss, everything is a “Ha-yaa!!” moment.
We recently started watching Barney & Friends. I know all the responsible, hands-on parents out there are shaking their heads in dismay. What can I say? If I didn’t have something to distract the girl-child every once in a while, I wouldn’t get anything done. She has the unique ability to occupy my personal space, so that if I’m trying to move a carpet, she’ll be right on top of it.
If I’m trying to mop the floor, she’ll be in the bucket. If I’m trying to get dressed, she’ll be slathering lotion all over body and trying to roll deodorant onto her tongue. If I’m on “the throne” she’ll either be shredding toilet paper or trying to scrub the floor with the toilet brush.
As a result, when I can get her to sit still for a few minutes in a row, I jump at the chance. So Barney & Friends it is. There’s a motley crew of characters in the info-tainment cartoon, a few of them dressed up like super-sized, stuffed dinosaurs. One of the dinosaurs is called Baby Bop, but when the American kids say it, it sounds like ‘Baby Bap’.
So that has become Adoti’s signal when she wants to watch Barney and his pals. She’ll pull me by the hand towards the TV yelling, “Bap! Ha-yaa!!”
Yes, there are no inside voices in our house. If words are not yelled, they have not been spoken.
When she wakes up in the morning, if she slept with Mama, she will get up on her knees, plant her hands on my hips and try to propel herself over my sleeping body, so that she can slide onto the floor and get up to some early-morning mischief. Cries of “Ha-yaa!!” punctuate this post-dawn ritual, even as the warrior-child is still half asleep.
The same thing happens in the evening when it’s time for Adoti to have her bath. We start by filling her baby basin with warm water and as soon as she sees me lift the basin of its stand, she goes: “Bath! Ha-yaa!!” It takes a good amount of time to get everything set up – clothes, towel, soap, fresh diapers, Arimis milking jelly (for her skin) – because the child is usually here, there and everywhere, running around in circles, probably wondering how much fun it would be if Mama fell flat on her face with a basin full of water.
Predictably, you can say almost anything to Adoti and she’ll respond with a hearty, “Ha-yaa!” which is always such a laugh. Sometimes, she goes into her memory banks and retrieves the old and trusty, “Yih?” but for the most part she stays current.
This is why I couldn’t wait to show her some of the action that went on in Beijing last week. We managed to catch a couple of re-runs together, and even though she probably couldn’t plug into the current of patriotism that jolted through the country for a seven days straight, she was duly impressed when Julius – Mr YouTube – Yego won gold with a monster, 90-metre-plus throw, landing face down on the ground, like a superhero cartoon character.
She hopped off my lap, her eyes fixed on the screen before yelling out her trademark, “Ha-yaa!!”
In that moment, I was proud to be a Kenyan, but even prouder to have been chosen to watch over the little human that I fondly refer to as my daughter.