My baby is growing
My baby girl is growing. Her leggings have holes in them, and her chubby, little toes continue to make inroads. She can’t fit in her shoes. The jumper that used to reach her knees looks more like a tank top than a garment meant to keep her warm. Her shirt sleeves struggle to make contact with her elbows.
She’s gained a few pounds too. I used to be able to scoop her up and dash off to run one errand or the other. Now I feel her weight on my hip, reminding me that she’s not a baby. She is a little human. A flesh and blood manifestation of the life force, with a sweet and fiery spirit and a personality much bigger than her short frame.
She doesn’t have all her words yet, but communication is not something she grapples with.
A while ago, I took her to see her cousin Zachy. He’s my elder sister’s son. Adoti loves her cousin Zachy and he loves her right back. As you are well aware, she’s a choosy one. She’ll decide if she likes someone straight off the bat, and if she likes you, it’s forever. And the Zee man is her BFF for life.
So we were over at their house and Adoti was fussing for one reason or another. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. She didn’t want anything that I handed to her and I could tell that she was gearing up for the mother of all tantrums.
I tried to give my car keys, which she promptly swung in front of my face before throwing them across the room. I was unperturbed. I had seen the child do worse. But my sister was having none of it.
“Oh, no, no, no, no,” she said. “That is not on! You cannot let her get away with that!”
“She fusses a lot,” I said. “I’m used to it.”
“Oh, no, no, no, no,” she said again. “She can’t win every battle. Sometimes you’ve got to show her who’s boss. Put her on your lap and have her sit there for five minutes.”
So I sat down with the lil’ miss and tried to hold her still as the minutes ticked away. She wriggled, squirmed, screamed and yelled as if she was being detained at Guantanamo. But about two minutes in, it dawned on her that Mama was serious about this punishment. So she resorted to woeful sniffling.
As soon as I set her free from lap-confinement, she dashed off to find my shoes, which she then placed at my feet. Then walked to my sister and stretched out her hand. She remained like that until my sister put the car keys in her open palm.
She came back to me, took my hand and folded my fingers around the keys. Then pointed at my shoes. She had the sternest, most uncompromising look on her face as if to say, “Put on your shoes Ma’, we’re blowing this joint!”
I had to laugh. Kumbe the child has been playing me all this time? It’s a racket, I tell you. A downright, dirty racket. As soon as she wasn’t getting her own way, she wanted to retreat to familiar territory where she knew she could rule the roost. My sister had called her on her bad behaviour and Adoti was not going to stick around and stand for it.
We ended up staying on for a couple more hours and Adoti just had to put up with Mama’s choices. Her aunty was persona non grata, as was I, but she was okay to play with her cousin.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. As young as she is, and without the gift of words, Adoti has learned how to work things to her advantage. She’s taking all the tools at her disposal – which aren’t many – to create an environment that best suits her needs. And all her ‘intel’ is gathered from keen observation of what works and what doesn’t. Simple as that.
Meanwhile, Mama’s been flying by the seat of her pants, parenting on a wing and prayer and in the process being completely bamboozled by a toddler. It’s not easy to admit that your one and a half year old has been paying more attention to her surroundings than you have. And has better deductive and analytical skills to boot.
Well, I choose to take the long-term view. This is not just an isolated battle of wills; it’s a war for her heart and mind. Thankfully, it’s not the kind of combat that requires winners and losers. We’re fighting for a happy middle ground and by George, we will find it!