Nappy Diaires

Because they said so

So I’m told that the child’s hair has to be cut. Apparently, it should have happened weeks ago. I keep asking why it is such a matter of urgency but every answer I’ve gotten so far is less than satisfactory. It seems to be some kind of tradition, the significance of which remains a mystery.

In some cultures, the whole hair cutting thing must be preceded by sexual relations between Mama and Papa. Why, you ask? I can’t really say because, yeah, the answer I got was less than satisfactory. Needless to say, baby’s hair will soon be a full-grown afro. It’s not like cutting her hair will affect the price of an Alibaba share. It’s not that big of a deal.

If you ask my house girl, it’s a very big deal, the exact nature of which, she can’t really tell you. “Madam, ungekata hizi nywele akiwa mdogo. Aki, ungezikata tu,” she says, looking mournful. “Kwa nini?”

“Si ndio zi-grow vizuri.” When I ask what she means by ‘ku-grow vizuri’, she says, “Hivo tu.”

As I said, less than satisfactory. Obviously, there is some mysterious tradition attached to cutting a newborn’s hair, something to do with home, heritage and ownership I reckon.

Every time I think about it, I remember a documentary which aired on a local station, following the lives of babies who were born in the period since the Jubilee administration took office. One little boy was taken ‘ingo’ to have his first haircut courtesy of a crew of gnarly old women, most of whom would have passed for ancestors, only they were still alive.

With what looked like a blunt razor blade, they shaved the poor little boy’s head, managing to nick his scalp and draw blood in the process. The child’s mother was in tears but the ‘elders’ looked giddy. Call me paranoid, but whenever blood is spilled in shags for whatever reason, it feels like a libation. So apart from wanting to shed my own tears for both mother and baby, I balked at the thought that cutting my baby’s hair might have any kind of dark significance.

As you can imagine, my indifference toward things cultural does not sit well with my house girl who views everything through the lens of tradition, despite being a regular church goer. The irony is lost on her completely, as it is for many of us. She told me a story once of a friend whose son was sick. The friend took her son to hospital but the doctor’s couldn’t find anything wrong with him. She then decided to take the boy home to see his grandparents.

“Hakuwa amempeleka nyumbani. That’s why,” she said, as if that explained everything. “Saa hizi, mtoto ako sawa.” I’m expecting the pressure to begin for me to take baby upcountry. And it will come.

In the meantime, it looks like I will soon have a toddler to contend with. The infant is showing signs that crawling might not be too far off. She’s already began to sit. Too damn cute if I do say so myself. She bends over, holds her toes and looks up as if to say, “I got this Ma’.” These days her nose can be found in everyone’s business. If you speak, she will listen. So you can imagine how many times she interrupts herself to raise her head and identify the source of sound.

The other day, my house girl was giving a rather long winded blow-by-blow about something that had happened somewhere. Baby had been reclining in her bouncing chair. It must have been some kind of tale because she raised herself into a sitting position, grabbed the sides of the chair, turned her body and raised her head. She had this perplexed expression on her face. If she could talk, I’m pretty sure she would have been like, “Yeah, right.”

But hey, conversation is the spice of life, even the non-verbal or imagined variety. Take for instance our ever-eventful bath time sessions. The little lass has taken to flailing her limbs to create a spectacular splashing water effect. Like everything else, it amuses her to no end. If you hold her legs, she flaps her arms. Pin her arms down and she kicks her legs. And naturally, when you tell her to stop, she causes an even bigger ruckus. Stamping her legs like she was stamping on the devil himself. Finally, when all the bath water is on the floor, the baby looks up with a cheeky glint in her eye as if to say, “Uta do?” Sigh.