Father, Mother, God

My mum used to say that a mother is her child’s first God. And yes, that ‘G’ was in upper case. She said it partly as a subtle reminder that she brought us into the world and could take us out, and partly because well, it’s true. She was a benevolent God, not dropping us on our heads or any such thing.

In fact, for the first three months of all our lives, neither I nor my siblings left the nursery. God didn’t want us exposed to the rest of creation until She was certain we could handle the exposure. Yeah, she had her quirks but we loved her dearly. After those first three months of confinement in her Nursery of Eden, she never had to force us to be around her ever again. She was a guiding light, and we were like moths to a flame.

In contrast, my mothering style is a bit more laissez faire. By the time the child was three days old, she had seen a whole lot more of the world than I had at that age. In the first month of her life, she left the house every week, and it wasn’t just frantic trips to the ER. When we were in the house, we had a steady flow of callers.

On many occasions, my siblings would call and ask if they could pass by but baby and I wouldn’t be home. I could sense their consternation. New mothers are not supposed to run riot, especially with their newborns in tow.

It never crossed my mind that the child was taking baby notes. Until my latest clinic visit. It’s been two months since our last set of vaccinations. On our last visit, she raised a ruckus when the nurse approached and attempted to do her nurse thing – measuring, weighing and what not. It was as if she expected someone to jab her in the thigh, just like they did the last time. I tried to tell her that no such thing was going to happen but she wouldn’t listen.

So we treated everyone in the waiting room to few well pitched yelps. That was last time. Somewhere at the back of my mind, it did occur to me that maybe, somehow, she had the capacity to remember something that happened weeks before. Some kind of cell memory. Up until that point, I hadn’t realised that she had a view of the world. For me she was still just a passenger on my travels.

I can’t tell you at what point exactly she started to develop some sort of cognisance, heck she’s not even 6 months old, but I do know that when we walked into the consultation room last week, she took a look around, paused for about five seconds, then took a deep breath and let out a scream that could have awoken the dead. She didn’t stop crying through all the measuring, weighing and what not.

This time it was clear for all to see that she thought someone was going to jab her in the thigh, even though they didn’t do that the last time. I tried to tell her that no such thing was going to happen but she just took a deeper breath and cried even louder. Somewhere along the way, fear turned into anger. You could hear it in her tone. Sense it from her body language. And once again I was amazed. When did this baby become a little person?

“Heh! Baby has bad memories of this room,” the nurse said. “And she’s started recognising people, too. She knows Mama and Aunty, baas.”

This was confounding in itself. She remembered the room and the injections but the doctor and nurse were suddenly strangers? Maybe she did remember them but just didn’t like them because yeah, injections. Either way, the wheels were turning in that little head of hers and to be completely honest, that to me was fascinating. Lord knows how I’ll react when the tiny tot learns to talk. That’s the kind of magic I’m looking forward to experiencing. Just the other day, she was slip of a thing, little more than extension of me. How have a few months turned an infant into this miniature human who seems to grow and change right under my nose?

I used to think of her as a passenger on my travels. Well, turns out I might be the one tagging along on her journey from infancy to womanhood.