She’s bilious and easily provoked, like a woman on her menses. Or a village bully hungry for a fight. I will walk into the house from work, and from the kitchen, she will advance jubilantly with her hands in the air. After lumbering for what will feel like eternity, she will finally get to me. I will bend over to pick her up, but instead, she will whoosh past me while letting out melodious bursts of laughter, leaving my open hands hanging.
Excited at the prospect of having some fun and giggles with her (a rare occurrence lately), I will kick off my heels, throw my handbag on the couch and run after her, which means making two long strides to counter the seven steps that she will have covered. Zestfully, I will grab the feisty ball of fire and clasp her to my bosom, a much-needed embrace after sweating blood all day.
The cuddle will turn out to be a flash in the pan as she will immediately wrestle herself out of it by thrusting her legs incessantly. Should I cling on to her a tad bit longer, she will let out her signature whine, that annoying shriek conceived out of frustration. And even when she regains her freedom after I place her on the floor, she will remain stuck on that spot, squealing and yelling as if I slashed her legs. All because of a forced hug. I will wish I stayed in the office for another hour.
Her meals cannot be delayed (and they shouldn’t anyway), otherwise, our neighbors will sprawl a colorful rumor, one that would suggest the existence of a torture chamber in our basement. I suspect they already are. Going out for lunch with her must be a calculated move. I can’t just do it after a long day at the office, or on a Saturday after running over 10kms and also running countless errands. I must have the energy to handle whatever tantrum she will throw my way. Because this is what will happen:
Once we are all seated at a diner, a kid friendly one no less, she will kick her legs while yelling “here” as she points at the floor, indicating her desperate desire to get off the high chair and on to the floor. She probably imagines she’s been put behind bars for a crime she did not commit. If I place her on a normal seat, she will IMMEDIATELY slide down and start roaming around, most probably with a knife or a fork in her hand, one which you can’t dare pry.
For that reason, she’s been missing out on most outdoor plans. But her older sister who she bullies to acquiescence is always trying to negotiate a VISA for her, much as she might just have had her hair pulled or eyes poked or toy snatched from. It amazes me to see such genuine love. We could always borrow a lot from kids.
About three weeks ago on a Friday, I found myself craving Mama Oliech’s fish at noon while buckling down an overdue report at the office. I pictured myself biting the crispy tail fin and delightfully crushing the juices out of it. The urge to indulge my palate in the lakeside goodness and a cocktail of kienyeji greens overwhelmed me, so I grabbed my car keys and jumped into my car. By now, you must know that I tend to love my company more than I should, so I really don’t have to be with peeps to enjoy a meal or a drink.
However, as I got to the Oloitoktok road roundabout, I thought of my older daughter Xena and how she was probably sulking at her plate of chapati and dengu. She’s a terrible feeder but hardly fuses when having her favorite meals; fish (dry) with ugali, pasta, beef burger with cheese and Chinese rice and stews. I called the nanny and asked her to get her ready, then I made a detour to my house to pick her up. When I got home, I called the nanny again to inform my lunch date that I was waiting in the car. I did not want her sister to see me as she would want to come with us yet, I wasn’t prepared to bang my head on a brick wall, given that I only had an hour anyway. It broke my heart (always does) to paper over my recalcitrant two-year old.
Attired in a turquoise t-shirt emblazoned with the Greek alphabet and some flashy orange shorts, Xena checked into the car, sat on the back-left seat and buckled herself up, but not before seeking some answers.
“Mama, did your boss close down the office?” She asked me, wearing a puzzled look on her face.
“No, he didn’t. I am on my lunch break and I figured I could take you for lunch.” I said to her as I backed up the narrow driveway.
“What about Xia?” She inquired.
“What about her?” I said, playing dumb. “What is she doing by the way?”
“She was helping me build a bank with the Lego blocks. She must be breaking it apart by now.” She sighed.
“Why is she not coming with us?” She persisted.
“You know I don’t have the energy to deal with her tantrums, Xena.” I said to her.
“That’s unfair mama. I will take care of her.” She innocently countered.
I wished she understood my apprehensiveness. The thought of her going berserk always freaks me out. I would rather have her stay at home than fight with her over wanting to drop everything (cutlery, salt shaker, center pieces) off the table. I was not ready for the unnerving gawks from people trying to have a peaceful break from their draining jobs but a feral two-year old would not let them. I was not ready to be branded a mom who can’t handle her child.
I understand she’s like a mini scientist, always faced with new discoveries and constantly wanting to explore and experiment. But surely, there are boundaries, and I don’t know yet how to make that clear to her.