I have been running Lil’missbelle for a little over two years now. The blog was conceived as a memoir of my first-born daughter Xena, something she would look at when she’s a feral teenager who thinks that her folks are shady and mean and want nothing good for her. At the onset, when I published posts like “My First Christmas” and “How To Stay Winning”, I viewed this blog as the equivalent of the photo albums our parents put together for us when we were growing up. I hoped that one day on her sixteenth birthday, I would present to her a white envelope as my gift. In it would be a small piece of paper with a link to this website inscribed in gorgeous calligraphy (I am a sucker for calligraphy). But I guess that would only work if this website was private as she is bound to come across it sooner than my preferred time. I imagine that she will find her way here when a friend in school will bring it to her attention.
“Missy, are you ok with the stuff your mom writes about you?” Her friend Nolan would ask her one day over lunch break. They will be roosting on one of the school benches in the woody part of the school (because she’ll be in an environmentally conscious school), a cheese sandwich in one hand and a sci-fi book in the other.
You know how I know she will love fiction? Because every time I travel abroad, she asks for a magic wand. And every time I bring one (three times now), she gets so frustrated when she finds out that it’s not real. The first time I brought one, she unwrapped it excitedly, examined it like a magician would his tools before asking me “Is it real mama?”
“It should be. I don’t expect it to disappear in the middle of the night.” I said
“I mean will it do what I command it to do?” she inquired, engulfed in a palpable wave of anxiety.
“We will only know if we try, Xena.” I said.
“Ok, turn Xia into a rabbit!” She commanded it, pointing it at her sister who nonchalantly went about her business of unreeling a roll of tissue and tying it around her neck. After issuing several commands, Xena was not amused and asked me to please get her a real one next time. I bought another one and another one and obviously her sister hasn’t transformed into anything but a troublesome toddler.
Back to the blog. After Nolan’s revelation about her life being out there (something she wasn’t aware of), she will dismiss him on the pretence that she has to wind up on her current read and is in no mood for conversation. But when she gets home from school, she will run upstairs to her room, lock the door and then retrieve her futuristic tablet, one that she will be using to do her assignments, read, put on the lights, heat up the room, run her bath and even perhaps talk to when she’s lonely. But on that fateful day, she will only need it to do one thing. So, she will google her name.
First, she will key in “Xena” in the search button and will be bombarded with websites about Xena: The Warrior Princess. Then she will type Xena D’Souza and probably a few Facebook accounts will pop up. Of course, none of them will be hers because she will be banned from FB until she turns 18. Then, after scratching her head for a while and begrudgingly resorting to asking Nolan for more info at school, she will have an ingenious idea. “Why not google mom’s name since she’s behind all this?”
The initial links will be of her mom’s corporate profile and a few FB profiles. Then, she will spot a website with a weird name, one that she will not pay much attention to because who comes up with such hoary names? Except her shady-ish mom! She will click on it with the urgency of a student seeking their exam results and boom!
I imagine her scrolling through her tablet fervently, her face aghast. First, she will be surprised at how fashionably I dressed her and her sister before they started dictating what went into their closets. Then, she will probably feel affronted by all the painfully embarrassing moments that I made known to the entire world. I picture her reading the post “I refuse to keep my child at home” and coiling back on her bed with egg on her face as she wonders how much of that stuff Nolan has read. “So much for my heavy British accent!” She will think to herself.
After about an hour of skimming through the blog, she will have had enough of it and at the same time gathered enough evidence to put up a case. I would be in my study room leaning on my reclining seat, my hands interlocked behind my head as I try to fit together the pieces of my overdue Conde Nast Traveller and Financial Times (Lifestyle article, not financial) submissions. She will bolt down the stairs and just as my ideas are about to fall into place, she will barge in, sending my delicate French door flying, almost shattering the glass and shattering my thoughts into pieces. She will shove her tablet on my desk and let out a loud “Really mom!”
But if she keeps her wit and funny bone well into teenage hood, she will have a different perspective of the situation. I imagine hearing endless laughter coming from her room as she moves through one article after another. When she comes across “How 8-4-4 came to bite me” and “It’s ok to be selfish” or “The Sweaty Sun”, I bet she will be exhilarated to know that she was always an intelligent kid, always outsmarting me. But above all, she will know that despite all the cheekiness, she always had a big heart and took her big sister role with all the seriousness it deserved as demonstrated in “How to stay winning“.
This blog has evolved beyond what I visualised at the time of its inception. Along the way, as I came here to pen Xena’s stories (and later Xia’s), I felt the need to pen mine too. About the joys and frustration of my role as a mother (and wife), one I have proudly embraced but half the time I am clueless about. I also have the constant urge to talk about my love for running, something I wish I discovered ten years ago as it has kept me grounded in ways I would NEVER have envisaged. The wanderlust in me also feels the need to narrate my travel escapades, and if you’ve paid attention to this feature, you will know where I aspire to have my features published in the near future. Writing on this platform is now a sacrosanct part of my life (despite chewing blackouts once in a while), one that has helped me cultivate a high level of discipline.
I am humbled by the interest the blog has piqued, and I will not forget when I started. How I would publish an article and rush to google analytics at the end of the day only to find 15 views! It crushed my heart then, but when I got fully immersed in the blog, I stopped checking the stats. I don’t even put together proposals for collaborations anymore, because this place to me is so much more than that. It’s about my love for writing and anything else is secondary.
So, when a friend pointed me to the Sunday Standard last weekend regarding a review of my blog, I was worried that someone was finally roasting me for my unconventional parenting methods. It was a warm Sunday afternoon and I had gone for my weekly physio session at Kariakim’s (story for another day). When I was done, the weather had dramatically changed and there was a high possibility of a cloudburst. I wanted to have my car washed and grab a newspaper while at it and there’s no way I was going to last another minute in my romper. Not in that cold.
I drove home, changed into my sweats and drove to Astrol Petrol Station on Lenana Road. As they washed my car, I sat outside the fruit’s place and leafed through the newspaper. The last time I read a hard copy of The Standard was probably in my early teens when I lived for the middle section pull-out. Clearly, the paper had changed and I had no idea where they ran bloggers’ reviews. Eventually I found it and skimmed through it with bated breath, waiting for the stones to fall. And as I came to the end, I found myself balancing tears. Finally, my work had been validated.
The fact that the article was done by a GUY who attributed the success of his parenting to blogs like mine warmed the cockles of my heart. I was also inspired to check out the blog’s google analytics after a long time and was surprised at how much my audience had grown, not just in numbers but diversity. It surprised me to see nine readers from Philippines and another twelve from China! Of course the ones in China must be Kenyan’s especially of Kikuyu decent. We all know how they are making a killing as translators, guides and business moguls. But Philippines? What was more shocking was that almost 60% of my readers are men. Would you believe that?
I know there are a few guys who read me, but I have always imagined them to be about two percent at most hehe. I know one without a doubt, my brilliant friend Pete who is so knowledgeable it escapes me what insights he would be seeking over here. Pete will talk about global warming, derivatives, structural issues in governance and parenting with the same zest. He edifies me while also numbing my brain, so I must have a whisky every time I meet him hehe.
The fact that someone I am not familiar with reviewed my blog and put it in such good light gave me all the fuel I needed for the rest of the year, and then some! So, I am not worried about Xena’s discovery of this site for now. Because even if she does not appreciate staring in a movie she did not audition for, she will forgive me when I get published on Conde Nast Traveller and the Financial Times. In the end, it will all have been worth it.
And now, will some of the men in the house please stand up?
P.S See The Standard review below. Thank you Adam Mawiyoo for your kind words.