He was a natural around his nieces and it got me all broody. I envisioned a perfect little family of three. How perfect our family portrait would be, I thought to myself. The idea of having a cuddly bear, one with a real tiny heart cuddling with us and cooing and kicking was all I longed for. We would sing lullabies and take times to read bedtime stories to her. And when she finally drifted off to sleep, we would carry her to her room, tuck her in and kiss her on the forehead. We would then head back to our room and sleep in each others arms until daylight crept in.
But when it finally happened, the reality of it all was astoundingly different.
Last week, on the evening of valentines day, we got home from work at around 6.00pm. The kids who were initially doing their assignments at the dining table came running to the door as soon as the engine of the car went silent.
“Happy Valentines day!” Exclaimed Xena as she handed us a sparkly blue card with a red heart embossed in the middle.
“I made this for you guys in school today.” She added.
Xia, the ever so competitive younger sister, dished out a white card with a red imprint of her hand.
“What did you get us for valentines?’ Inquired Xena as she examined us for hints. Usually, I would get everyone gifts on Valentines day but this time round I was flat broke. Luckily, the surprisingly thoughtful mister had sent some flowers and chocolates to work. I retrieved them from the car and gave them to Xena.
“This is for all of us, from daddy.” I said. They ignored the flowers and excitedly ripped apart the chocolates which were consumed in seconds.
As we walked in, the mister asked me what I felt like doing later on to which I suggested to go for dinner. Xena who was right behind us shouted, “Yipeee, we are going for Valentines day dinner!” No one was addressing her by the way but evidently there was no us without them. So we all went to Meditarraneo at The Junction where they made so much noise, fighting over cutlery and making requests of “more bread please” and Xia wanting to run all over the place. Some couples seemed to be understanding, probably because they had young ones that they had left behind. Others gawked at us like “How dare you?” These were probably in the dating phase or newly weds that had no kids. Which reminded me how different my expectations of a life of marriage with kids and the reality of it all are. If you are looking to moving in together and expecting kids at some point, this is for you.
Kids will dictate how you furnish your house
When the mister and I were dating, I longed for the day we would move in together. We would employ such tasteful ideas in decorating our home, like have champagne couches that would frame this space where a fluffy turquoise Persian rug stretched out. Shiku Interiors would have been proud of us. But I conceived even before we moved in together, before we could enjoy the joys of breakfast in bed, of cooking while dressed in nothing but briefs and all those things couples do before kids come along (rolls eyes). So naturally, we gravitated towards the darker spectrum of colors, dark brown seats and an even darker carpet. It proved to be a wise idea because when Xena started crawling, she leaved in her wake evidence of her presence. Almost always, she would not sit still during feeding time. Traces of her hands mucky with stains from the bone of chicken she was chewing on would be seen all over the carpet. Other times, a pawpaw smeared mouth would find its way to the couch. Our color choices proved to be wise in the end.
Your home is no longer your little private fortress once kids come into the equation
I am always tickled hard when newly weds swear to never get a live in house help even after the kid comes along. The thought of a stranger coming into their fortress and changing the dynamics of everything is unimaginable. The guy wants to spend lazy afternoons on the couch in his boxers watching his favorite sports. The girl wants the freedom to make breakfast in her lingerie or nothing at all.
“ Bedroom shenanigans are so boring! I still want to utilize all possible spaces for as long as I can.” The girl will add.
How fast that changes!
I am sorry to burst your bubble but a live in nanny is a need, not a want. (Refer to your Business Education/ Commerce class notes). At some point you will be so exhausted from juggling work and kids and you will pray that your house help never discovers how valuable she is.
Your toddler’s poop smells worse than sulfuric acid.
Let’s be honest. Even after going through the roller-coaster of birthing and raising several kids, we all get this broody feeling once in a while, especially when we see heart warming commercials of babies giggling and drooling ever so adorably. Or when our friends become parents to the most gorgeous babies ever and we feel like our kids are suddenly teenagers. Sometimes I find myself thinking about having another baby. In those moments of weakness, I forget how lucky I am that I don’t have to deal with colic and how grateful I am that my kids sleep through the night. I forget the relief that comes with that stage where one big pot caters for all family members, and even better, when eating out, I don’t have to prepare and carry special meals for the child who has just started weaning. The thought of me wanting another child scares the mister shitless and he’s constantly worried that I might pull a fast one on him if he doesn’t pull out fast enough (inappropriate joke but come on where is your sense of humor?).
I scare myself too, but one thing that jolts me back to reality is Xia’s poop. She is three plus and is still not potty trained, something I believe is deliberate. She knows this is the last card she has on us and she enjoys watching our frustrated selves changing her diaper. Xia’s poop sometimes smells worse than that of an adult who has stuffed themselves with every offering at a buffet in ginormous portions. When changing her diaper, she lies on her back quietly and stares into my eyes as I clean her mess. The kind of stare that seems to say “Who’s the boss now, huh?” I have actually contemplated buying a gas mask but I always forget until the next time I have to change her. I am afraid one day I might just pass out.
You will learn to cut your nanny some slack over her forgetfulness when over the weekend, in her absence, her superpowers become obvious.
On Sundays, that meticulously curated menu/program that you give the nanny hell for not following to the letter, goes out of the window. You know the one that says to give porridge at 7am, Weetabix and a fruit at 10am, mashed potatoes and minced meat at 1.00pm, nap at 2.00pm, Creambelle yoghurt at 4.00pm, shower at 5.00pm and dinner at 7.00pm? If you have kids over the age of 3, you might relate with the below. And if you are the super indefatigable parent, then this is not your party. For starters, my terrorists (especially the ring leader Xena) have to be dragged out of bed during school going days. But not on Sundays. When the nanny is away, they are like a natural alarm. Like how the cork crows or the sun rises at set times. At 7.00am sharp, they spring from their beds and rush to knock at our door. Sometimes the mister and I would have been out late the previous night and those knocks would feel like an elephant was ripping our door apart with its trunk. We would both ignore them until eventually one of us (no prize for guessing who) would acquiesce. I would drag my beat body down the staircase and whip up pancake batter with my eyes half closed.
When Xena turned six last year, I figured it was time she took her first-born and big sister role more seriously. So now I go to bed having ensured that cereals are within her reach and the milk is in the lower compartment of the fridge. On the days they wake up before us, they head downstairs and she fixes breakfast for both of them. I once told Xena that if she ever knocks on my door more than twice on a Sunday morning, there better be an emergency or one of them better be dying of hunger. So one day while the nanny and I were away and the mister was handling them by himself, they had all decided to take a power nap on our bed in the afternoon after church but the kids woke up too soon. They tried waking him up, screaming his name, pelting him with pillows then eventually Xena sighed “Daddy do you want us to die of hunger?”
Remote fights extend to the kids
When we were dating, I loved watching movies. `the Mister however had only watched one movie his entire life. Pearl Harbor. In fact, that was his pick up line. “Come over to mine tomorrow we watch a movie” He had said. When I got there, he confessed to the fact that he would be watching it for the umpteenth time as it was the only movie he cared about. I could care less what he put in the VCR as I had my eyes on him, not the TV. Plus he made me popcorn, something I did not know was possible to make at home unless you had the popcorn making machine that I had seen in supermarkets. I was from the village after all. Anyway, first forward to when we moved in together, his idea of Netflix and chill was watching all the local shows on Citizen TV on a Sunday afternoon. From Papa Shirandula, to Mother In Law to Tahidi High, I would never win the battle of the remote. I gave up the fight and would instead take a nap or read a book and that way, I weaned myself off TV. So now, thankfully, I can not relate to remote fights (anymore) as I am not a TV buff. But if I had a coin for the number of times I have heard him and Xena fight over the remote, I would be having a Balinese pool breakfast everyday!
“But daddy you can wait to watch the 9.00 O’clock news, my show is still going on!”
“No Xena, I have to watch both 7.00pm and 9.00pm news.”
“But daddy why are you so unfair? You don’t like sharing! Plus I was here first anyway.”
At this point I feel like ending that argument informing Xena that this is our house and our TV and that when she gets her own house and her own TV she can bully her kids over the remote, but then I quickly realize it’s not my battle and I get back to minding my own business. At which point Xena starts sobbing then the dad says “OK, please let me watch the headlines for two minutes then we can watch Grandpa In My Pocket.”