Caution: Touch the 2 year old at your own risk.

Every Wednesday evening for some time now, my father, siblings and I have opened our home to whoever will come. The line up is usually the same: tea, music and spiritual edification.

We have a resident 23-month-old who is as cute as she is dramatic. She loves attention and adults are all too willing to give it to her.

Also, she wears my heels better than I do.

Also, she wears my heels better than I do.

Kati the more attention she gets, the more dramatic she becomes, which makes adults pay her even more attention. It’s a cycle that when put in motion is almost impossible to break.  Sometimes I am tempted to sellotape a placard to her back reading: Pet this baby at your own risk. All tantrums that occur up to five minutes after your petting are to be quelled with with no expectation of help from the members of this family.

Our cousin Ashley lives right next door and so on one occasion, her mother thought it would be a great idea to bring her over for cell. Now these two girls have only one week’s age difference. They are like twins. They encourage the kawuka of madness in each other.

At first glance, they are the picture of perfection, sitting on a sofa gulping down milk, or lying on a mat, learning how to use crayons. And then you make the mistake of looking away. When you look back they are: Chewing crayons. Creeping to the bathroom. Pulling the cat’s tail. Trying to topple the sugar bowl. Tearing Books. Trying to fry themselves with electricity. Trying to jump off chairs. Licking the bottoms of shoes. Painting their bodies with lipstick. Laying waste to feminine hygiene products. You get the picture.

When Ashley arrived, that was the end of sanity. We weren’t able to concentrate for more than five minutes at a time because to two year olds, everything is an emergency. They demand all of your attention and usually have nothing to fill it with. They just want you to witness their lives as they happen.

A home-cell cannot withstand that kind of pressure and so it  turned into a five-person babysitathon and not even the tricks that I had learned during my weeks of leave helped.

Thanks to my broken leg, I spent almost three weeks at home and was able to really hang out with these girls. According to the internet, children’s minds are more permeable than sponges at this stage and so during the first week, I was all like, “I’m starting a nursery school!”

I tried to create a fun syllabus.The subjects were simple. Snacking, chasing chickens, counting, naming body parts and sleeping. They added secret-fighting, force-feeding one another and giggling to the list. Don’t get me wrong, It is magical when a two-year-old girl giggles but when she is out of sight, with another two year old, you’d better run to the crime scene.

AdorBable! Also, she'd just intentionally spilled the bowl of kaliisoliisos that I had painstakingly gathered.

AdorBable! Also, she’d intentionally spilled the bowl of kaliisoliisos that I had just painstakingly gathered.

At the end of the cell-turned-nursery school, mama Ashley and I had one main prayer request: For God to give us all patience and the grace to recognize that no matter what atrocities two year olds commit, they are not being malicious.

Actually, there are legitimate reasons why children around this age behave so erratically. Melinda Wenner on Slate writes that, “The frontal lobe, which is responsible for planning, logic, reasoning, working memory and self-control, is vastly underdeveloped at this age and because of this toddlers are really living in the moment, not thinking about consequences…a semi functional frontal lobe also means that toddlers have practically no sense of time and patience and therefore experience wanting as needing…” Look, just read the article HERE.

Her bigass Opwonya foot when she was a few days old.

Her foot when she was a few days old. Big is Big.

In two days, Daniella will turn two. My life, our lives,  would be dry and meaningless husks without her. Happy birthday, baby Danniebooboolocious. You’re proof that Opwonyas are born, not made.

My darling and I

My darling and I

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So I promised Daniella some stories on my birthday

The Girl Who Wanted to be Good.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, there lived a beautiful baby called Kuch.

Kuch was good, great, grand! But also rather naughty.

She could sing Twinkle Twinkle Little star, which is good, so good in fact that,

Twinkle Twinkle little star,

how I wonder what you are.

Up above the sky so high,

like a diamond in the sky,

Twinkle Twinkle little Star,

How I wonder what you are!

At bathing time, she would go to the garden and pick red roses for her water, but then refuse to enter the basin.

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Once in the basin, Kuch would name all the parts of her body, like ear, nose, eye, mouth, hair, chin, teeth, hand, leg, bum-bum but then refuse to wash her hair.

At lunch time, she would eat all her food and say nyummy nyummy nyummy! But then refuse to remove her dirty clothes afterwards

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Kuch could even count up to ten in Acholi, which is good, so good in fact that

Achel, aryo, adek, angwen, abic, abicel abiru, aboro, abungwen, Apaaaaaaaaaa!

But immediately after, she would pull Salvie’s tail.

At night, she would drink all her chac, which is good, but then refuse to enter bed.

She was good good good and bad bad bad but that wasn’t too sad because everybody, even me, is good good good and bad bad bad sometimes.

Beautiful baby Kuch didn’t like being called bad, and would cry for hours if anybody called her that, so she decided to learn how to become good.

So she asked her sister, “Sister, how do I become good?” and her sister sang for her:

Tetete tetete, tetete, tetete x2

Kuch, kot u binu, ting com pa meru i teri ot yo.

Gidigidigidigidi! (while tickling her)

Kuch laughed so much that she forgot about her question. By the time she had remembered, her sister had gone to work.

And then she asked her bother, “Brother, brother, how do I become good?” and her brother began to sing for her

Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep little Kuchie,

Go to sleep…

But before he could finish, she yelled “Oh nooo” and ran off.

Mornings are not for sleeping!

Kuch then went and climbed her daddy’s big bed and asked him “Daddy, do you know how I can become good?” and he sang for her:

TIILE:                      Nyok Dyel miya wii

 NYOKDYEL:          Tiile wic yam kiloko bo Tiile

 TIILE:                   Nyok Dyel miya wii

 NYOKDYEL:          Tiile wic yam kiloko bo Tiile

 Hm Hm Hm! Tiile wic yam kiloko bo Tiile

 Hm Hm Hm Tiile wic yam kiloko bo Tiile

Kuch danced so much that she forgot about her question. By the time she remembered it, her daddy had gone to work.

And then finally she asked herself, “Kuch, how do I become good?”, and she thought and thought and thought and thought until the answer came to her.

Do you want to know what it was?

Really really?

It turns out that Kuch could rub away the badness by saying: I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart!

By saying what?

I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart!

And the badness would fall away like chillu and drop to the floor and she would run away from it saying eeew, dirty. Dirty!

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End

 

Hello. Happy birthday to me! In last Sunday’s Stiletto Point, I promised that I would write Daniella a short story. Oh heavens. This has not been easy, and it is still a work in progress. All too often when people try to write for children, they write like they are talking to idiotic adults. I’m not sure if I have survived that bar.

I just put in all the things she knows and the songs I want her to know and then edited like mad.

Anybody who can help me edit the Alur in the Gidi Gidi song, and the Acoli anywhere else, please help. All other suggestions are welcome.

Otherwise be well and enjoy this special day!

These ntumbwes were made for walking.

I’ve had a dead couple of weeks. My mojo has been sporadic at best, nonexistent at worst. I’ve barely been able to make any writing deadlines. So. Thank goodness for my rainy day stash without which I’d be poor and sad.

Yesterday’s Stiletto Point article was about my dad and his crazy ways.  It was one of my pre-birthday posts, so I’m sure you’ve read it.  If you missed it, here you go: All in the genes.

And now for a video that will make your heart pregnant. My Daniella finally found her balance!

Of Ebola, panic attacks and cute babies.

Yesterday as I was sitting in a Kyanja bound taxi- waiting for it to fill up, a passenger touched his sweaty head to mine. Now, I recently got my hair cut and my scalp is as smooth as the average baby’s bottom so when this man touched his sweaty; potentially Ebolic head to my own, I had a panic attack that involved scrubbing my scalp with every wet-wipe in my possession and turning to scowl at him several times.

My mind was burning with the information I had picked from the news about Ebola. I imagined blood pouring from my eyes and shooting out of my pores. My plan was to subject myself to an extra hot bath involving all the disinfectants in the house. Jik, Dettol, NOMI white and Samona were all lined up in my head. When the taxi reached my stop, I hit the ground running and didn’t slow down until I’d reached my gate.

When I entered the house, my baby, (OK baby sister) saw me and put her hands up- a command for me to lift and deliver multiple kisses to her adorable face. I refused and continued in the direction of the bathroom.  I didn’t make it there because my recently returned siblings (I HATE boarding school) threw themselves into my arms, grabbing bags and kaveeras from my hands.

I was panicking all the while, but not hard enough to order them away from me. I hugged them back.

My father then hollered for me to go the living room, which is when the baby saw me again and began to scream for attention. There’s nothing more annoying or terrifying than the screams that accompany the tantrums of 10 months old babies. It’s like broken glass has been mixed with rusty razors and then poured into your ears. I picked her up.

If that clumsy, sweaty-headed man HAD given me Ebola, I would be dead or dying, along with my siblings and father.

This morning as we were driving along Gayaza Road, I saw a man squatting by a ditch on the sidewalk. He looked confused, light headed. Nobody was helping or even looking at him. He didn’t seem dangerous or drunk, just really weak. I asked myself what I would do if I saw a child Gabriella’s age squatting like that in the middle of the street and in a similar condition. Would I help? Gawk? Drive by?

Reaching adulthood in Uganda is no easy feat. First you survive those killer diseases that attack babies. Depression, rebels, natural disasters and AIDS all compete to take you out. Then you manage to escape those abominable business people who target innocents for ritual sacrifice and somehow, none of our homicidal drivers sweep you off road. You graduate, find a job and have food on the table every night.

Putting all that into consideration, I can understand how people might find it hard to sacrifice everything for the possibly infected little girl or man lying there, dying on the street. Self preservation won’t let you intervene, not unless the person in trouble is yours. You parent, your sibling, your child.

I like everybody who reads this column, of course, and wish you all luck. Make yourself as small as possible as you navigate the streets and for heaven’s sake, watch your head as you board taxis. According to twitter, Ebola surveillance teams can be reached on 0774 451762, 0706 506294, and 0757 174556.