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!

Either teach well or go home (and kill yourself).

Church was once a staple in my life and slowly, I am starting to find true enjoyment in the word of God again. This article isn’t about my spiritual awakening (which I hope will last this time). It’s about the way people in positions of influence deliver their teachings.

One Sunday last November, one of the pastors at Watoto Church was talking about his wonderful wife and the lovely things that she’d done for him on his anniversary. It was very sweet. He even insisted she come up and sing the song she’d sung on the day to much cooing and clapter*  from the congregation. He remarked on how beautiful she is and how more women need to obey their husbands, especially when it comes to how they look.

He then said, “But some women just cut off all their hair” while making a comical sweeping motion over his head.

I bristled with indignation, and not only because I have chosen to rock a nearly bald head.

Like this

I miss the days it was like this

The pastor’s joke made the entire congregation look around and eyes lingered on those like me with little or no hair. In that moment, I wondered what it would be like to be married to somebody like him and let me tell you, what I envisioned wasn’t a fun experience. I saw a guy who would whine endlessly and be very aggressive about letting you know how he wanted you to look. Just imagine if a Christian couple in attendance was fighting about style choices. On hearing Pastor’s words, whatever headway they’d made would be lost.

A lot goes into a way a person looks. Mood, emotional well being,  fashions, personality, etc. Style is an intensely personal thing. Even in a long term relationship where you’re committed to loving the same person forever, both individuals retain the right of choice.

If you want to change your partner’s style to suit your tastes, don’t do it by shaming them or comparing them to others. Spitting Bible verses won’t work. Belittling them won’t work. Writing blogposts about them won’t work either . Give them a reason to want to acquiesce to your whims. Make them feel comfortable enough to adjust their style in a way that will make you happy. The way a person looks should be their decision, an act of service (to you, their partner) and not one that leads them to doubt themselves.

People in the Education sector are another group that need to be careful about the way they deliver their wisdom. Their job is to instill confidence, manners and a sense of decency in the children that pass through their system year in year out. Instead of doing that, our teachers and school administrations are filling young people up with their own warped sexual politics.
How can a school profess to be against trousers on girls or tight uniforms and then turn around and allow their girls to wear barely-there dresses during prom? If they really thought that trousers caused uncontrollable lust to surge in the hearts and minds of the males in the system, they wouldn’t allow girls to wear them during dances.

A school like Seeta High bars female visitors from entering school grounds if they are wearing trousers, causing much embarrassment and irritation, but allow their students to swim semi-naked in a pool which is not far from the staff room. Where is the logic? Selective morality is dumb and needs to end.

Our young need to be equipped with feelings of equality, self esteem and affirmations, not insecurities and hypocrisy.

James 3: 1 says Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

If you can’t teach well, go home.

*clapping and laughter

When Children Abuse Adults.

The hardest thing about Mondays is switching from home mode to work mode. Weekends always feel like leave. I haven’t lived through one weekend that didn’t sneak a mean hope into my subconscious, a hope that I wouldn’t have to attend meetings for at least two weeks.

So when I walk into office, productivity doesn’t just hit me. I need transition time.  In fact, you need transition time too (unless you’re boring or too busy to be anything but). Well-adjusted people start the day by depositing their lunch in the kitchen; proceed to prepare some kind of beverage and then settle in front of their computer for an hour of cassava munching and internet trawling- to get the creative juices flowing.

It was during one such hour that I came across The Dull Coworker, a blog dedicated to making its writer’s hours at work more bearable. It contains tips on how to distract your co-workers, how to start conversation, how to survive that awkward moment when you meet the same person in the hallway for the third time, etcetera. I was about to move when I found an article titled Adults being bullied by children: The untold story.

This title made me jump with recognition and annoyance because something like that happened to me recently. In the article, the victim was taking a walk around her neighborhood when a little girl pointed a plastic gun at her and snarled. She, for some reason, thought this snarling child was saying something sweet, and being a good natured lady, she moved closer to hear. The child made shooting gestures and continued to snarl.  Sure, this can be written off as the actions of a bored child who watches too many violent programs on TV but what about the adult? What was she supposed to do with the irritation and anxiety caused to her?

My incident occurred when I was sitting at an Easy Bus stage outside the DFCU on Jinja road, cursing my fortune (or lack thereof). A teller had just informed me that my account was empty which meant that I wouldn’t be able to go on a date I’d been looking forward to. I knew he’d insist on paying for drinks and such, but I couldn’t go with zero protesting power. A girl needs her protesting power. It was in the middle of this mental lament that I felt a sharp pinch on my bum. The normal response to random, sharp pinches on one’s bottom is to jump and squeal, so that is what I did.

When I whipped back, there were two small children giggling uncontrollably. They were dirty and barefoot so it immediately clicked that they lived on the street. The easy bus sheds have spaces in their frames that are big enough for a skinny hand to dart in and out of. The culprits stood waiting for my reaction and when I smiled, took it as their cue to summon their friends. They had found a new toy. They jostled for pinching space behind me, delivering as many as they could before flitting away. When I eventually stomped behind the shed to twist their ears, they ran away. I was annoyed, but also pleased to have been the cause of so much giggling. Giggling is good. Anyway, I can’t promise to be so kind and accommodating next time. If there is a next time, ears will be twisted and cheeks will be pinched, so help me God.

Children, meanness and great, great fun. #4days

For the last two days, Maad Advertising has been alive. Children have brought their squeals, questions, giggles and bad manners into our office and I have loved every minute of it.

I have always liked children, in a kind of way. When I was little, I liked to carry babies and pretend they were my doll kajungu. Kajungu was not what you’d call normal. He was a head; a big, white head full of brown curly hair. Although he was good enough company, he wasn’t as interesting as real babies who had both big heads with curly hair and bodies.

When I grew into a teenager, all of my interest was turned on myself. I examined my face and body, declared them a firm 6 (I described my smile as dusky) and proceeded to decorate my face with piercing upon piercing upon piercing. There was no space for children in my life (except for my siblings).

Yesterday when these kids came in, I was shy of them. I stared at my computer and ignored them, mostly. Then my creative director called me into studio and asked if I could help choreograph a Video jingle that they were to be part of. I agreed of course. Apenyo approves of any song that goes “The beat is too heavy, I’m shaking my belly”.

I went downstairs, stared, stammered some and then chose a tame looking one and asked him to teach me a move. The rest, for sure, was history.

I have danced, played, been called Auntie Mildred, Milly, and even mommy by many adorable children. I’ve had to rush in and break up fights, most notably, one between a loud, attention loving girl and man who all of a sudden shouted, “Don’t mess with me, you stupid girl. Don’t mess!”

If looks could bust balls, that idiot would be a eunuch right now. I told him to please leave if he couldn’t respect children and then soothed the girl. She was troublesome, sure, one of those who refused to listen, jumped on tables, and clung to adults-especially male ones. She is however a child and deserves to be treated with as much tenderness as the best of them.

There was a three-year old who made my ovaries somersault with his cuteness. This one became my dance partner at the end.

After we were done with rehearsals and I was back at my desk, one boy came over. I don’t know how we began to talk about mums, but he asked me if mine is around, in the world.

I said no.

He put on this very sad face and said, “Also me. I’ll never forget the day my mother died.”

That broke my heart. I felt a solidarity with this motherless boy, especially because I have siblings his age who must feel the loss exactly as he does.

I told him to be happy and to look at us and how much we were doing, even if our mothers were in heaven. I was in the middle of assuring him of his complete awesomeness when he burst out laughing and said, “I’m lying! My mother is not dead!”

My mumsy outfit of the day:

A bit short, but she’d be kawa with it.

I was pissed. I told him to leave my table, go back to the boardroom and draw on one of the papers that I’d distributed earlier to keep them occupied.

That feeling, that FUCK YOU, CHILD feeling has stayed with me. A part of me is still feeling sorry for his tiny, “motherless” self.

And now, even as I post status updates about how much I love kids and how teaching nursery school children (TOP CLASS) at some point in my twenties is on my bucket list, It’s clear in my mind how stupidly mean children can be and how when you’re an adult you always HAVE to take the high road.