Before Najjuko joined the list, I only knew of 3 babies on our flat, the oldest being Samantha who shared with us her 2nd year birthday cake two months ago. I only got to know of the other baby the day the earth quaked beneath the apartment, in the hasty attempt to salvage the most important household valuable, we all found ourselves gathered under the jackfruit tree (the irony) with our babies in tow, some butt naked.
It was the most remarkable bonding moment in the history of Mr. Leonard’s tenants who share a profound respect for the don’t-ask-don’t-tell neighborhood principle. We carried each others’ babies, told their parents how cute their babies were, contrived far fetched resemblances with the parents, made funny faces for the babies, swapped whatever we considered unique stories about our younglings and the inspiration behind the names we gave them. It was the ultimate sappy moment, topped with a group photo that will make for a good WhatsApp group icon if the members decide to create one (God forbid).
Mine happens to be youngest of the 5, but it has occurred to me that my daughter is hell bent on making us look like the worst parents on the flat. This kyejo, me I can’t deal. Right from the time she was in the nursery, at only 1.6 kgs, she had created the reputation for being the loudest squealer in the hood, putting babies twice her weight to shame.
They tell you so many cute things about babies, how adorable they are and how their bubbling cuteness will make your heart melt. But no one warns you about how irritating these little dictators can get. Mine does it just for just, for her own amusement I presume, to push you so as to see how far you can go. You will change her diaper, bathe her, feed her, and carry her till she sleeps off (or pretends to) on your shoulder. But the moment you put her in her crib she will erupt into a howl of demonic standards.
Experience has taught me to distinguish between her cries. There’s a genuine one that I last witnessed when she received two immunization shots on both legs. It was subtle, prolonged and characterized with convulsive gasps that had a heat wrenching effect when witnessed. You’d have no doubt it came right from the depth of her heart and you could feel her pain every time she tried to stretch her little legs.
But now I am talking about a different cry, the bitchy, dictatorial, self-assured whine. Sometimes it starts with a warning groan meant to alert you to put your affairs in order that tends to sporadically escalate into a get-me-the-duck-out-of-this-bed-scream.
Her suicidal predispositions are another thing. Out of sheer petulance, she will pull her hair and scratch her face just because you’ve taken long to respond to her tantrum. And it always works. You’ll come running and apologize to her for scratching her own face before clipping her finger nails.
She particularly puts on her A game in the night when the whole place is quiet and all the neighbors can bear testimony to your child brutality, because that has got to be the only explanation; mutilation, amputation, or something along those lines.
With sleep ladened eyes, you carry the girl in your hands and with your lips quivering in anger, you beg her like she’s listening. Because the alternative would be flinging her against the wall, or smothering her with a pillow.
“What do you want from me woman? What have I not given or done for you? Is it too much for me to ask for a minute of sleep? Just one minute. How do I convince the neighbor upstairs that you’re not wallowing in a pool of your own blood right now while I yank out your finger nails?”
They say this is all part of being a parent and I’ve seen some parents claim to enjoy the experience. I wish I could say I am loving it too. True, you can find beauty in everything, you can also condition yourself to think you’re enjoying the experience. But deep down, I would be lying if I said I enjoy spending the night with my back propped up against the bed headboard and my hands clutching on the girl who has just decided “you either hold me here on your chest or you won’t have any semblance of sleep”. Thing is you can’t even sleep in that state because she’ll keep squirming and you can’t afford to lose your grip on her or she falls off and lands on the floor.
Then she’ll fart through the night; funny how a thing so small can muster a fart so putrid. But you’ll hold onto her so tight as she smothers you in her fart. What options do you have after all?
I can understand how a maid can brutalize a baby like we’ve seen them do, because it takes a certain degree of self restraint for the child’s own biological parent not to give into the impulse to commit similar acts; what about an abused maid with shaky moral standards?
I have this gut feeling that the WhatsApp group was actually formed, but the only reason I am not in it is because we are the subject in the group. I don’t know if I just missed that stage of their lives, but no baby in this neighborhood squeals like Najjuko Alexandra Jasmine.