Babies are nice. They love you unconditionally, smile their gummy little smiles when you walk into the room, look at you with such innocence and trust in their eyes that all you want to do is envelope them in your arms and protect them from this big bad world.
That’s between Monday and Saturday. When you have a nanny and have spent all day at work so you can’t wait to get home and nuzzle your baby, take in that fresh baby scent that gets your mom-hormones charging. On those six days, your baby is the most precious gift you ever received.
But on Sundays, when the nanny is away and you have to spend all day with your baby, you realize that she might have been sent to this earth to test you. That’s when you start seeing your baby for what she really is: a manipulative little thing.
I wake up on Sunday mornings with a little feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. I never know what she’s going to decide to do. She seems particularly fond of giving me hell during meal times. And she feeds five times a day (excluding the milk breaks). That’s five little hellish feeding sessions.
Last Sunday I had plans. I woke up excited. I was going for my first Asenka Community Market day. I’d been looking forward to it for two whole weeks. I’d planned what I was going to eat, which stands I was going to check out, who I was going with, even what I’d wear.
I woke up pleasantly surprised to find the nanny had already fed Gong her breakfast (hallelujah!), so all I did was chill with her a little before she fell asleep. Then she proceeded to take a nice long nap, much to my surprise. I could feel a little flutter of hope. It was going to be an easy Sunday.
She slept past her snack time, and woke up just in time for lunch. I wasn’t mad at that; I was going to the market with her so I needed her to be in a good mood.
Lunch time. I warm her food (matoke and minced meat), get her in her high chair. I figure she must be hungry since she’s not eaten anything since about 9.00am. In my mind, this means she’ll gobble up her food, be done in 15 minutes, I’ll get ready quickly and we’ll be on our merry way.
It didn’t go like that.
This child started wailing as soon as I gave her the first spoonful. I was still hopeful. I thought she was just hangry. You’ve also been there. When you’re so hungry that you get mad at the world and everything in it and nothing other than a good meal can make it right. Her father – My Lover – gets that way. More evidence that she’s really her father’s daughter.
So anyway, I think she’s getting mad because I’m feeding her slowly. I try to step up the pace. This child decides she won’t chew her food. She’s got six teeth; but she doesn’t want to use them. I’m not going to puree the food. She’s going to chew. I start singing all the nursery rhymes I know, to cheer her up a little so she’ll eat. I sing so much my voice is cracking. This isn’t working. I give her a toy car to play with. She’d rather eat that than her food.
I taste her food. I’m wondering whether she’s refusing it because it doesn’t taste good. The food is fine. A bit under-seasoned for my tastes, but what does my child know about seasoning? She should be loving this. But she isn’t, and has now taken to refusing to swallow the food. So it’s just sitting there in her mouth, chilling, getting all watery. She. Still. Won’t. Swallow. It.
I think: maybe if I allow her to play with her food she’ll guide it to her mouth. Baby-led weaning it’s called. So I put a little food on her tray. She looks at it. Her chubby little hands reach for it. She picks some of it. I’m holding my breath now because there’s a slim chance she’ll actually eat it. She raises her hand. It’s moving towards her mouth. She passes her mouth. No, rewind. Get it in your mouth child. She doesn’t. She puts it in her hair. Then smears it all over her face, and whatever is left is smeared all over the tray. She still hasn’t swallowed what was in her mouth. And she starts crying again.
30 minutes in. I’m getting desperate. I decide to bribe her with the TV. I move her to the living room. I’ve seen what she’s capable of doing so I’m not letting her near my carpet, but I position her just so she can still watch Little Baby Bum on YouTube. She watches the TV. Still won’t open her mouth. She starts squirming, crying louder, wants out of the high chair.
This child is obviously testing me. I will not be tested. I will overcome. I will not be tricked into getting her out of that high chair. It’s padded, she has a bubble butt and she has a clean diaper so I know for damn sure that she’s not uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, her father has gone to hide in the bedroom. He can’t take the sound of his child crying, and I’ve refused to relent. She will cry until she finishes this food. He asks me to give her milk instead. This sympathizer wants me to give in to her manipulation. I have half a mind to leave her with him and carry on with my day. A part of me wants to do it; so that he knows what it feels like to be tortured by the fruit of his loins.
We’re one hour in now. He comes back. She’s still crying. I’ve taken to using each moment of loud protest as my chance to get some food in her mouth. Just a little. I don’t want her to choke. She’s eaten about three quarters of the food now. I’m spent. This is hard work.
I’m done. I get Gong out of her seat and start cleaning up.
I make it to the market two hours late. It’s muddy, drizzling slightly but I’m feeling the vibe. The vendors are cheerful, talkative, drawing me in. They’re all really smiley. But they’re not smiling at me; they’re all smiling at Gong. She’s on my hip, looking all cute and chubby. She’s smiling now. She looks nothing like the little imp I was dealing with a few hours ago.
She wants to touch everything. I buy her a cute little hair accessory – to accessorise her struggle hair. She’s getting heavy, but I’m determined to look cute, the full yummy mummy. My arm is beginning to go numb. A nice guy selling the prettiest handwoven rugs allows me to place her on a small pile while I check out his merchandise. I really want one, but I’m determined to stay loyal to my monochrome colour scheme.
I do my rounds; buy a few things. I’m looking for Everlyne. I need to buy her peanut butter. When I finally spot her I hang back a little. Should I introduce myself? I observe her for a few moments. Her stand is simple. Nothing but a few jars of peanut butter. There’s a humility, a modesty, about it. Here’s a lady who doesn’t know much about branding and talking up a storm to sell her product. She knows her product is good. She won’t talk about it much; she’ll ask you to try it…and silently dare you to prove her wrong. She believes in her product. It’s gotten her this far, it’ll get her farther.
I buy a large jar, say thank you and walk away. She smiles. It’s a small smile, but it’s the brightest thing at the market.
I still want to walk around some more, but my child’s diaper seems to be leaking. She’s pooped. I know it’s what happens – babies poop in public all the time. But after the day I’ve had, I take it as a sign of hostility. She’s punishing me for making her cry earlier. We leave. Gong 1. Shiro 0.