DEAR SON: How I bungled the delicate task of getting you to nap

Friday November 17 2017

Whatever it was, you woke up after what seemed

Whatever it was, you woke up after what seemed to me like five minutes of sleep. You were ever so sensitive to the tiniest of sounds. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 


Dear Jijee,

I know you’ll be reading this at a time when you can't get enough sleep.

I can foresee that at that time, you will be running into trouble with teachers for dozing off in class and getting warnings or being caned, or both, for waking up late.

But there was a time when you never seemed to value sleep. Small noises like the sound of someone swallowing water could wake you up.

There is this day when your mum had gone shopping and I was left babysitting.

She had told me the signs to look out for when you wanted to sleep. And at some point it was clear you wanted to catch 40 winks.

Alas! At last I would get time to catch up with my friends on social media; to at least reduce the backlog of my unread WhatsApp messages, from both muted and unmuted groups, to a manageable four-figure digit. You know, I was a careful WhatsApp user who would always say “forwarded as received” if the message was not mine and who would use just one laughter emoji at a time instead of the average of three that my friends used.

I you slept, at least I would get time to catch up with the latest Facebook posts on Kilimani Mums and Dads (well, I never used to live in Kilimani) and see what new vanity was in the air.

As you dozed away, I was seeing myself reunited with my phone very soon.

I’d spent about an hour without proper contact with my phone and I could feel the oxygen levels in my bloodstream running perilously low.

That would be rectified if you slept and I went for “air” online.

Then you slept. Bingo! Me-time was beckoning.


Then came the time I had to put you to your bed. I knew I had to tiptoe because your ears, though tiny, were very sensitive to sounds.

I opened the mosquito net safely but as I was about to transfer you to bed, you pesky little brat woke up with a sharp shriek.

Aviation experts could have told me the landing angle was too steep; that I had dropped you to your bed too hastily for comfort.

Well, after what seemed like 40 days and 40 nights of crying, you fell asleep again. This was after I had tried all tricks in the book and also in the mwakenya.

This time, I had to transfer you to your bed the right way. Even if it meant working out a formula, I had to get it right. Where is Einstein when you need him?  His e = mc2 thing did not help me much in high school but here I thought it would have rescued me.

Anyway, this time I managed to transfer you safely. Now I had time to work my phone and check out on the new WhatsApp statuses, see who had inspired a new challenge on Twitter, see if someone had sent me a 2006 joke “as received” and read all the new status updates on Facebook, especially those starting with “issa ”.

But my expeditions were short-lived. It could have been a tap I opened or a television scene that rendered itself louder than the others.

Whatever it was, you woke up after what seemed to me like five minutes of sleep. You were ever so sensitive to the tiniest of sounds.

In your mind, I reasoned out, a sneeze sounded like another “Fat Boy” had been dropped in Nagasaki and you had to wake up fast lest the fumes from the atomic bomb found you sleeping.

What came into my mind when you woke up abruptly was to call you mum to tell her to wind up her shopping and return home.

But out of nowhere came that ever-misleading “I got this” voice. So I opted to stay away from my phone and other remote worries to get harassed by you.

Mum eventually returned and after a few minutes of suckling, you were in deep in Slumberland.

And somehow she had mastered the sounds that interrupted your naps and your sleep in general. I could not wrap my head around them, though.

That is why, by the time of writing this, I was guilty and awaiting judgment for waking you up for offences including, but not limited to, vibration of my phone, celebrating a Juventus goal during the 2017 Champions League final, sneezing, dropping a water bottle, opening a door, closing a door, shouting when I didn’t have an idea you were asleep, asking loudly where the remote was, and running a water tap.

At one time, I scoured the internet for material on the psychology of kid naps and I came across a New York Times article published online in 2011 with a headline: “A child’s nap is more complicated than it looks.”

One paragraph said: “Researchers are learning that it is not so simple: napping in children actually is a complex behaviour, a mix of individual biology, including neurologic and hormonal development, cultural expectations and family dynamics.”

Well, I thought about the “family dynamics” bit and wondered if it would be narrowed down to the presence of industrious father like me who has to drop things and celebrate goals on televised matches.


This series brings you writings by PETER MOGAMBI, a Nairobi residentwho became a father in January 2017. By the time his son is old enough to read and comprehend, which is at least 11 years from today, a lot of water will have passed under the bridge. So, he has decided to preserve happenings in black and white so that when the boy can finally comprehend, he will get to follow his father’s feelings.