Most parents will tell you that their children are well behaved until visitors show up, then the young one you thought you knew metamorphoses from a butterfly into a caterpillar.
The usually quiet child will be talking so loudly or jumping on house fixtures higher than you have ever seen them do.
The problem is usually not the newfound monster energy; it is that these new talents come with a syndrome very close to deafness.
You will be shouting all over for the baby to stop whatever he is doing and he will either ignore or take on an even more annoying exercise.
That throws the modern parent into a dilemma because we are told that constantly punishing your child before guests or fellow children lowers his or her self-esteem.
That takes me back to my own days growing up under a hawk-eyed and disciplinarian mom I have come to christen Margaret Thatcher.
When I was a child, Mom threw this huge party to celebrate some feat I cannot seem to remember.
She prepared a lot of food, among them ugali made of millet and sorghum. The truth is that it looked hideous to me, so when it was delivered on the table I quickly and loudly pointed out that it looked yuck.
Mom gave me this annoyed look from one side of her eye, trying to cue that I should keep my mouth shut.
I missed the very important message and continued ranting negatives about that which our good host had set before us.
Fed up, mom lovingly held my tiny hand, dragged me out of the dining room and walked me a secluded corner of that compound.
I craned my neck to hear what this great woman had in mind this time, but she knocked my skull so hard I held onto consciousness by a whisker.
In an attempt to keep the matter private, she stayed around to fend off the few random visitors who strayed into our little punishment corner.
She was patient enough to hang around until I had shed all the tears in my glands then she lovingly led me back to the meal table.
Those who saw us must have concluded we were having a sweet mom-son moment, unaware that I had begun questioning whether she was my real mother.
She even had the guts to look at me with a smile and propose that I tell the guests a beautiful story, perhaps trying to force a smile on me too.
She served me that same hideous ugali and gave me a fixated look throughout the meal until she confirmed I had wiped my plate clean.
From that day, whenever there were guests on that compound I only spoke when asked to, and in very short answers, because I had proved that mom had potential to whip me to death.
I had to become a parent to understand why mom went that direction in trying to curtail my freedom of speech before guests.
I was hosting a media crew at my house for a recording, and all was well until I requested my little one to reduce the volume of the TV.
I was, however, kind enough to let him stay around and continue watching the images minus sound. He threw a tantrum and said he was going to his bedroom to sleep.
It sounded like the best idea; now we would have our recording in peace. Shock on me.
Five minutes into the session and the young man got bored of the bedroom.
He would open the door to peep at us then close it with a bang as he disappeared back into the room.
The aftermath was that we had to keep retaking the questions because just when I got into my wisest part of the answer he interrupted with the noise, and microphones are sensitive to interruptions.
I asked him to come sit next to the camera person so that he was near me, if that was what he missed.
A moment later he was hopping from the seat to the floor like a giant newt. I reiterated that it was a dangerous game and he risked falling, a warning he ignored.
No sooner had he hopped thrice than he slid somewhere and fell to the floor with a thud, hitting his waist on the cold tiles. I could see him painfully clutching at his waist while holding back tears.
Was he expecting me to say sorry? I stood up from my seat and screamed at the top of my voice, threatening to whip him silly . . . and that is when all the emotions that had been held back broke their banks and he burst into tears.
One of the ladies on the media crew was not happy with me and said that I should have said sorry regardless of his naughtiness.
By the time the crew left, we had not agreed on whether I should have said sorry and showed concern in case he was badly hurt, or basked in the discipline Karma had meted on my behalf with the ‘I told you so’ look.
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