My nieces and nephews are the most adorable little people I know. I know everyone finds their children adorable, and my nieces and nephews are no exception. They are ‘my children from another mother’.
I love picking them up from their parents on weekends and taking them out for a fun day and sometimes inviting them over, with their mothers, of course, for a weekend sleepover. They bring life to my house, make me happy and break the extreme silence in my neighbourhood. And my neighbours’ children get friends to play with.
Taking care of them when I’m with their parents is easy-peasy. If they become a handful, especially during family gatherings, their mothers and fathers naturally take over. And when I’m usually alone with them, babysitting for one sibling or the other, it is usually a maximum of two children at a time.
A few weeks ago I had to babysit two very naughty small people, who woke up grumpy and moody that morning.
The younger one cried for about 30 minutes when her mother left them in the house with me and she wouldn’t let me console her or even carry her – those were the longest 30 minutes in my life.
I watched her helplessly, then I began singing and dancing (which she usually likes), made funny faces, put on cartoons and nursery rhymes for her, but she wouldn’t budge.
I even tried to bribe her with fruits and juice, and she hit my plates, soaking me in a mix of mashed fruits and juice. I tried everything, and, frustrated, I sat down next to her trying to calm her down.
Her brother kept asking me “Mbona unasumbua mtoto wangu? (Why are you upsetting my child?)” And he took over, carried her and began patting her back and talking to her as only siblings do.
And she calmed down, sniffing quietly, and then she slept. And this four-year-old boy taught me very important lessons on parenting and being the ‘protector sibling’.
I wanted to take her to bed but the little boy said: “No. Leave her with me until she falls asleep completely. If you take her now she’ll wake up again.”
I stared at this wise young man, then went to change and take deep breaths of relief. I was just glad the noise had stopped and I wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardise the peace that had descended on the house.
ON AND ON AND ON...
As I was still dilly-dallying in the bedroom and questioning my parenting skills, my nephew came in carrying the baby and told me to put her in her cot. I was horrified, thinking he would drop her and reached out quickly to take her from him “Pole pole aunty Salma, don’t wake her up,” he warned me, then turned around and went to put on “Paw Patrol”.
And that was not the end of things. My nephew was quite demanding that day, and he decided he did not like the breakfast I prepared and wanted something else, something I did not have in my house. Now where do you get his favourite breakfast cereals and sausages at 6.30am on a weekend when all supermarkets are still closed? No amount of coaxing and bribery changed his mind and he was adamant that that was what he wanted. So I told him I’d buy them later when the shops opened and he said: “Sitasahau (I won’t forget).” And I was scared, because, knowing him, I was sure he would ask me about my promise. The compromise was a glass of fresh juice, which he drank with delight, and a bowl of cornflakes, which he said did not taste good.
As we had breakfast and watched “Paw Patrol” on replay, he made me sing the theme song every time it came on. And he would rewind the cartoon so much…Why did we have to watch it over and over?
When he began playing with blocks on the floor, I changed the channel and was met with a strong warning against that. I switched the it back to “Paw Patrol”. Shortly afterwards I was asked to play “Incy Wincy Spider” and “The Numbers Song”.
When my little niece woke up, feeding her was a one-hour war filled with pleading, begging, bribing and stern talk, and another change of clothes. Then her brother decided he also wanted to be fed. So here I was, stuck feeding a ‘man’ who could feed himself and his sister also demanding attention because she suddenly wanted me all to herself.
The fruits eating session was full of drama and has left a permanent mark on my white carpet (who gets white carpets with children around?). I mopped yoghurt and juice off the floor so many times, tripped on toys, changed stinking diapers (what do we feed these children anyway?) and sang the same songs over and over again! Just so you know, you can hire me to sing nursery rhymes and other children’s songs…
By afternoon, I had had enough. I took out my picnic mat and spread it in the back yard, took out a few plastic toys and blocks and balls and took the children outside in warm sun.
I was exhausted and I think I dozed off only to be woken up with a start of some cold liquid being poured on me. So, these adorable young people had discovered my garden tap, and were playing with water.
They had taken their stuffed animals from the house and drenched them, stepped all over my kitchen garden and oh, my greens had been trampled on, and the toys looked like they had a mud bath. My spices had been uprooted from the pots I keep outside...and these two trouble makers were smiling proudly, and looking happy and pleased they had ‘washed me’.
I went in to prepare their bath water and saw that they had also spilt tomato sauce on the floor – had I really slept that long? I washed the two in the yard, because there was no way they were entering my house looking like that.
I was too exhausted to deal with them so I put them to sleep but they soon started protesting so I took my laptop and put on baby songs in the bedroom as I began cleaning my house.
I could hear them sing their hearts out and laugh while I was labouring here trying to fix my house. When I was done, I went in for another change of clothes and found the two adorable siblings asleep in each other’s arms. I dared not touch them. I switched off the music, quickly changed and went to watch a movie.
And just when the movie was reaching its climax, I hear: “Aunty Salma, I want to go to the toilet.”
I got up and took the boy to the toilet and then he wouldn’t go back to sleep. He decided he wanted “Paw Patrol”, again, and he wouldn’t let me use my laptop either. He wanted us to watch it together. So here I was, watching “Paw Patrol” for the umpteenth time and suddenly he says: “Na usisahau kuninunulia sausage (Don’t forget to buy sausages).” I told him we would go when the baby wakes up. He watched the TV for a while longer then went to the bedroom, and the next thing I know, his sister is up.
We went to the mall and I bought them ready cooked food. When he saw the children’s play area, I was talked into allowing him to take one ride after another, and face painting, and dealing with tantrums (the boy threw himself on the floor, in front of everyone, when I refused to buy him a toy), and buying a balloon...I swear, these entertainment businesses are a rip-off.
PEACE, AT LAST
We did get back to the house and the two very tired babies slept so well.
When their mum came home, she looked at them and said: “Aaaaaaw, they look very peaceful. I missed them so much. They were not a handful, were they?”
I bit my tongue, forced my lips to part in a smile and said: “They were just adorable.” When all I really wanted was to say how hard the day had been and then lock myself in my room and leave the three of them to bond.
Where do parents get the strength? Even after all this drama, every day, my sister is always happy to be with them and put them to bed, and still misses them when they are asleep. Now, when I see children throwing tantrums, people looking harassed by their children in town or in supermarkets, or parents just looking tired, I know they must have gone through something, maybe not like me, but something big.
Parents, you have a special place in heaven.
PS. Please pray for me, I am having the two little people over for the weekend and their mum won’t be around.
Do you have feedback on this article? Please email: [email protected]