We almost didn’t cry

There is a place Heidi escapes to when she needs soothing or when she is sleepy. She finds that place as soon as she puts her index finger in her mouth and sucks on it as she runs her other hand on any nearby fabric.

I haven’t told you about Heidi’s first day at school have I? Alrighty then, there’ll be no further ado…

Date: Monday 6th January, 2014. Place: Nairobi, Kenya.  

I wake up at 5am as usual and I sensed, even before dawn broke, that it would be a long day.

The day started at a slow pace with me taking a slow shower “So much time in my hands,” I foolishly thought. I went to the kitchen to prepare tea then heated the kid’s bathing water before ransacking their wardrobe for their uniforms.

All set, I woke up Heidi – better to start with the youngest, right? Wrong! Let’s just say that this is where the rush officially began! Heidi did not wonder why I woke her up early because she knew from the previous day that today was D-day. Waking her up was not a problem. The problem was that she was too excited, therefore playful and fidgety. Bathing an excited child! The rocket science of bathing and dressing an excited child! Has any of you ever tried it? It is messy and exhausting. It involves spillage…lots of it. It requires patience (loads and loads of patience!) and excellent persuasion skills.

I bathed Heidi for what seemed like hours and had trouble applying Vaseline on her. She giggled at every touch “You’re tickling me!” she shrieked. I swear I wasn’t! Tickling her was the furthest thing from my mind. She wouldn’t stop laughing though. She was slow in putting up her arms as I passed the dress over her head. I pleaded, cajoled and begged her to cooperate. I couldn’t blame her – it was after all her first day of school!

I was exhausted even before I started on Hailey. Lucky for me, Hailey was more cooperative and I finished with her in record time. Breakfast out of the way, we made for the door. Rushing like mad!

No sooner had we gone outside the gate, than Heidi’s shoe snapped and the strap came off. Murphy’s law was at work! We had to rush back to the house to get a different pair.

By this time, we were at the epitome of the rush. The eye of the storm – so to speak. The rush was on us like white on rice. We practically ran to the school and funny thing is that the girls enjoyed the run. I think they enjoyed watching me run more than anything else.

You know about school opening days and queues right? They sorta go together like githeri and avocado 🙂  (I am writing this post over lunch hour so bear with me) We reach Hailey’s primary school section and there is a queue from here to theeeeereee! The genius in me reasons that we should start with Heidi’s baby class section. I asked Hailey to wait for me at their registration hall as I rushed to take Heidi to her class.

Heidi’s section was also packed. What’s worse is that here, the children are yelling for their mommies and so progress is at a snail’s pace! I decide to stick it out all the same. We got to queuing and our patience eventually paid off. Soon, Heidi and I were strutting from the administration office to her allocated class to meet her new teacher. I crossed my fingers, hoping she wouldn’t cry. She didn’t. There was no sign of a tear. I cautiously bid her farewell and seeing how well she was taking it all, I sprinted to the primary section to find Hailey.

I found Hailey. A different Hailey than I remembered. She was seated with her new friends, chatting away quietly. Happily. No worry or anxiety in her face. I looked at her and it hit me! Like a thunderbolt it hit me: My girl is all grown up! I had never seen her act so mature and independent! Some sort of epiphany was happening; I don’t know whether the sharp contrast between the primary and baby class sections exaggerated things a bit but it was enough to stop me on my tracks. Hailey smiled and waved at me when she saw me approaching.

I really don’t know what I expected. I expected to find her anxious, for her to run to meet me and ask me why I took too long to get back. I expected some kind of childlike reaction, you know? Not the calm, waving, smiling, chatting-quietly young girl I found seated, surrounded by a bunch of pupils. I had to take a moment to take it all in.

Sometimes you think you are watching them as they grow only to realize that they’ve been growing, but you haven’t been watching!

After Hailey’s registration, I decided to pass by Heidi’s class to check on her one last time. You know, see if she is getting along fine with the other kids. I am utterly ashamed to announce at this point that this takes the biscuit for being the biggest mistake of the day, on my part.

Heidi was doing fine alright. Until she saw me. “MUMMY! She was so excited to see me back. “Twende?” she asked. The clever girl thought that 20 minutes of class was enough and it was time to leave!

She came to where I stood talking to her teacher and held onto the hem of my dress. Her index finger swiftly found its way to her mouth. When I tried to convince her to take a seat next to the other kids, she shook her head vigorously. This was promptly followed by frowning. Then the creasing of her face. And then…SWASH! She turned on the waterworks! Seeing my helplessness, her teacher carried her and tried to distract her. At that point I was dying to sweep her in my arms and carry her with me.

When my child cries, I cry with her. She screams and gets tears smeared all over her face coupled with a running nose to boot. Her crying is evident, for all to see that she is unhappy. When this happens, I cry too. Inwardly. Discretely. I cry with my heart. Until her tears stop, only then can my tears dry up as well.

Heidi and I both needed to grow out of this interdependence. So I walked away with tears in my heart. I too was yelling and screaming. I was just as afraid as Heidi was. While she wondered how she’d get through the day without mummy, I thought “Will my precious cope with the new environment, the new faces?”

So yeah. We cried. We yelled. And screamed. But we braved day number one like champs! And now we are doing much better. We almost didn’t cry. Almost. You should be proud of us.

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