“Mum, who gave birth to me?”

We were setting the breakfast table, my dancer and I. Hailey and Heidi sat on their small plastic chairs; Hailey’s is purple, Heidi’s is lemon green. Should Hailey sit on the lemon green chair, or Heidi on the purple one, there will be war! The day was a saturday, the 29th of December 2012 and since each child sat on their respective chairs, there was peace. A quiet peaceful Saturday morning it was. Also Hailey’s birthday.

Naturally, we started to reminiscence about the birth of both our children. Going down memory lane, we noted that both of them were born on significant years in the Kenyan Calendar; I gave birth to Hailey during the 2007 elections and I was heavy with Heidi when we had the referendum vote for the new constitution in 2010. The joker that he is, md (my dancer, gerrit?) remarked “Next year is an election year, what is wrong with this picture?!” as he caressed my tummy. Mmmmmh…what indeed?

Our talk shifted to Heidi’s birth, how she turned two just the other day and yet she was gabby to no end – people always point out that she learnt to speak too soon. As we went on and on about Heidi this, Heidi that, Hailey, feeling left out, asked “And me? Mum, who gave birth to me?” and we were taken by surprise. A tilted flask that was serving tea was placed down on the table as md and I looked at each other. A non verbal agreement was made that I should take this one.

I sat down with her and explained to her the core meaning behind the title “Mother” aka ‘Mum’ or ‘Mummy!’. We had been teaching Hailey a lot about her identity; her full names-all three of them, her parent’s names; mine she says quite effortlessly, her father’s name she struggles with yet it is supposed to be the easier one. She knows how old she is, the name of her school and where she lives. We were therefore surprised that though she knows that I am her mother, she had no clue why I lay claim to that title! But how was she to know? Now that I think about it, I remember her telling me once “Mum, your baby has woken up” when she heard Heidi crying in bed.

“I gave birth to you, that is why you call me Mum” I told her. The clown in md could not resist looking at me with a mocking smile that said “You feel pretty good about yourself, don’t you?”

I told him to cut it out before Hailey asks why he was called “Daddy” and he would have to explain his role in her existence. What would he say then, I can just imagine him struggling to find the right words; that he planted a seed in Mummy perhaps? The conversation (God forbid) would go something like:

H: A seed? Like the ones in Watermelon
(What can I say… she loves watermelon, and the watermelon seeds are the only ones she knows yet)
MD: Yes. Like the seeds in watermelon (he would lie, not knowing what else to say.) 

Maybe I’d feel sorry seeing him trying so hard? Errm…Not really.
H: So, mum ate the watermelon seeds that you gave her? (she would continue inexorably)
MD: Eeee…yes (He would struggle with a straight face)
H: But….Heidi and I also eat the watermelon seeds…will we… (Now she would be confused)
MD: That is different… Now take your tea before it gets cold! (He would end the conversation with finality)

Lets just be grateful that Hailey did not ask any further questions – That would have been a disaster! I however know that the day is coming; the questions will come and answers will be needed. Plausible answers. Ready or not.

I know its cliche, but honestly, where do the years go! I still cannot wrap my mind around the fact that Hailey is five years old. She understands a lot these days. While watching news with her the other day, this woman whose household had been affected by the raging floods in December was beseeching ‘sirikal’ to come to her aid since she had nowhere to go and she did not know where her husband and children were. Hailey then asked me “Mum, why doesn’t she just come here, there is no rain here why won’t she come and stay with us?” She was very concerned. Yet just yesterday she was a little baby…

When I took her to school on opening day, we came across children who were being admitted to baby class. The day came with the usual drama of scared children (first-timers), apprehensive parents and nervous teachers. One kid was yelling, as his mother struggled to walk away. Back in 2011, Hailey did not honour me with that kind of fit. She did not shed a tear for mum. Nada. Just a simple goodbye, I love you and that was it. The transition was so smooth that I was slightly jealous of the parents whose kids refused to let go of their legs as they wailed uncontrollably.

It will be Heidi’s turn next year. Maybe she will cry. Maybe just like Hailey, she will blend in with the crowd and wonder what the other children are fussing about.Hopefully, I will be here to tell you all about it.

A year comes along and a tonne of responsibility comes with it. My calendar looks full already; Potty training for Heidi is here, extraction of milk teeth for Hailey continues – did I tell you we already extracted two? I presume the birds and the bees talk looms just around the corner for her as well?

As a parent, you never catch a break, do you?

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