My middle daughter turned seven yesterday. It was a strange day that started on a low note for me. Not for her though; she came to my bed and kissed my sleepy head and reminded me, “It’s my birthday!”
I had not forgotten. I was battling a stubborn headache that had started the previous day and persisted through the night. I don’t remember when I last had one like this. Even as I typed this yesterday, I am still in pain.
But this post is about my little girl. Seven years feel like they just whizzed by. I have received all three of my daughters, having been present in the labor room. I can still remember the day she was born. I rushed home from work when the Twin called and said: It is time!
I had left the car at home and taken public means. With hindsight, I think that was a bit dumb. The public transport in Kampala is notoriously unreliable. I sat in one of those loaf-like things and waited for it to fill up, then bit my knuckles as it started-and-stopped its way to Entebbe. I kept looking at my phone, expecting to get a call that the water had broken.
But those who’ve done these things many times know that at that time, when a baby is on its way, the father is the least lucid in many cases. So I was reading too much into it. I got home, strapped my wife in and drove to the hospital, which is situated along the same road I’d just used to go home.
And the baby just popped out; we got there and a few minutes later, we had a healthy baby girl. The the pain was soon forgotten and we all started looking forward to raising this new person. And what a journey it has been!
So, seven years later, I have grown to respect this little person. She’s got her own unique way about things. She’s the first person I ever thought of as a genius as a baby. I do not throw around that word recklessly because I understand it is not well understood. But I observed the way she interacted with her world as a baby and that’s the word that kept on coming into my head.
My daughter is a piece of work. She’s so stubborn; she gets under my skin all the time. She will do exactly what I tell her not to do, I think just to tick us off. She’s two years younger than our first daughter but she’s always been the bully. She’s always been the one we defend against. She pulls hair, slaps, and does all sorts of things. The latest fight has been about cussing; she discovered the F word. Needless to say, she got a whooping though from experience, I know that will not stop her from using it.
Being orderly and a stickler for rules, this abrasive side of my little girl rubbed me the wrong way in the early years. I did the disciplining in the appropriate years (I believe children can only learn from spanking between three and five. After that, its useless, they wont learn from spanking). After some time, I just stopped. I put on my fiercest look when she gets out of line and threaten her but I think we both know its all just talk.
I grew to like her though. I learned to appreciate her as a different kettle. She is stubborn but this quality might actually save her life or come to be what makes her stand out later in life. I started defending her. I home-schooled her the first year of her life because which self-respecting Ugandan teacher is going to take the crap of an inquisitive child who just wont shut up?
And like all amazing children, she drops gems a dime a dozen. Any given Saturday, (which is the day on which we gather as Ugandans and family in our small enclave in Vacaville) she will quip some wise saying, calling out the bullshit of the adults around her. With a straight face nonetheless. The adults are learning fast to be on their best behavior when she’s around.
She’s the one who is always providing a new way of looking at a problem, the one who’s always telling her sister the answer out of the blue as I scratch my head trying to keep up with the all-knowing dad facade.
My amazing daughter made seven yesterday and I am fast realizing time’s growing short. Soon, she’s going to have so much to fill her time, she’ll stop asking me to play ‘Kings and Princesses’ with her.