Musings with P-boo the Cheeky Toddler: Part 1 – Ijeoma Okolo

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attentive
Image Source: Valenbutec, Accessed 13/05/2017

“You have to see things from my perspective. You wail and cry really loudly. It’s frustrating and uncomfortable for me.”

It’s Friday night. I should have been out enjoying the social scene somewhere, but my boring self had been home alone with a bottle of wine and a documentary about post-colonial Africa. I had foolishly said as much to my friend when she called and casually asked what I was doing. That was a big mistake. She had a favour to ask. She and her husband had been dying for a night out. Their two older children were at sleepovers, the live-in help had had to pay an emergency visit to her sick mother, and Efua her younger sister-in-law was out mysteriously again. She said she was going to have to look into that more because she suspected Efua was seeing the handsome bank executive she’d introduced to her last week. (I assumed she’d made up the story of the banker for her husband’s benefit whom I could hear in the background. She and I knew that story was a lie.) Anyway, could I please please please come and watch the two babies for about three hours? She’d owe me so much. Ama, their 2 month old was already asleep and Pierre (“P-boo”) was slowly dozing off. They’d be no trouble she swore.

She was wrong. Once his parents left, P-boo had decided he was no longer sleepy and had indulged in a screaming fit that almost woke Ama up before I figured out that he needed a diaper change. After changing him, I had helped myself to a glass of Chardonnay from his parents’ bar, eyeing him askance as he stared unapologetically back at me. I briefly considered touching up his milk with a little brandy to knock him out for the night and muttered, “Bloody screaming child getting on my goddamned nerves…”

“Well you’re getting on my nerves too! And my mummy says people shouldn’t say ‘goddamned.’”

I almost emptied the contents of my glass onto the carpet.

I looked around wildly. With shaking hands I put down the glass of wine on the nearest table. I had had one glass before driving over and three sips since I got there, so I wasn’t even remotely tipsy. I checked all the doors and windows to be safe.

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Image Source: http://www.gllu.org/interior-brick-wall.17.modern-living-room-design.html, Acessed 13/05/2017

I had just decided I was hallucinating when I returned to the living room to find my friend’s 14 month old son yammering up at me like it was normal. Apparently I was not imagining it. This weird kid was talking to me and I could understand him perfectly.

That was only 5 minutes ago. Maybe there was something in the wine. Maybe it was because recently I’d stopped trying to over-analyze everything in my life and was learning when to struggle and when to accept. Maybe it was because I was in this house alone, or maybe it was because even as an adult I’d never completely let go of the idea that babies understand the gibberish they speak to each other. Maybe it was all those things combined. All I know now is that I’ve gotten over my disbelief and I am currently and calmly having a conversation with a baby who is as yet incapable of “human speak.” The current subject of our discussion is his most recent diaper change. My problem: he didn’t need to scream the place down because his diaper was a little damp.

Mother Teasing Baby
Image Source: https://www2.leeward.hawaii.edu/hurley/Ling102web/mod5_Llearning /5mod5.3_acquisition.htm

P-boo: You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s uncomfortable and frustrating for YOU?

Me: Well, obviously it’s uncomfortable for you which is why you cry. It’s just frustrating because I don’t know what’s upsetting you and I can only guess until I figure it out.

P-boo: Well the last time you came here you snapped at me when I knocked over your water by mistake. I wasn’t upset with you.

Me: First of all, you didn’t do it by mistake. I said “Stop.” You knocked it over anyway and giggled. Second of all I had an actual problem that day. It’s a monthly woman thing. You won’t understand.

P-boo: Oh you mean your peewiyod

Me: Who taught you that word?

P-boo: My Aunty Efua told mummy about it. She said a junior officer was rude to her at work and when she got angry, another man said he was sure her peewiyod was making her angry.

Me: Well that comment doesn’t surprise me. Anyway, it does make you irritable sometimes, but not all the time and this doesn’t happen to every woman. I did feel better after I changed my tamp- never mind.

P-boo: Changed what?

Me: Nothing…actually, my “peewiyod diaper”

P-boo: So…you were angry because your peewiyod diaper needed to be changed?

Me: I wouldn’t say that’s why I was angry, but changing made me feel better.

P-boo: *Smiles slyly.* Like how I complain because my own diaper needs to be changed?

Me [Grudgingly]: I guess

P-boo: But if you think about it, you can change your own diaper. I can’t change mine, so I have to wait till someone figures it out. And until last week I didn’t even know I was uncomfortable because my diaper was wet. I just knew I didn’t like the feeling I had and that made everything worse.

Me: Oh, how did you figure it out?

 P-boo: I don’t know really. I wasn’t hungry or sleepy and then my bottom itched and I reached over to scratch it and the lightbulb just went off in my head.

Me: You seem like a smart kid. What do you want to be when you grow up?

P-boo: I want to fly planes!

Me: A pilot, huh? Interesting.

P-boo: Yes, my daddy is confused though. He keeps telling everyone I am going to be a doctor like him. I don’t know why.

Me: Mmm, you need to be careful with that. This means you may have to have some long talks with your daddy when you are older.

P-boo: Why?

Me: Well, sometimes parents may mean well for you, but if you don’t stand your ground with them they may set you on a path that isn’t yours and you’ll end up unhappy in a career you don’t like.

P-boo: Oh, I don’t want that. What else should I know?

Me: Hmmm, let’s see…

I’m warming up to this unusual situation quite quickly. I begin to impart words of wisdom, something I enjoy doing even when it is unsolicited.

“Let your heart guide you, but don’t rule out your head too. Your heart is your ultimate guide but it can make you selfish sometimes.

Surround yourself with positivity. Now don’t mistake this for living in a happy bubble and ignoring reality. Positivity won’t always get you what you want, but negativity will definitely not get you what you want. Life is what you make of it. To make your life a good one, there will be times when all you have to keep you going is a positive attitude.”

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Image Source: https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/childrens-vision/infant-vision-birth-to-24-months-of-age?sso=y

He’s listening to me with rapt attention. His eyes don’t even seem to be blinking. I’m really starting to enjoy this.

“Be kind to the people you meet, no matter where they are from. You never know who you will need in the future, but that’s not the main reason why you should be kind. Be kind because your privileged life is not solely of your own doing. It could have been someone else with a nice home and two parents and a trust fund already waiting for you, but it ended up being you. In the future, even when you work hard to get something, there will be chance meetings, good timing, and opportunities that will collaborate to propel you to success. Even if you don’t believe in God (but I hope you will), you need to understand that not everything good happens just because you plan for it to or because you worked for it. Also, you need people to make life better. For example, people may treat people who take the garbage disrespectfully, but imagine if there was no one to do it. Can you imagine if there was no one to get rid of your smelly diapers? Tons and tons of that crap just piling up and stinking up-

P-boo: Hey! There’s no need to be insulting

Me: Okay okay, but you get my drift.

TO BE CONTINUED..

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