How come you aren’t happy nowadays?
No, you aren’t!
Yes, I am.
Are you really?
Yes, I am!
You can tell me if you aren’t. You know, if there is something wrong.
Does that mean there is something wrong?
You aren’t happy, I can tell. You have been quiet lately.
Are you really okay, darling?
Is school okay?
Is there any kid who is harassing you?
What is “harassing”?
How do you spell that?
No, the other one.
It has two “s”?
Well, is there?
Is there what?
Another kid disturbing you?
Sometimes Kyle disturbs me.
Kyle is a girl?
Nooo! She laughs. Kyle is a boy!
How do you spell that?
Nice, but I meant Kyle.
I think Kyle is a girl’s name.
She finds this funny. Which is a great for me because she finds me funny right about now. So I’m going to wring dry this moment because I don’t know when next she will find me funny given her disposition lately.
I tell her that in my whole life I’ve never heard a boy called Kyle. Does he wear pink bikers under his shorts? (Tamms sometimes wears little pinkish bikers under her uniform by the way, I find it heart-breaking but I have no say over what she wears underneath).
Hahaha. I don’t know.
I think Kyle wears pink bikers under his shorts.
Haha. Boys don’t wear bikers.
(At Impala Club they do!)
Well, I think Kyle does.
Haha. That’s too funny. (She likes to do that, add “too” before says “funny” even if it’s not too funny).
But you are happy, right darling?
Yes, I am.
You can tell she isn’t happy by reading that conversation, right? I mean, you don’t even have to be a fun of the TV series Lie To Me, to know that she is lying. And she has been like this lately; aloof, withdrawn, distant. The obvious reason – which I will disclose in another post – is too clichéd a reason to comprehend. But since she joined class one she has pretty much retained this air of mystery. She seems preoccupied, like she is thinking about her thesis.
She used to be all chirpy in the car as I drop her off in the morning. Now she just sits there, only speaking when I speak to her. Like we’re having domez. Like I did something wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong to her. I swear. Well, apart from that fact that I now insist that she has to read a book a day. Not a whole book, for chrissake, I’m not an animal, but like one story. There stories are like, what, 30 words? Is that enough to make someone sulk with you? No, that’s not a rhetorical question. Tell me, is that enough for someone to sulk with you?
When we get to school she now just says “bye, see you later,” and jumps out. The hell?! As in, if I don’t lean in to kiss her no kiss will be exchanged in that car. None. Zilch. At first I thought maybe it was me, so I bought a stronger mouthwash. I even trimmed down my beard for chrissake because she isn’t hot about my beard. Nothing changed. Only, like, twice a week she will offer a kiss. Twice a freaking week! The rest of the week, I have to initiate it.
You want to know the truth? I’m tired of that shit. I feel like I’m the only one interested in this relationship. I mean, I’m tempted to ask her; where is this relationship going? But I don’t want to scare her off. Not just yet. Look, she used to say “I love You” before she leaves the car. Not always, but like most of the time. Now we can go four days without that. Not like I keep a scorecard in my glove compartment and tick whoever says it and when, but it’s hard not to notice when “I love yous” drop drastically. And please don’t say I sound like I wasn’t hugged enough as a child, this is not the time, Oprah.
Look, if she isn’t interested in me anymore, she should just be a woman about it and tell me the love died. I mean, I will move on. There are plenty of little girls out there who appreciate beards. Do you know how many fathers out there don’t have beards and their little girls wonder if they are in a normal family? Do you?
But seriously, do you think she is OK? No really, ama I’m being melodramatic?
Anyway so I told the Missus. Not like reported her, that would be “told on her”. But I
told. Expressed my genuine concerns and fears. I figured women understand each other. She said lately she has been like that. But why? She said she didn’t have a clue too. She didn’t know? Gosh, aren’t mothers supposed to know everything? I hear mothers can silently observe the way their daughter applies margarine on her bread and on the third day immediately tell if they are pregnant. Anyway so if figured that if a mother doesn’t know, perhaps Google might?
So I went online and Googled; “Moody+6yrs+old+girl+why?”: 2.8M search results in 49secs. Yahoo answers are the dumbest, it’s open season for amateurs. You will find people (OK, Americans mostly) theorising that perhaps her wintry moods is caused by eating pre-package foods, or allergy to certain foods. Tamms is not allergic to any food. Food is her friend. The search results also included a perimenopausal blog. I doubt Tamms is menopausal, or even perimenopausal, whatever that is. Actually I know people who I suspect are perimenopausal who should read that blog. And they are men.
Then I Googled: “Moody+6yrs+old+girl+God+why?” Same search results but only in 31 secs. (Wow, Google, you keep outdoing yourself!).
Then I tried Googling: Moody+6yrs+old+girl+God+why+me? 2.6M results, 0.57secs. The first result? Voices of Infertility.
Undeterred, I tried one last time: “Moody+6yr+old+Kyle”. This I did out of boredom, and curiosity…just a bit. There is an important moral to this story, just in case you are wondering; Google isn’t better than a mother.
Anyway, three weeks later, I’m out of town, and the Missus calls me and tells me she is constipated (when she turns 10 I realise I will have to stop revealing these embarrassing details about her life). She is taken to the doctor who says that he inability to poopo is because she is nervous; that the only thing she can hold back is her poop. Hehe. (Doctors should really be paid more). Is she in a new environment? Doc asked. Yes, she actually just joined class one, Missus told her. Then you need to find out if all is well in school. So I come back from my trip and I’m briefed and I mutter under my breath; “Kyle. That little bastard!”
Next morning I’m in school. I ask the teacher in charge for an audience in private. (We are just about to discuss constipation). Moments later, in a quiet room, I ask her how much she would take if she helped me lure a boy called Kyle outside the school compound. OK, I didn’t. I tell her what the doctor said and inquired how Tamms was adjusting. She says she is much okay, although she doesn’t really speak up when she loses a rubber or pencil. But she says that’s not abnormal behaviour. She says maybe she is just taking a bit of time to adjust to the new teachers and kids. Then she adds, “Some kids are like that.”
Don’t you just hate it when paediatricians and teachers refer to your child in that tone “some kids are like that”? Doesn’t it make you hot under the collar? Some kids are like what? No, say it. You know you want to say it; like what? Huh? Slow? Special? Are you calling my kid special? Huh? What, cat got your tongue? No, no no, don’t call security, what do you mean when you say some kids are like that? What are you implying? Are you implying that I have genes that are retarded? Are you questioning my pedigree? Put down the damn phone, teacher! Do you know who my father is? I come from a long line of fishermen and carpenters. My pedigree is fine! I’m not leaving this office until you tell me what you meant by that statement. Some kids are like that, Jesus! For chrissake, sit your ass down, teacher Doris!
That conversation is happening in my head, by the way. Outside, I just chill. Calm like a pond.
I decide to change the topic.
Is Kyle a girl or boy?
Perplexed: Uhm, a boy?
Who is he? I ask.
Ah, Kyle (says his second name)!
Yes, who is he?
No, I just want to know.
Has she mentioned Kyle? She asks.
No, she hasn’t. I just, uhm, know him.
She looked at me with that look that seemed to say, Oh, you guys go to the same gym?
Then I come clean: I’m asking because, well, she sort of mentioned in passing that Kyle can be a bit aggressive. (That’s me setting up that little sucker).
Ah, Kyle isn’t a troublemaker. She says delightfully. The troublemakers we know. The she laughs reassuringly.
I want to tell her that the ones you think aren’t the troublemakers are the true devils. They are the masterminds who should be watched around the clock. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are selling hallucinogens in school. Kwanza that Kyle boy sounds like real trouble. Keep that mangy racoon away from my daughter!
But I don’t say nothing. (That’s awful English, by the way). I simply nod like a respectable father and smile understandingly. But then I ask her to please keep an eye on her. I tell her not to hesitate to alert me if there is something I need to know, or do immediately. Then I stand up and thank her with a firm handshake, which I hope she reads as a subtle reminder that the offer to lure Kyle outside the school still stands. Then I leave.
We have started this system where she reads to earn money for junk food. The Missus picked this from one of those Facebook mother’s group. I think it’s Kilimani Moms or something like that. (Note: why is it called Kilimani Moms when half those moms don’t live in Kili?). The thing with reading with Tamms is that she can decide to read her own things.
So for example, we are reading a sentence that goes.
The big bad wolf waited for the lovely princess by the bush.
But when she reads it, she says:
The big bad wolf waited for the banana princess by the bush.
And immediately I’m like, “Tamms, where is banana in that sentence?” She keeps quite. She is lying on me, on my chest, on the sofa, our reading position. I read somewhere that this gives kids more confidence. Clearly it’s given her too much confidence she is seeing bananas.
“Where is the banana?” I ask again. A bit rough, I know, but I’m sort of pissed that she isn’t taking this seriously.
“There is no banana,” sniffs a timid voice.
“So then what’s this word?”
“Lovely.” She whispers then she looks at her mom to rescue her from this bad bearded wolf that is worse than the wolf in the book waiting for the lovely banana, or princess. Ok, maybe its late and she is tired and isn’t focusing. Maybe.
From the corner of my eye I see the Missus shoot me a dirty disapproving look. She thinks I’m too hard on her sometimes. But someone should, or she will be seeing more than just bananas in a sentence. Who knows, next it will be avacados. Or Rhinos. There is no telling, guys. Nip it at the bud.
“You have to concentrate, Tamms, you cant say there is a banana when there isn’t a banana, OK darling!” She shakes her head. Now she wants to break into tears. So does the Missus. Oh, crap. Everybody wants to cry, over a mere banana. So I step away from that landmine.
This is my submission. I make her read because girls should read. That’s the kind of girl I want to raise; a reader. A woman with a book is an empowered woman. Teach her how to love books first before she can learn to love a lip-gloss. Books bolster a woman. Books turn girls into ladies. And you don’t find many ladies around and when you do, you wont forget them quickly. Books arm women with confidence. A woman who reads will not shy from challenging an idea, a thought or an argument. Their opinions are not cowered or tamed. And this is what I think our little girls should amount to; ladies who have embraced books, ladies who constantly seek knowledge. That’s a solid woman.
A woman who reads isn’t just joy to herself, she is joy to people she interacts with. And the time to start this affair with books is when they are young. When they are still wearing pink bikers to school. But they can only love reading when they are surrounded by books. If they are socialised in it. Half the social problems women face, problems of interactions, wouldn’t happen if they just learnt to pick a book in their earlier years.
Still not convinced? Read “Don’t date a girl who reads” by Charles Warnke? Google it. That’s what happens when you raise a daughter who reads; they intimidate men so much that the only befitting way to describe them is through satire. That’s what you want of your daughter. You want her to carry books in her purse, not another series of Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Think of it this way. When a man sits down with a real airhead of a woman, the man will always somehow step down to meet her at that mediocre level. But when you are the airhead and you sit down with this real sharp woman, the woman will rarely step down to meet you in your stupid hovel. They are more impatient and dismissive. You just have to step up and try meeting her in her level, even if you only offer an illusion of it. This simply means that a smart woman will unconsciously inspire her surroundings. Now imagine hundreds of thousands of these women, women with hundreds of books in their hearts, imagine what these women can do to their intellectual surroundings. Just imagine that.
Look, Gang. Eventually, it doesn’t matter how many inches of heels a woman wears, true elevation comes from what she has read. And you can take that to the bank.
So, I say more bananas to our little girls.[Photo credit: Getty Images]