Kinky and Coily
Twice a term my daughter and I go through the drill—at the start of the term and just before the half-term break ends. She sits on a stool and we unravel unwilling braids. They tangle at every turn resulting in tugs and pulls. She scrunches her brows and lets out a yelp.
“Mummmyyyy! Not so hard! It really really hurts.”
I sigh and relax my hands taking some pressure off. We finally loosen the braids and then wash, condition, oil, and plait her hair in fat clumps, ready for the new braids or cornrows she will sport.
She touches her hair and asks, “My hair is long enough, why can’t I leave it to just flow down . . . all the way down to my back?”
“You know why.” I respond gently.
“Your hair is kinky and coily. If you leave it to air-dry without a plait, it will coil and shrink into an afro-ey puff that will tangle and be difficult to comb.”
As her brown eyes look into mine, I continue, “This is your hair, it is my hair too. It’s the beautiful and versatile hair that God gave us, and we will rock it and love it and share it with the world.”
About four years ago, I decided to wear my hair in its natural state instead of straightening it with relaxers because I wanted my afro to reflect who I am. I made the decision for my seven-year-old daughter also.
As she grows older, I want her to be proud of her hair and to experiment with different styles, textures, and colours and discover what works for her. So, I tell her about my days of perms, red hair, and many hair extensions. She laughs.
“What about you? Would you like a perm . . . so your hair can fall to your back and it doesn’t hurt so much to comb?”
“Are you sure?”
She nods and I sigh in relief.
I like that she owns her hair and approves of my choice for her. When she is older, whatever she does with her hair is fine as far as she understands that externals do not define her.
The Art of Pee
We were at the mall, and my daughter needed to pee. I took her to the public toilet, which was reasonably decent. I’d read that the risk of picking up germs from sitting on public toilet seats was low. I’d read that there are more bacteria on office keyboards than on public toilet seats. That dodgy information resides somewhere in my intellect, meanwhile, my heart moves me to act differently.
I lifted the toilet seat cover and tried to get her to squat. She pointed at the seat. I gave her a brief lecture on the dangers of actually sitting.
“Mummy, I can’t do it.”
“What do you mean you can’t?”
“Just bend . . . like this . . .”
I squatted over the toilet to ensure a healthy distance between my thighs and the edge of the bowl, feeling and I suppose looking undignified, while my daughter watched and doubled over with laughter.
“I don’t want to pee anymore.”
“I can hold it.”
I took a deep breath. When I opened the door, I was relieved to find that no one had been eavesdropping on our mother-daughter rite of passage.
Just as we were about to leave the mall, my daughter had the burning urge to pee again. Immediately, two damp circles stained the armpits of my blouse. To my chagrin, our training session ended with an empty bladder, a wet mother and a wet daughter.
At home, I tried to teach her the art of peeing in public toilets with marginal success. My instruction to pee before an outing was laced with undercurrents of meaning that her father and brother could not understand. For insurance, I carried paper toilet seat covers and antibacterial wipes. I learnt to defuse world war four by letting her innocent suggestion, “Why don’t you just clean the seat?” prevail.
When I was a child, I played house and fed my children okro soup made by crushing hibiscus leaves and petals in an empty derica tin. I wanted to be a mom. Judging from appearances, my daughter also wants to be a mom. She bathes and dresses her dolls with patience that she does not reserve for herself. She dishes plastic eggs, bacon, and bread made in her Fisher Price deluxe kitchen, for them. Oh, the joys of motherhood await her!
© Timi Yeseibo 2015
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