With a booming business, a toddler hitting her terrible (yet hilarious) twos and a newborn in tow, Amy Mowafi reconsiders her parenting style...
My boobs were my own again (after a full year and three months of nursing), the mojitos were flowing, the sun was shining, the waves were lapping, my business was booming and all was well with the world. And so, full of the possibilities of that bright shiny afternoon on the beach I said, “let’s have another!”
“Another drink?” enquired Mr Y, blissfully.
“Oh no,” I said. “Another baby!”
“Oh… no,” he said. “No. No. No, NO.”
That was eight months and one week ago. And now there are two… oops?
Both my babies arrived early and unexpectedly with a flourish of breaking waters but no contractions, emergency C-sections and no overnight bag packed. They do it, these children of mine, I think, to disrupt the natural order of things; the only way to forcibly make a baby shaped imprint (psychologically as much as physically) in the roller coaster riot that is my daily life. The meetings must be left unattended, the emails unanswered, the big client pitch on Tuesday, well who knows what the hell is supposed to happen with that. All the Excel sheets and Google calendar updates in the world are no match for birth.
So here I am with one unruly almost-two year-old, one newborn and 40-odd members of staff whom I abandoned mid-sentence, and not the foggiest what to do about any of it.
Little Miss M however seems to have taken it all rather in her stride, running around the house yelling “bebe!!!” while experimenting with various pitches until she finds the one that is possibly most annoying and sticking with that for the much for the day. She used to do the same with the word “dada,” a sort of expression of her undying love for her father, but her affections are a fickle thing. Meanwhile she has taken to calling me Amy, rather than mama, the presence of something smaller than her in our home, having seemingly entitled her to adult status. Well, actually she calls me Emy, which is ironic really considering that has been a lifetime pet peeve of mine. But I ought to be grateful that I am at least assigned any sort of proper noun seeing that the housekeeper Doaa has been dubbed “arrgh” (which is the same sound as the lion makes) and the nanny who has been around her entire life is yet to be given the respect of any sort of name at all. She does, however, know the word for “elbow” and oddly enough “M&Ms” that you can find in “nana's” top bedroom drawer and also buy from the “shhh” (koshk) downstairs. Once again one has to admire her flair for the ironic when it comes to language considering the koshk - which is opposite the moderayet amn el Giza, right next to the kajillion dollar brand new Saudi embassy and just a stone's throw away from El Nahda has been barricaded by army personnel/Ikhwan/revolutionaries for most of her life (depending on the political circumstances on any given day) and, as such, is anything but sshhh. She also knows the way to the koshk which pains me deeply and makes me daily question the fact that I am choosing to bring her up in Egypt as opposed to with the idyllic lifestyle I was afforded in the English Countryside. I, at her age, knew the way to the ducks on the lake at the bottom of our garden.
And yet still, one tends to be far more pragmatic than sentimental with the second. You've witnessed the various developmental stages with the first and so know that baby opening its eyes is really nothing to write home about. This is a huge departure from how I dealt with Little Miss M whom I took to the zoo the moment she turned three months and was almost definitely able to see. Of course this being the London zoo and not the Cairo zoo, we paid a small fortune for the whole family to carry a sleeping baby round rainy enclosures for a couple of hours before eating overpriced ice cream. My youngest brother however, 23 at the time, enjoyed it tremendously pointing out that, as the fourth child, no one had much bothered to take him out of the house let alone to the zoo. I fear this may turn out to be the case with Baby T.
But since Baby T is yet to discover his own hands I must allay my constant guilt, fear and self-loathing by focusing my attentions on the big one. And so the other day I decided it was I time I teach her 'something’. That is not to say she has not learned anything over the last two years, but most of it has been entirely by chance or thanks to the iPad, which she accosted early on, perhaps realising we had no real viable plan when it came to her education. Her chubby little fingers soon stumbled across YouTube and its wealth of bright colourful videos including the one in which a guy spends 35 whole minutes unwrapping Kinder Surprise Eggs and the equally enthralling sequel where he unwraps Kinder Surprise Eggs covered for some bewildering reason in Playdoh (1 million plus views by the way, in case you thought there was no way the sequel could be better than the original).
So in the span of a single morning I showed Little Miss M how to raise two little fingers and even say “two” when asked how old she is. Half way through the day, clearly highly irritated and bored by the fact that I kept asking her how old she was (although she had repeatedly answered the question, at least to the best of her knowledge), she suddenly changed tact and started answering with the word "3eish" (bread).
How old are you Maya?
“3eish,” she would say, laughing hysterically before wandering off, as if to say "and what are you going to do about it?” And she was right…In less than a month, my daughter will turn into 3eish, I have a newborn for whom I was entirely unprepared and a business - that in the two years it took my daughter to become a baked good - has become a sort of self-evolving monster that I have no control over in normal circumstances let alone having just given birth (again)...and there is nothing I can do about any of it... ya mama.