Nino's Dad has had a shift of working plans, and ends up working through the late evening and night since the past two weeks. It's taken a while for both Nino and me to get used to not having him around for our post-dinner fun, and it will take me longer knowing the right side of the bed is achingly empty.
As I tuck Nino into bed everynight, in my room, we lie with the windows open and the fan in all its whirring glory, the scant sweat of still-not-arrived summer sweetened by the fan's breeze. Somehow, that half-hour or 40 minutes that we spend together - once the books are done and the lights are out - has turned into a complete connection time between me and him, and we talk about school, the stories I did at work (his favourite one so far has been the RSS idea to make a cola out of cow's urine), his playmates in the evening. Sometimes he asks me to sing, and I sing much slower, knowing he's trying to understand the lyrics. Perhaps that's why he loves the R. Kelly number's chorus so much. Even though he insists I can't fly. In between every line, we make our own rap number. I say I believe I can fly, and he says I can't.
I've come to feel very satisfied, very elated with these noctuarnal musings, perhaps because I feel like my son is really talking to me. I've felt very guilty about not being there when he wants to talk about something, and trying to get him to speak about his day only when I arrive every evening. Maybe it gets easier in the dark for him to say stuff - maybe he's not afraid of my expressions/reactions, or maybe he's holding on to our conversation because he's still a little afraid of the dark.
As we watch the shadows of the car windows from the neighbouring compound that get reflected on our ceiling, I try to assuage his fear about the dark a bit. We talk about nocturnal beings, the owl and the panther, some snakes and his favourite, the bat. Sometimes when he says, 'I can't see you mama,' I widen my eyes and smile a toothy grin so he can see bits of the white reflected off the light that comes in from the window. Sometimes I forget to do this, when I'm lost in my own thoughts, and he'll prod me again, 'Say cheese, mama, I want to see you.'
The other day he told me a kid in the batch elder to him had a 'really bad day'. Was that why she was crying when I came to pick you up, I asked him. He was quiet for a bit. 'Can I tell you a secret mama,' he said. 'In your ear.' Apparently the kid had been having an emotional meltdown and ended up doing her big job while her clothes were on at school. Nino laughed once he said this. I was quiet for a bit, and then I told him I thought it was perfectly okay for such 'accidents' to happen, and that it was not funny to me. He thought over it a bit too, and then asked me, 'if everyone is laughing in class, should I laugh?'. It seared my heart to know that he went through peer pressure at such a young age, and that while I was quick to jump the gun and suggest that he must not always follow the heard (and honestly only because I've never followed it either), maybe suggesting otherwise would make things a little easier on him. He's not taken to school very well still, and I do know for a fact that a couple of elder kids are bullying him, ever so slightly.
These days he's very frightened of being bitten by a tiger or a lion as he's sleeping. So I went into a labourious explanation of what separates a jungle and a city, all the traffic manoeuvring the animals would have to do, the security guards they'd have to get past, and the ten floors they'd have to climb, because well, they don't know how to use the lift. He thought about it for a while and then said, ever so quietly, 'If they (the tiger and the lion) don't know how to cross the road, they will get hurt. And then what happened?'
Sometimes I do this whole mock-prayer pose, especially when I've had a not-so-great-day, and thank God with a big list of what-could-have-beens. Just makes the whole ritual a little less sacred, and I think he secretly enjoys it, though I've never forced him to be a part of it. The other day as I finished saying my prayer, and thanking God and telling Him he had fantastic taste in flowers, Nino muttered, 'also thank you for the teti.'
Nino's a budding-foodie, one who takes a lot of interest in the meals that are being fixed for him. He can roll out a perfectly round chapati and insists on standing right next to the gas till it becomes 'hot, round and puffy'. He remembers exactly what his classmates got for lunch and he makes sure he knows in advance what I'm giving him the next day. Their teacher has taught them about junk food, so the kids are very aware that the chips and colas are trouble. One of his classmates got 'wafers' this week, and even though they're 'junk food', he liked them very much. 'Can I have a little bit of junk food,' he said. 'I like the wafers A got.' I said okay, and he said, in his secret, hush-hush-give-me-your-ear tone, 'Good mama, I won't tell S (name of teacher).'
In our 'secret' time together, these few minutes of motherhood assuage so much of my pain and fatigue, making for so many memories that I cherish, that I hold on to, and that keeping me going, until the next night's conversation time.
3 hours ago