x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Baby's first bid for freedom is a total mystery

I was only out of the room for a few minutes: the saga of the disappearing baby.

Baby A can’t crawl yet, which is understandable, considering that she’s only six months old. However, Baby A also doesn’t roll yet, at least not regularly, save for the one or two times that elicited thunderous applause from her ecstatic parents. This laziness on her part was worrying at first, considering that she has reached every other milestone she’s meant to reach quite early on. Paediatricians we have consulted (yes, plural, we’re first-timers) laugh at our worries: apparently, considering that our tiny dictator has been adamant about sitting up at five months and even earlier, there is nothing to worry about. Still, it irked me that she was neither turning from front to back nor from back to front, especially because the only reason we were given is that Her Highness just couldn’t be bothered.

Or so I thought.

This past weekend, I left Baby A on her back in the centre of her play-mat surrounded by what some may call an obscene amount of toys. I positioned her toys in a circle around her, practically barricading her in. And I stepped out of her room for just a few minutes.

I’ve always been warned by other, far more seasoned parents to “beware of the silence”. As I understand it, when babies and children are too quiet, they are usually “up to no good”. And from the kitchen, the silence was particularly loud. There was no babbling coming from the nursery. The tinkling of Mozart’s Turkish March was no longer emanating from that mini-keyboard I had bought her in a moment of naivety. There was no rattling, no banging, no ringing nor jingling.

So off I went to investigate. I walked into her room to find an empty space on the play-mat, where Baby A had been reigning supreme just moments before. The toys were still there, albeit a bit more scattered. But the baby? Nowhere to be found.

Now please understand that I am somewhat of a highly strung individual with an overactive imagination. First reaction? “Oh my God someone has broken into my home and stolen my baby my world is over.” Second reaction? “Hold on, I can hear her breathing.”

Under the couch in her bedroom, tiny fingers were drumming against the floor. Down I knelt, to find Her Highness on her tummy, stuck against the wall with nowhere to go, accompanied by at least three of her wayward toys, staring at me with an expression that was a mixture of contriteness and amazement. “Do you see where I am?” her eyes sparkled at me. “This is a big deal, right? Surprise! I didn’t know I could do it either. Can you please help me get out?”

She still doesn’t crawl. She still doesn’t roll over as often as I’d like. I have no idea how she transported herself at least three metres across a room, how she traversed her barricade of toys, how she managed not to bang her head against the bottom of the couch, how she did it all so purposefully and hurriedly – I was gone less than seven minutes. Was she transported by elves?

And for that one second when I didn’t know where she was? I was halfway to a heart attack. I see before me a life of such intense worry that I am practically breathless, paralysed with the weight of it.

Mr T’s reaction to all this?

“That’s it, we’re installing cameras.”

Hala Khalaf is deputy editor of The National’s Arts&Life


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