x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Judging my self-worth through Baby A’s progress

One reason to have kids is to get to show off. Except Baby A rarely obliges – she is miraculously mute the second we want her to exhibit her talents so that our parenting skills may be duly complimented.

It occurred to me the other day how truly lucky I am to have this space to write about the travesties and transgressions – oh, excuse me, I meant the trials and pleasures of being a mum. It used to be a place to write about figuring out how to be a wife while still retaining my identity, but when you tack on the title “mum”, identity is a slippery slope to navigate and I’ve always been known to have terrible balancing skills.

Not only is this a place that allows me to brag about, and more importantly, complain about my Baby A in a way that won’t annoy all my Facebook friends, but it’s also a place that provides a welcome sounding board in an attempt to understand the bizarre behaviour of toddlers. There’s no way Baby A is the only enigma out there. Surely other parents are baffled by the behaviour of their offspring?

Lately, she’s been exhibiting remarkable similarities to both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. One minute, she’s the world’s friendliest baby, social, eager to say “hi hello hi” and wave bye-bye and show off her grasp of “one, two, treeeee” and “bay, b, c, d”. Then mere seconds later, she is pretending to be a statue, with her chin tucked into her neck and her eyes staring blankly at the floor to avoid all eye contact and human interaction.

This unpredictability means it has proven quite a challenge to get her to perform on command. And no matter how much you know, as a parent, to let them overcome a sudden onset of shyness at their own pace and not prod them simply to prove the point that your child is a genius, you can’t help it.

One reason to have kids is to get to show off. Look at me and my genius kid, who can speak in complete, if incomprehensible, sentences at 18 months of age! Check out my kid’s amazing grasp of the concept of colours, which doesn’t usually set in until the age of two! Observe her ability to sing the first line of both Baa Baa Black Sheep and Happy Birthday at almost perfect pitch!

Except she rarely obliges, and Her Dictatorship, a born chatterbox, is miraculously mute the second Mr T and I want her to exhibit her talents so that our parenting skills may be duly complimented. When is it, exactly, that I began to measure my self-worth by how well my infant daughter can carry a tune and how quickly she can put the pieces back correctly into her wooden puzzle board?

I fear Mr T and I, despite owning up to our ludicrous behaviour, will not outgrow this. I just turned 33 and my father still brags about my results in high school to anyone who’ll listen. My father, I know, will never stop bragging about his kids. We are, he says, his source of pride and joy.

Same goes for Baby A, at least on the days when she’s given us a halfway decent night of sleep. She’s growing so quickly, learning so much, exhibiting moments of intelligence that are blinding in their flashes, that I can’t help but want to share with the world that this little girl, who was once a tiny newborn solely obsessed with fitting her fist into her mouth, is now more akin to a miniature adult, complete with opinions and demands. That first year of her life, it passed by like an ageing tortoise. I remember receiving clothes for ages six months and nine months and putting them away in storage; it felt like I wouldn’t need them for forever. And now the moments and days and weeks and months are whizzing by, a mere blur if I don’t take the time to press a pause button and reflect.

Hala Khalaf is a freelance writer living in Abu Dhabi