Guest post by Naledi Hlefane
My prodigal sister has finally returned home after a five-year departure. Perhaps “prodigal” is a strong word. Some petty quarrel, surrounding the birth of her little girl, between her and family elders led to our unfortunate separation.
She brought along her five-year-old daughter whom we’d not seen since birth.
My siblings were elated, mostly by the roles of aunts and uncles they were to formally assume. I was equally enthused but my affection for children is short-lived.
For one, I am pathetic with toddlers and the closest I ever get to baby talk is: “helloow you cutey cutey. What’s your name? Huh? What’s your name?” I then smile and blink a few times in a desperate attempt to make the baby laugh. With those aged three to six I despise the nose-picking, the nagging, perpetual wailing and the one million questions.
I was perplexed when my niece took a great liking to me, insisting on sharing a bed with me instead of her mom and imitating some of my habits. What a sweet little thing she is, I mused. But with all living things on earth, true colours are revealed, eventually. So was the case with my niece.
As it turned out, she has quite a loose tongue. She takes any tone with anyone- child or adult. She doesn’t take disciplinary action too good either, even from her mom. And she would cry till the second coming if she could.
By the third week of her stay I had decided: I’m not having children. EVER! When her mother asked me to babysit her daughter “for just a week”, because of an urgent course she needed to attend, I nearly threw myself out of the window. I would do one of two things during that week: commit suicide or homicide. I obliged nonetheless.
On the first day, an extremely hot Sunday, my niece was tiresome, constantly asking for food. The next two days were fine, except for the 21 questions. She was either terrified or bored for she kept asking how much longer it would be “till mom returned?”
I took her to the mall the next day, to change the routine a bit. Our day was bliss. We were the cynosure of the day, mother and daughter, or so many thought. It shocked me at first but the idea of playing mom for the day gradually grew on me. I lost count of the compliments she got for her “cute” ensemble. I gave a nod for each one taking credit as the stylist.
The following day at the mall was no different, in the spotlight as usual. She was enjoying her pizza when her mom called to announce that she was on her way home. My niece was ecstatic.
I was practically non-existent with her mom back. I couldn’t help feeling disappointed. Was I not the one who had combed her hair gently, the one who cooked noodles at her request? Did I not warn her against using the Lord’s name in vain, teaching her to use “Oh my gosh” as opposed to “Oh my God”?
I mean I had done a practically good job in the few days of being her guardian. I was pleased with my patience and astonished by my nurturing demeanor. There were countless times when she infuriated me so much I should’ve had the upper hand, but I hadn’t. Strangely, I had contemplated having a family of my own in the future. To be given a cold shoulder after this was disheartening.
But as I sat in despair her old habit of wailing kicked back in and at that moment my own child-intolerant ways returned. I was again reminded of why I don’t want to bear children.