By Jeevani Fernando
We were both doing what I did when I was her age, buried in a Reader’s Digest. She is nearly turning 12 and me nearly 40!! Her father says ‘the house could burn down, but this girl will be still reading a book!’ Same as what my mother said when I was 12. Only it was flooding in the entire town of Kandy.
Without turning her head away from the book, she asked me ‘What do you want me to become mummy?’ I stopped somewhere in the middle of ‘Life’s like that’ and searched for something solid and profound to say to my soon-to-be-teenager.
Instead I told her what I felt when I first found her chucked under my armpit at Sri Jayawardhenapura hospital in Kotte. 6th February 1998. My first shot at motherhood, my first baby, my first everything, my guinea-pig. I looked at this perfect, pink pod poking at me and freaked out. For the next 20 odd years this pink thing is going to be with me and be my responsibility and maybe even LOOK like me and turn out to be LIKE me. I panicked. I almost asked the doctor to put it back inside and stitch it up. She laughed out loud when I said that and said “I loved it inside your stomach and never wanted to come out!” True. The doctor took her out 3 days early as he had an overseas trip on my due date. And then charged me three times more than what I went prepared for!
There were so many things I was not prepared for with this first baby. How much I was going to love her and devote my time on her. All my reading and online research never prepared me for the moments when you feel profound joy and pride in nursing your baby at your breast. How she stops to look up at me and smile. The world is at my feet at moments like that.
She soon proved me wrong as to who is looking out for whom. She was the most intelligent baby a mother could have. She knew how to tackle the father. The father who was constantly apprehensive about babies that would get in the way of his gadgets, fell in love with her at first sight. She was a fan of Jungle Boy at 1.5years and she knew how to feed the dog a bone by moving the mouse in the Knowledge Adventure Series when she was 2 yrs old. At 2 years old her brother came along. And she gave me a look I will never forget when I had to drop her and pick him up. It hurt. I can’t even print what she said when I had the third.
I wanted to act cool when I found a crumpled love letter from a boy at the Day care centre when she was 8 years. He was 8 years too and he was asking her not to break his heart like his first girlfriend. When do they start nowadays? Soon as they are born I guess. I asked her what she thought of the letter. She said his spellings were bad. She underlined the spelling mistakes and sent it back to him. I locked myself in the washroom and laughed and laughed at the poor boy. But she also thinks he is cute so she has forgiven him for the mistakes.
She is someone I will run to for advice and help in my old age. She knows and understands things that children of her age usually don’t. She is called ‘Smarty Pants’ by her siblings and it doesn’t bother her. Just like me, she packs two swimsuits and two swim caps. In case someone is in need.
As she pirouettes on her toes practicing her ballet moves, I wonder how she became so graceful and expressive with her hands and face. She is beautiful. And yes I do wonder where she got that from. We went shopping for blouses and when she came out of the dressing room with a floral fluffy blouse and her long curly hair down her back, she looked amazing. I choked back my tears at how grown up she looks now. I don’t want them to grow up so fast.
But she will turn 12 tomorrow. And I will miss being there for her. She was sad about it but quickly recovered and said I could join in on skype. I have got a list from her as to what she wants for her birthday – it says ‘YOU’
I have told her that she can be anything she wants to be. But she will always remain my number one baby.
5th February 2010