Ambitious people like me easily fall into the trap of being ruled solely by things we consider accomplishments. Our happiness gradually becomes determined by how often or quickly we tick off an achievement box. This outlook and a number of other issues found adjustments last year when I spent some months living with my dear cousin, Chinny, and being a part of her daughter’s life.
In January 2017, I made a post on Facebook where I talked about my experience with Kaira in just one week. I called what stretched on to become a 9-month period an apprenticeship, and truly I still love to describe it as such. Beginning with my niece’s name, the entire period was a compendium of experiences and lessons. Her name, Kairaruchukwu, which can be loosely translated as “let’s leave it for God”, bore great significance for me at a time when I was at a crossroad in my life. As a person who always wants to be assured of certainty and perfection, I was beginning to learn how to trust God and take the first step when I could not see the entire stairway.
More times than I can count, I sat staring at my cousin in awe. It was almost unbelievable listening to her talk about pregnancy, childcare and everything in-between with confidence and effortless ease. We had grown up together, playing and not caring about a lot of things. At some point, she was tomboyish and showed no sign of knowing much about kids and tender affection. She had, however, become what I considered an expert in child psychology, baby-handling skills and home-making. There was no better explanation to the expression, “We become experts simply by doing”. No matter how much of a novice a person is when he starts out on a venture, with constant practice and dedication, he becomes an authority in the field.
I met Kaira two weeks into her third month and I was with her till she clocked one year. I watched her attain several milestones and each of them gave me a fresh surge of happiness and enlightenment. It was clear by every passing day that growth is a process. I watched her limbs grow firmer and stronger and I could tell that this was necessary to support her frame when she began to stand and later on, walk. Slowly, her teeth began to form and this was prior to the introduction of other foods aside breast milk and pap. I was reminded that each stage of growth prepares and equips us for the next.
I usually referred to her as the most powerful person in the household and although this was always said on a lighter note, it was a fact. Kaira’s mood or health dictated the state of everyone else. I chuckle as I recall one night that the mosquitoes on the balconies of Lagos University Teaching Hospital had me for dinner. Our little girl had suddenly started having a fever which didn’t subside after administering the first-aid advised by a doctor. We all suspended the meal we were trying to prepare and headed for the hospital. Nothing else mattered to us until we were leaving the hospital with a stable and lively child by midnight. Sincerely speaking, power and influence are not always determined by size or age.
Sometimes, it was the smile on her face that calmed a warring nerve inside of me. There were moments I had to recite definitions to her because I had to combine studying with keeping her company. I had to be responsible for her and this reminded me that we exist not just for ourselves but for others as well. Last week, I visited the family just before her second birthday and she kept me spellbound with her unending speech. Just by watching and listening to her, I found myself learning about myself all over again.