Photo c/o: Ausdroid
The night we arrive, as I get my daughter ready for bed in a room that is unfamiliar, she tells me she misses home. She continues the conversation with statements like “it is not the same here,” and “it is not fair.” I tell her that it is indeed not the same, but this will be our home now. She cries and says she misses home and the people at home. I think to myself, “Me too girl. Me too.” I did not expect to have this conversation so soon! But I guess she is tired. It has been a long hectic day. She thought we were going for a short visit and we would be heading back home in the evening.
Schedules are the first out the window. The days go by with no familiar structure.
Nap times become a struggle, with me trying to get her to nap and her insisting she does not want to. Before I know it, it is 5:30pm. I finally give up and let her be. There go the few minutes in a day that I would normally have to myself!
Screen time gets longer and longer. I do not have the bandwidth to engage her in meaningful play. I have never been the mum who plays with her anyway. She repeats over and over again, “I’m booooorrreeed!” in Bluey and Bingo’s accent. I get it, she really is bored. But I cannot mummy and be her playmate at the same time. I cannot live up to the standards of Bluey’s dad.
We take turns sharing the T.V remote (something we shall have to unlearn, because, why am I negotiating with a toddler?). By sharing I mean she has the whole day while we have only the evenings to catch up on some news. Even then she cries out “It is not fair!” We negotiate and explain the concept of turns over and over again.
She notices cartoons that she knows from back home. She screams with excitement and cannot stop telling me how these cartoons are exactly the same as those back home. According to her they are inside the TV. These seemingly small familiar things make her so happy. She points out products in the supermarket that she knows from back home, familiar advertisements on the television excite her. She finds joy in the familiar. I do too.
She refuses to eat, claiming she has a wound on her tongue but when I check, there is nothing. I almost believe her, but I suspect that it is the move causing her to act up. I buy her favorite junk food just to make sure that truly her tongue hurts. She still refuses to eat. I relent and finally get her medication. However my suspicions are proven right when I make Mandazis and she gulps them down despite the ‘wound’ on the tongue.
I decide to force her to eat even though my heart breaks for her. Change sucks! Moves are hard even for me, a grown up.
I worry that she is spending too much time indoors. I wonder if it will it make her awkward when she finally meets other kids.
She tells me she is tired of waiting to go to school. That she has waited for a long time. I almost answer, “Child, you are just three! You have a lifetime of school ahead of you.” But I am so amused by her statement. I am both amused and heartbroken. She is bored to death in this apartment. I cannot wait for her to go to school either. Spending every waking hour of the day together is cute but exhausting! Also, maybe I would stop feeling guilty for the copious amount of screen time I let her have. Or that her only playmates are grown- ups who are often too tired to play.
Every day she asks me to play with her. To stop what I am doing and pretend to be the patient while she plays the doctor. Or to pretend that she is the mummy and I the baby. She reminds me over and over again that she has no friends to play with, to which I respond over and over again that with time she will make friends.
She plays make believe games with her cousins who are not even here. These are my favorite games because she can go for a full thirty minutes playing whatever game she has come up with. Taking turns to act like each of them, asking them questions and then answering them herself. She misses them. These were her first friends.
She asks us to play ‘princesses’ with her and when as usual the answer is ‘No’ she then asks her favorite question to ask these days. ‘Why?’
She is done begging us to play and instead forces us to play ‘grandparents’ to her dolls. She hands us teddy bears and warns, “Make sure it does not fall.”
She speaks her first Kiswahili word. “Asante”, she says to the person who has just delivered a package to our apartment. I think to myself, “There goes our code language!”
Maybe now she can respond to everyone that automatically assumes she knows the language, with the one word that she now knows, instead of staring back at them with a blank expression.
We are finally settling into a somewhat-routine and our days begin having a semblance of structure. Bath times happen when they are supposed to, she begins eating again without much struggle, we take walks around our neighborhood and she notices landmarks like the supermarket and pharmacy. She even starts calling the apartment home and can point it out before we get to the gate. “The Blue gate!” she calls out.
We both feel less overwhelmed. We are slowly getting out of this time in between — before she makes friends, before I find my bearings again, before we fully settle in — and warming up to the place we now call home.
Yunia Kazibwe is the founder of Adulting Out Loud. She is a wife, and mother to an amazing little girl. When she is not writing for the blog or recording for the podcast, Yunia loves spending lazy days with family, watching movies and catching up on a good series. Though she doesn’t currently have one, she loves cats.
Yunia prefers texting to phone calls, enjoys taking walks, and her favourite snack is popcorn. She often plays pranks on people, and only stops laughing to catch a breath.