I’ve been solo parenting for the last 10 days.
On Sunday, Leila, Rahul and I spent the morning out. We were at a housing complex close by, playing on their favorite blue and red dolphin-swings. Nothing pleases them more.
At one point we take a break: drink some water, eat a few grapes, change a diaper (or two).
Rahul sits on a long multi-coloured bench, under a massive trees packed with tweeting birds picking at little fruits.
“Afu owange,” he says. (He calls himself Afu, his Sichuanese name.)
He points at the bench to his right, and “invites” me to sit next to him, “Mama geen.”
“Leila der,” he says.
“Leila yellow,” I say as I point to her section.
Their legs dangling, bodies energised, we break into song; one from our favorite old DVD “Sing and Sign”. (www.singandsign.com)
“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” Clap. Clap.
“If you’re happy and…”
Before we get to the end of the verse, Rahul looks me in the eyes, and says, “Mama sad.”
“Not at all, I’m very happy to be here, sitting between the two of you. What do you mean sad?”
While I was saying all that I recalled a conversation I had with him the day before, and realized that he had tied it into the next verse of the song.
“Yes. I’m sad because papa isn’t here, just like you and Leila. But I’m happy to be here, with you, singing and playing!” I beam a smile. We finish up our claps and continue.
“If you’re sad and you know it, have a cry.” Sniffle. Sniffle.
“If you’re sad and…”
Rahul looks at me through his big, round, dark eyes.
“If you’re naughty and you know it, say you’re sorry. SORRY.”
“If you’re naughty and…”
Leila looks at me with a mischievous grin. We laugh.
By the last verse, “If you’re angry and you know it, stamp your feet,” we were all off the bench, stamping our feet.
We march home in a chain.
For the first few minutes L and R hold hands and I’m on one end. We sing Colonel Hathi’s song from the Jungle Book, all the way home.
“See the aim of our patrol,
Is a question rather droll…”
Now I’m walking in between L and R.
“For to march and drill,
Over field and hill
Is a military goal!”
And now I’m carrying one child, diaper bag on the opposite shoulder, guiding the walking child.
“Hup, 2, 3, 4
Keep it up, 2, 3, 4.”
We switch to one of the previous set-ups.
We stop for a minute. Leila insists on climbing a tree. Like Mowgli. I lift her up against the trunk.
The next morning, as we exit the elevator to go out and play:
Ayi is up ahead with Leila.
I am with Rahul. He’s hardly moving. I’m ahead of him. I look back.
“Afu sad,” he says after a moment of hesitation, and with a forlorn look.
I turn around, walk back and squat next to him. I look him in the eyes and ask if it is because his papa isn’t here.
He nods and turns his gaze downwards.
“He’ll be back in 4 days,” I try to comfort him.
“Vion,” he says as he signs an aeroplane. (Vion=Avion=Plane)
“Yeah, exactly! He’s coming on a plane. And we can skype with him as soon as we go back home, OK?”