It was no problem. When we entered the house together, the first scream was never ‘Daddy!’ It always was ‘Mummy!’ Gone were the days when it used to bother me. I thought maybe I wasn’t fine enough or maybe I wasn’t nice enough or maybe I wasn’t indulging enough. But I grew up. I chalked it up to the lot meted out to fathers. So, once I knew we were entering together, I allowed some considerable space between us, just so that after she had bathed in her own reception, I could have the chance to receive mine. But my children would scream Mummy and dragged her by her two legs to a seat and straightaway they began to download random gist. And whenever I made my entrance, you guessed right, no one noticed.
I re-strategized. I allowed some space but not too much. And when I entered after her, instead of waiting for their greeting first, I initiated it by screaming ‘Yadaaaaa!’ and then they would go, ‘Daddyyyyy!’ It worked. And we lived happily ever after.
“You people stayed too long. Why?”
“We went somewhere else.” Wifey dropped her bag on the sofa and managed to find a space to sit as the two of them buzzed around her. The reception usually spanned five to seven minutes before they found another distraction.
While I sat and removed my shoes, wifey got up to see what Josephine was making in the kitchen. Princess trailed behind her and they continued their small gist. Champion came to my corner, perched by my right side and rested his head on my chest. Though the remote control was with me we both knew we were searching for any repeated tennis match. And we were lucky we found one.
“…I got two stars today!” I could hear Princess tell her mum in the kitchen. My ears opened up immediately.
“Wow! That’s great!” Wifey responded.
We had spent quite some time preparing her last night for her class assessment. So hearing she got two stars just made me happy. That could only mean she performed well. I was eager to join the conversation, but for the weight of Champion. In fact I felt I should be the first beneficiary of such good news but Del Potro’s forehand had Champion’s head glued to my chest.
“I did very well and Miss Alimat was very happy with me.” Princess continued.
I continued to struggle not to hijack this gist. Hijacking it would mean getting up and getting up would mean distracting Champion and distracting Champion would be unfair. So I stayed there, but my ears and antennae extended to the kitchen and followed the small talk.
“Bimbo didn’t get any star.”
“Why?” Wifey asked.
“She didn’t do well, of course. She was just crying all day. No one could tell what was wrong with her. Farouq got one star and he was very happy about it. He made all of us laugh when he was told he got a star.”
Farouq was the new boy in her class. She gave us the announcement when he joined class. And once in a while we got updates on Farouq. The little boy had a knack for causing ripples in class and my daughter was a huge fan.
“I’m glad you got two stars. I’m proud of you.”
I stretched and I saw my wife give her a hug. Gosh, I wanted to share in the moment. I so itched to be part of it. Repeating the news to me wouldn’t feel the same as getting it first hand and fresh. A repeat news wasn’t always captivating, same with the repeat match I was watching with Champion.
“Ifeoma got seven stars.”
I thought I didn’t hear right. I adjusted a little but Champion’s weight kept me in position. While still in that state of confusion, she continued.
“Taiwo got eight stars.”
My bubble of joy got deflated.
“Taiwo got eight?”
“Well done to her. She must have done really well.” And my wife didn’t say more than that.
“She is very good.”
What was my wife’s pleasure about? How could she be praising the classmate without addressing a very pertinent matter? Suddenly the two stars became nothing. If there were other children getting seven or eight stars then why was Princess getting two?
I was truly happy and thrilled when she said she got two stars. I mean, our drill and exercise the previous night paid off, so I thought. I was even happier when she mentioned Farouk got one and Bimbo didn’t get any. Not because I didn’t wish them well, but because it only solidified how hard-earned her two stars must have been. But Ifeoma got seven and Taiwo got eight! Come on! That just dwarfed her two! I felt like I had just fallen into a deep dark well of sorrow. My huge balloon of pride and excitement slowly began to run out of air. And I asked myself, what went wrong now?
And she wasn’t one bit remorseful about it! She announced their number of stars with no iota of blues in her voice! And wifey didn’t even pick it. She didn’t engage and address her about it. If there were opportunities to get seven or eight, why would you get two? If others were stretching to seven and eight, why would you be at ease in Zion? Yes, two stars seemed good, better than one and none, but that was until I heard seven and eight.
I sat there like a cold cup of coffee waiting to be drained away.
“Princess!” I couldn’t bear it anymore, I called from the living room. Champion was startled and immediately he lifted his head, I took the opportunity and broke free from his hold.
“Yes daddy!” She ran to where I was, all excited, full of energy, proud as a peacock.
Juwon, relax. Take a chill pill. Take it easy.
“How was school today?”
“It was fine, daddy.” She sat beside me.
I would have loved she stood up, though. This was more like a query, not a friendly chatter.
“Did you finish your school lunch?” Just trying hard to be calm about it. Was just gathering momentum.
“Yes, daddy. I finished everything.”
Stop beating around the bush. Just ask already! “How was your class assessment today?”
“It was fine.”
I was searching for details and she was hoarding information.
“You did all your work well and finished?”
You see, this question and answer method doesn’t work at all. One will just be getting ‘Fine’ ‘Yes daddy.’ That’s the problem with ‘repeat gist.’
“You got two stars?” Straight to the point.
“Yes!” Her face lit up.
I wasn’t moved.
She got up and did a ballet move. “I got two stars.”
I was thrown off. I didn’t get it. What was her joy about?
“I did very well, Mrs Alimat was so impressed with me.”
“Ifeoma got seven stars and Taiwo got eight?” My face was void of any inflection. I asked the question to knock her back to consciousness and probe the reason for her excitement.
“Yes.” She stood, arms akimbo and a big grin on her face.
“Ifeoma got seven, Taiwo got eight and you got two!” I stressed my point.
“Yes, daddy.” She stressed her answer too. “Because they did some moves that I don’t know yet.”
I was confused. “What moves?”
“You don’t understand?” She gave me a look that was just a tad bit beneath asking if I was dumb. “I got two stars in ballet class…ballet class!” She drawled and picked the word one after the other.
Clarity was setting in.
“It was in ballet class you got two stars?” I was stricken to silence.
“Yes now!” She resigned like I tired her out. She collapsed into the nearby sofa. “It was in ballet class I got two stars.”
It became clear as a whistle.
It was in ballet she got two stars not the academic class assessment. It made sense. It became clear as a whistle. Getting two stars was actually a big deal. She joined ballet class this term. Ifeoma and Taiwo had been in the ballet club for more than a year. It was understandable.
“But how did you do in your assessment.” I finally got my tongue back. I wasn’t too confident to admit I misjudged her result.
“Miss Ebele said I did well. But she hasn’t shown us our scores.” She got up and picked the remote control. “Please can I change the channel?” That could also mean, ‘please can we change the topic?’
“Okay.” I said shamefacedly.
Two stars sounded fantastic until I heard Ifeoma’s seven stars and Taiwo’s eight came up.
Two hundred thousand naira salary was quite comfortable until Oseni showed you his 800k paycheck.
Two-bed apartment was okay until you visited your colleague in his duplex and your jaw dropped.
Toyota Camry 2010 model was doing pretty fine until you closed from church and Ope greeted you from his Range Rover Sport.
Two stars sounded fantastic until I heard Ifeoma’s seven stars and Taiwo’s eight.
Comparison instigates competition and may drive performance but comparison is not healthy. And for a child comparison may suppress talent and damage personal growth. It was Karl Lagerfeld who said, ‘Personality begins where comparison ends.’
I bring repentance.
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