It was my turn to pick my daughter from school.
Even if she knew beforehand I would be coming it would in no way reduce her high octave excitement.
‘Daddy!’ She flew into my arms and I responded by throwing her up in the air three times.
‘I made cookies today at Cooking Club! I have some for you!’
‘You made cookies?! Nice! Thank you.’ I collected the pack of cookies and picked her bag from the floor.
‘But you can’t eat it yet until mummy sees it.’
Come on! I thought it was mine! Do I need ‘mummy’s’ permission to eat what is mine again?! ‘Okay. We will show mummy first.’ She waved her friends Bye and we walked to the car.
In that ten minutes’ drive she told me about one of her classmates’ parents who just had a baby boy. One of her teachers would be getting married soon. A boy in her class would be going to Dubai for the Christmas holiday. Another’s dad wasn’t talking to the mum and her best friend wasn’t allowed to go out to play because she didn’t do her homework. She was a chatterbox. Only school runs would afford you such headlines.
Only thing she didn’t say was how much of our own in-house stuff she divulged out there. Very scary.
‘Daddy, can Tracy and Joy come and spend the weekend with us?’
‘Ermm…let me talk to your mummy first, okay?’
We got home safely, and then she screamed immediately she opened the car door.
I thought the door hit her or something.
“We left Shawn!”
Shawn was our neighbour’s son. Shawn and Ayanfe came back from school together, every time. If we didn’t pick them, Shawn’s parents did. How could I have forgotten? And I was sure it was not the cookies. But why didn’t she remind me when we were still in the school? And why didn’t the nanny speak up too? My first reaction was to snap and put the blame on the two of them, especially as I was running late for an appointment.
The three of us stood for a seemingly long fifteen seconds. Guilt was writ large on Josephine’s face. Apparently, she was absolving the blame.
‘Don’t worry Aunty Josephine, my dad will go back and pick him.’ And she said that and just walked away.
That sounded like an instruction, not an appeal.
I checked the time; I was running out of time. I thought of calling Shawn’s parents to ask if they could help out but my daughter’s instruction or declaration was loud and clear – ‘my dad will go back and pick him!’
I sighed, dragged myself back into the car, honked for the gate man to open the gate again and went back to the school to get Shawn.
I couldn’t take that vote of confidence for granted. And it was important I honored that directive.
‘Where is Ayanfe?’ Shawn asked as I drove out of the school.
‘She’s at home.’ How was I supposed to explain to him that I forgot him? I left him to his thoughts. And he left me with mine.
Later that evening.
‘Ayanfe, go and bring your homework.’ My wife called from the dining table.
‘But I’ve done them and daddy has checked them.’
‘Go to your room then. I will join you soon.’ She joined me in the living room and handed me my phone. ‘You missed Gabriel’s call.’
‘Thanks. I will call him back.’
‘By the way, I was told you forgot Shawn in school today.’ She giggled.
‘She told you? Story of my life.’
‘Kpele. It actually occurred to me to call and remind you but I just dismissed the thought.’
‘Oh well…maybe you shouldn’t next time.’
‘Just a minute, I’ll be back shortly.’
Night bath? Check.
And the children in bed? Check.
‘I’m going to bed.’ My wife announced.
‘It’s a lie!! It’s 8pm and you’re going to bed?!’
She smiled. ‘Is there anything you want me to do for you?’
‘Nothing, nothing at all. I’m just amazed you’re retiring this early. That’s a testimony, right there!’
‘I’m not kidding. You know if it’s not 11pm or 12 midnight, the day hasn’t ended for you. So, this is a breaking news! I must testify, please.’
‘Nothing I haven’t done to make you go to bed early, you know.’
‘Yeah, I know. You’ve preached, you’ve fought, you’ve snapped and you’ve counseled. You even tried mood swings.’ She chuckled.
‘So you know. And none of them worked. So, what happened tonight?’ I lifted my head to hear her salvation story.
‘Maybe they worked but the timing was just not as you expected. Whatever! I’m going to bed.’ She gave Josephine some final instructions and said Goodnight.
8pm. Unbelievable! That was a first this year. And she wasn’t bluffing. She actually shut down everything, left me in the living room and went to bed. Having used all the tricks in the book, I would hate to admit, I truly gave up trying to make her sleep early. So it really felt rewarding that all the effort was finally working.
Ten minutes after that gratifying announcement I went to the room to pick a book I was reading.
I found my wife chatting on the phone with a friend. I loitered around for a few minutes to figure who was on the other end. It was a younger friend and from all I gathered she was just checking up on her just to know how she was doing. I picked the book and left the room.
Twenty minutes later, I was back in the room. My wife was seated comfortably in the recliner with her phone gummed to her ears in conversation with another friend. She was so engrossed in the gist I doubted she noticed or saw me. I gave her a long stare and left.
One hour after, I went to check her again. And she was still on the phone! I was livid. I restrained myself from snatching the phone from her.
‘Who is that?’
She put her palm over the microphone and whispered, ‘Tayo.’
Tayo is another younger friend. And Tayo is an expecting mum. I stood in front of her and asked her to end the call.
‘I was just checking up on her.’ She ended the call.
‘This is over one hour after you said Goodnight! And you are still not asleep. Busy checking on everybody in US, Germany, Afghanistan and Iraq! And soon you will be complaining about how tired you are! Get on the bed now and sleep, my friend!’
She didn’t utter a word. She rounded her mouth like a little child with that guilty look on her face. She slid from the recliner to the bed.
I packed all her phones, put them in my pocket and switched off the light. ‘Once in a while, you should ask yourself who is checking up on you!’
‘It’s you. And I’m grateful.’ She mumbled under the duvet.