Kendi speaks very forcefully. Everything she says sounds like she’s shouting at you or commanding you. She doesn’t use her inside voice. It’s outdoors voice 24/7.
So I asked Martin last week, a bit carelessly, ‘surely, Kendi talks so forcefully, where is she getting that from? Do I speak like that?’ He didn’t even look up, his answer came too quickly, ‘yes honey, you do’. ‘Aarrgghhh’ was the only reply I could come up with.
Well, that there, kind of made Martin’s answer true. The child talks just like me- I spend the most time with her. She also keeps saying one word ,’Ai’. She says it so loudly and with so much vigor that I started to wonder if she had picked it up from the housekeeper exclaiming about something or another. Until one time I told her, ‘Kendi ai kanyo. Ai! Ai!‘ (Kendi, get out of that place. Get out! Get out!), I hadn’t realized that it was me influencing how she talks.
I say that so many times a day that I have started feeling like a security guard cum traffic cop. ‘Get out of there. Come here. Leave that alone. Hand that over. Put your hands up. Spread your legs.’ Next thing I know, I’m patting the child down and doing a full body search. I have to catch myself more than once a day.
Anyway, back to the talking- we went to an event last Sunday to hang out with family. As I’m speaking to one of my co-wives (Martin’s cousin’s wives are considered co-wives where I come from- because we ‘cook’ on the same fire), Kendi starts to shout at me and wriggle in my arms. Now, from experience I know that she’s not really upset and she’s simply trying to get my attention about something. That something, this time, meant ‘put me down mama, now!’ So I comply, because as you might imagine, hanging onto a wriggling 12kg, 11 month old is very difficult. And everything she says seems to end with ‘now!’ anyway.
So now, I am trying to moderate my tone a little. OK, a whole lot. I don’t need my child shouting at me. I want her to understand when to shout and when to whisper. If only to attend church in peace without the inevitable, ‘mama, I need to pee’ at the very top of her lungs.