The hamster and the monkey

“I’m going to name him ‘hamster’”, my sister Tawi declared.

“What? Why?” I asked incredulously.

“Only hamsters are that tenacious”, she replied cheekily

That makes sense: I thought.

Me: So, I have a monkey and a hamster for children?

Tawi: Yup, it’s not my fault, it’s just how they are Kitt.  And she was done with the conversation.

Me: OK.

We were talking about Keyo, Kendi’s 3 week old brother- cutest thing I ever did see. Sometimes he does this thing with his mouth when he’s stretching that makes his father think he looks like an old man- again, cutest thing in life. But this article is not about Keyo’s cute button nose, or his little duck shaped mouth, or his beautiful puppy dog eyes, it’s about his tenacity.

We started sleep training ‘The Hamster’ 3 nights after he born; the first night he was home from the hospital. Just like his sister before him, we agreed on what time his last feed of the night would be, and what time his first feed of the day would be, and begun.

Here is our strategy:

Step 1: Build trust

I feed him every 3 hours during the day come rain or high water. I wake him up if he’s asleep. I stop anything I’m doing. He needs to know exactly what is going to happen from one minute to the next. It has come to the point where, if he wakes up at 1:30 from a nap, he’ll patiently wait till 2 for his feed. He knows its coming. He’s not anxious. And his body has fallen into the rhythm with ease.

Step 2: Military grade nighttime routine

Every evening at exactly 6:15, I ask Ruth- Kendi’s and Keyo’s nanny- to put on the heater in my room. At 6:30, we go upstairs and run the hot water. I wash him at 6:45, massage him and feed him at exactly 7. No matter where we are (in the 3 weeks he’s been around, we’ve been to Naivasha and Rongai, but that’s a story for another day), this routine cannot change. Refer to step 1 above.

Step 3: Relax

‘Kitt, I love your calm’

‘You are the calmest mother I know’

‘I don’t think I have ever seen you flustered’

‘You were so calm when she fell, Kitt’

These are all things people have said to me and I have started to acknowledge it as part of my personality. Around children, I decided when Kendi was born, that is was God who takes care of them, and I can do my best but at some point, I will have to leave them with a stranger and trust that they’ll be alive when I get back. I am calm because I know that I cannot save them from the world…the world will still remain the most dangerous place to be.

And so, I relax when Keyo cries. I relax when Kendi falls and is bleeding profusely. I relax because thank God, they are not dead. They are just talking and hurting respectively. It’s a relief. I will panic when panic is in order, and not a moment earlier.

This calm, I strongly believe I transfer onto my children. And for that, I am grateful.

And the hamster is learning. He is as tenacious as Tawi said. We have had a few nights of sleeping through-out and several nights of waking up for a short periods. And I am more tenacious than the hamster!


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