By Iyen Obehighe—
My daughter’s faith in me is infinite. She is convinced that she can ask me any question under the sun and get a correct answer; that whenever she stretches her hands out to be carried, my hands will lift her; that if she falls ill, I will be by her side nursing her. She is convinced, in fact, that I am omnipotent!
Now all of that is not supposed to be a big deal, but when you look at the fact that I am the youngest child of my family, that both my parents are practically the youngest of their families as well, then you may better understand what having a child means to me, especially one of my own gender. Amongst other things, it means I have a companion for many years to come (at least until she is old enough to leave my house to attend to some part of her life). I have someone on whose life I can make a very direct–and hopefully positive–impact. I have someone to love, to cherish, to pray for and pray with and, above all, to nurture, Considering the way I feel, whenever I am not with my daughter, I cannot help but wax philosophical, and when I am with her, I feel so blessed.
Like every other toddler, my daughter loves mischief and has a thousand tricks up her sleeves. The way she enjoys emerging the victor whenever we play hide and seek (mind you, always at her instance) convinces me she truly derives fun whenever she gets the better of me. Unfortunately, I am not always up to the task and whenever she is excessively naughty, I give her a smack. Though I inwardly cringe when I apply the rod she does not know I feel as bad as she does.
Recently, I caught her standing on my laptop bag. Ordinarily, this may be a forgivable “crime” but when you realize that my laptop bag houses an innovative digital camera, my hard disk and flash drives, and some other delicate electronics, you will understand why anyone standing on it is sure to draw fire from me. Often, I have had to devise ways of making her understand that it is something she should not do. I have pleaded with her to stop. I have explained to her that she may spoil some stuff. I have glared at her till she shifted off, and I have also scolded her roundly. That day was a Sunday, so I told myself I had spared the rod enough, I had to do something serious in order not to spoil the child. I charged at her with my booming voice,
“Come down at once!” The volume of my voice does grave injustice to my size as my voice is better suited to that of a Sumo wrestler. She didn’t look at me at all.
“I’m talking to you,” I insisted. “Come down from that bag now.” She glanced at me and merely smiled.
I was approaching boiling point quickly. “How many times have I told you not to climb my laptop bag? I can see that you are becoming not only stubborn but very naughty! In fact, if you do not get down now, I will deal with you seriously,” I raved.
My daughter did not budge; she ignored me totally though she was just about an arm’s length away. That did it for me, I thought, after all, even Christ gave Saint Peter three chances, I couldn’t have done any better. I raised up my right hand and brought it down swiftly with a resounding thwack.
There, I said to myself, that will teach her to be good. She was still as though transfixed to the spot. I felt like hitting her again and looked at the bag to see how much damage she had done so I could accurately estimate the weight of the forthcoming blow. And then I saw it: the bag was on the floor quite alright, but there was no one on it. All the while, she had been standing on her toes. The guilt hit me like a wave sweeping me off my feet in the shallow waters of a sandy beach. My heart melted at the injustice of what I had done. I was too ashamed to apologise verbally. Instead, I stretched open my arms expecting her to jump into my embrace as she always did but she stood her ground, albeit smiling.
I swallowed my pride and tried again: “Come, my baby.”
Shaking her head slowly, she refused, all the while grinning. I was at a loss on what to do next. I looked at her. She spoke for the first time, “you beat me.” It was neither an accusation nor a rejection; it was a statement of fact uttered with a tinge of bewilderment. She looked at me questioningly and I knew that I needed to stoop in order to conquer. I decided to give in humbly.
“Yes, I hit you and I shouldn’t have. You were not on the bag. Sorry.’’
Her instant forgiveness was total. She ran into my arms and I carried her high, grateful that she did not even deem it fit to give me any penance. I would have gladly given her favourite drink or bribed her with a treat, but the innocence of children is unparalleled. She accepted my apology calmly and kissed me. Inadvertently, I had not gone to church that day, a Sunday. I took out the missal of the readings with a copy of The Word Among Us reflection booklet. It was the story of the prodigal son. I had always found it inexplicable that not only did the father receive the repentant son without punishing him, but that he went as far as looking down the road and anticipating his return. That day, it became very clear to me: my daughter’s warm embrace explained it perfectly, as well as, if not better, than the sermon I had missed.
Iyen Obehighe is a lawyer and has been a diplomat, banker, events manager, teacher, and businesswoman. Currently, she lives in Abuja with her husband and children.
Photograph: Internet Book Archive Images.
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