Talking Up a Storm

“What’s wrong? Please, just tell me what’s wrong!” I remember crying to a wailing Slytherin Baby when she was only a few weeks old. The only answer I got was a renewed round of screaming.

“What’s wrong? Please, just tell me what’s wrong!” I was still crying a few years later. This time Slytherin Baby was able to answer.

“No! No! No! Don’t want! Don’t want! Don’t! Go away!” She screamed back. It turns out that having your kid learn to talk is nowhere near as useful as you would think.

It didn’t really surprise me that Slytherin Baby learned to speak quite early; after all, she was able to give me a pretty comprehensive bitching out the day after she was born. It was even less surprising when she refused to use her powers for good.

“Mommy, why is there a fish tank there?” yelled a voice over Daft Punk one morning on the way to school.

“Umm…” I struggled for a moment trying to balance my principle of encouraging a curious nature that will one day lead to rigorous academic and critical thinking, and the fact that a busy intersection at rush hour was not the perfect place to start searching for lost fish tanks.

“The fish tank!”

“Baba, I don’t think that there are any fish tanks here.”

“Yes, there is! There is a fish tank!” Slytherin Baby yelled indignantly. It turns out that once again, I had underestimated my daughter’s abilities.

“Oh! Darling that’s not a fish tank,” I told her, relieved that she hadn’t lost her marbles. “That’s a statue and they’ve put glass around it so that the pigeons don’t sit on her and make her dirty.” I decided that the discussion about vandalism from people could wait for a few years.


“Um, I just told you why. To keep the statue nice and clean.”

“No! Why her?”

“Kid, I don’t know what to tell you – the answer doesn’t change just because you keep asking.”

After a frustrating few minutes all around (and a couple of gestures to other drivers to ensure they were also included in the morning’s festive atmosphere) I finally figured out what the problem was. “You mean why is there a statue? Well, you see…” I floundered, wondering how to explain this one. For a moment I cursed not only the driver in front of me who couldn’t choose a lane, but also the pandemic and my fear of taking loud, unruly toddlers into church. “You see, we put up statues of important people. And that lady is an important lady . Her name is Mary. Go! The light is Green!”


“Well, you remember the Baby Jesus? Christmas is his birthday? Well, Mary is his mommy.”

“Oooh.” There was a reflective pause. “I like the Baby Jesus.”

“That’s good.” I was proud of my daughter for her religious enthusiasm, and myself for having introduced a theological concept while dodging the myriad idiots on the road. All without swearing!

“I used to push the Baby Jesus around in his pram when he was a little baby.”


“I was little too, but he was littler.”


“He was so happy.”

“Yes… Oh, look at that bus!”

“He was so so happy that I pushed him in his pram.”

“That’s right. Look, here’s school,” I replied weakly. For a moment I wondered if I should beg Slytherin Baby, or the Baby Jesus, that she not mention any of this to her teacher.

“I’m going to push my baby doll in the pram,” Slytherin Baby told me importantly as she marched towards to school gate.

It turns out, I shouldn’t have prayed for that. The picture that was sent home was of Slytherin Baby holding up a plastic glass from a picnic set. A plastic glass that she apparently asked to be filled with wine!

“I’m sorry; I have no idea where she would ever get that from,” I half laughed, half groaned to the teacher at pick up time. The teacher, who has met my daughter, and knows me, laughed heartily.

“Don’t worry. There were other children who asked for champagne because they were champagne glasses,” she reassured me.

“Well, now I’m not only embarrassed by her alcoholic tendencies, but by her uncultured alcoholic tendencies.”

“Mommmeeee! Come! I want to watch ‘Paw Patrol'”


School Daze

Throw back to Slytherin Baby’s first day of school last year

“I’m doing this for your own good,” I told Slytherin Baby who looked at me askance. “You’ll have lots of friends to play with.” Slytherin Baby threw her dolly on the floor in disgust. “You’ll have new toys to play with.” Slytherin Baby threw her dummy on the floor. “I promise, I’m only thinking of you. This is not so that mommy can have a few hours each morning to do some work and not lose her mind.”

“Lose her mind,” Slytherin Baby replied bending down to retrieve her dummy.

“Don’t repeat that at school please.”

“Repeat at school,” she chanted back at me, inspecting her dummy closely. “Wash the dummy!” She ordered holding it out to me.

“Yeah, I’m definitely sending you to school for you and not me.”

And so it was that Slytherin Baby was packed off to her first day of school. She eyed me doubtfully as I handed her over to The Teacher, but was successfully lured away with the promise of a dolly. I totally didn’t need the tissues The Teacher pressed on me as I left with a promise to Slytherin Baby that she would have a good day, I just had some dust in my eye.

“How did today go?” Himself asked that evening.

“Very well,” I replied. “I went to the shops and I finally managed to find a pair of shoes that aren’t slops. You know, to put in the back of the cupboard in the unlikely event the pandemic ever ends and I can go back into work.”

“I was actually talking about Slytherin Baby,” he said as she strode into the room.

“Who there? Daddy!” she roared, lunging for him.

“Ahh, well. She stayed at school long enough for me to go to the shops and buy a pair of shoes.”

“So, not great?” he asked. “Wait what did she just say?”

“She’s just going through a bit of pronoun confusion; ‘upy you’ means ‘pick me up’,” I explained. “I’m pretty sure…

“Did you have a good first day of school?” Himself gurgled at his daughter, who looked at him and pointed at the front door.


“Yeah, that’s what the school said,” I muttered. “Hopefully this won’t be the first of many days that she gets sent home.”

“Did she have a really bad day?” he asked bouncing her on his hip.

“No, she was actually very brave; she stayed nearly the whole day. She just needs to get used to it.”

“Go outside!” Slytherin Baby ordered.

“The Teacher says Slytherin Baby is ‘very verbally astute’,” I reported.

“‘Verbally astute’? That sounds good,” Himself replied, smiling at Slytherin Baby.

“Hmmm,” I murmured skeptically.

“Put down!” yelled Slytherin Baby, giving up on anyone actually taking her where she needed to go.

“She said that a lot today apparently,” I sighed.

“Isn’t verbally astute good?” he asked.

“It’s teacher talk; I happened to be fluent in teacher tal – ”

“Go outside!” interrupted Slytherin Baby, yelling at the closed door.

“And she also said that a lot today,” I muttered opening the door and catching her as she tripped on the door mat.

“So what does it mean?” Himself followed us out of the door and reached over to rescue an orchid from her snatching hands.

“It means she runs her mouth a lot.”

“Well, hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for her,”

“Yeah, hopefully,” I sighed. “I’m sure it’ll be better for Slytherin Baby too.”

As it turned out, Slytherin Baby stayed the full morning on her second morning.

“Brave girl!” exclaimed Himself.

“She was very brave,” I smiled.

“The Teacher!” sang Slytherin Baby and she leapt into Himself’s arms.

“No,” I explained. “That’s Daddy.”

Himself looked at me quizzically as Slytherin Baby inspected him, sighed, and then patted his rather hairy cheek in a conciliatory gesture.

“She adores her teacher. In fact, I think she has claimed The Teacher as her own personal property.”

“That’s good. She just needs to get used to the whole going to school thing. I mean she lasted the whole morning today,” Himself said.

“You’re right. Of course, we’ll just have to see how tomorrow goes when no one has a birthday and there aren’t any cupcakes.”

“Another early day?” Himself asked when phoned at lunchtime on the third day and heard what was either a feral cat attacking a parrot, or Slytherin Baby screeching in the background.

“The Teacher said she was a little teary, but overall, she had a good day. She just didn’t want to push it the first week,” I explained. “Which I mean makes sense, sometimes teachers just need to cry and the best thing to do is send the kids home.”
“Daddy?” said Slytherin Baby, snatching the phone from me. “Hello!” she yelled into the phone. “Hello!” She listened for a moment to her daddy telling her she was such a good girl, then pulled the phone away from her ear to inspect the screen.

“Ta for mommy!” I told her firmly, holding my hand out.

Slytherin Baby glanced at me, then went back to the phone. She pressed the big red button that shone up at her so invitingly.

“Slytherin Baby!” I exclaimed.

“Bye-bye!” she yelled at the screen before handing the phone back to me. “Lunch!”

“The Teacher,” Slytherin Baby said that evening as I rocked her to sleep.

“No, I’m mommy. You know, the one who gave birth to you.”

“The Teacher?” she repeated.

“Oh,” I suddenly understood. Every evening for the past three evenings I had told her she would be going to play with The Teacher when she woke up. “No. Tomorrow you’ll be staying with Mommy the whole day,” I explained, patting her back gently.

“Mommy,” Slytherin Baby said, reaching up to hook her arms around my neck.

“That’s right, your Mommy,” I murmured hugging her just a little bit closer.  

A Walking, Talking Blessing in Disguise

And just like that, we have a walkie-talkie. This is turning out to be a bit of a mixed blessing. One the one hand, it’s wonderful to see Slytherin Baby growing and exploring her world, seeing her enthusiasm for discovery, and getting a free work out as I run after her trying to protect the few possessions she hasn’t gotten her destructive mitts on yet. On the other hand, the potential for her embarrassing her mother has grown exponentially.

Now I surround myself with some lovely women who are Very Good Moms. They are the sort of good moms who pack delicious snacks for their kids. Sadly I have enough difficulty producing meals for the family, snacks are just something that happen when there’s no real food in the house. Fortunately (or unfortunately!) now that Slytherin Baby is both mobile and verbal, she can sort the problem of snacks out for herself.

On the playground Slytherin Baby was strutting around like a mini-Attila the Hun inspecting the troops when she heard the unmistakable sound of lunchbox being opened. Showing hitherto unseen dexterity she whipped round and bellied over to my friend, the Mom-I -Wish-I-Could-Be, craning her little Slytherin neck like a velociraptor to inspect the contents of the snack that the mom had loving prepared for her own child. In a display of kindness that one would expect from the Mom-I-Wish-I-Could-Be, she offered the box to Slytherin Baby, who snatched a sandwich with no hint of a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ and ambled off to conquer another part of the playground in the Name of Slytherin Baby.

It took only a few minutes for Slytherin Baby to strut back over, steamrolling three or four littlies in her haste to swop down and scoop up the last sandwich before marching off to continue her reign of terror.

“Sorry,” I apologized weakly. “I can’t offer to reciprocate for your child, but I can promise to give you a good Gin and Tonic next time we have a playdate at my house.”

A few minutes later, you guessed it, she strode back to the Mom-I-Wish-I-Could-Be like a returning king and poked her nose back into the snack box. She prodded around before glaring at the mom.

“Bread!” she demanded.

With the patience of 10 saints the Mom-I-Wish-I-Could-Be offered her all sorts of other treats that she had packed specifically for her child. The little horror turned her nose up at them all and stormed off with her injured dignity to find yet more ways to embarrass her mother.

“Make that 2 Gin and Tonics,” I muttered, my head in my hands, while the other mothers laughed.

When I later related the story to the Best Friend she nodded sagely. “There’s only one way to deal with this; you need to find a child who behaves even worse than yours and has a mother who is more incompetent than you.”

“That’s the problem! There are no children worse, or mothers more incompetent! My child is that child! And I am that mother!”

Without missing a beat the Best Friend said, “That’s wonderful! Think of what a blessing you are to all the moms around you. You make them feel so much better about themselves. That’s an awesome thing to do for others!”

“You hear that baby?” I said to Slytherin Baby. “We’re a blessing to those around us.”

Slytherin Baby looked up from the pile of books she had pulled off the bookcase and spat out the one she was currently chewing on.

“Mama!” she squealed, a dust bunny hanging from her lips, as she flung herself at me, smacking her face against mine and smearing dust and spit all over my cheek. I hugged her back. “Definitely a blessing!”

Slytherin in Love

“Watch this,” I said to Himself one evening while I tried to convince Slytherin Baby to put the carrots into her mouth. “Where’s Hufflepuff Kid?”

“Huff?” asked Slytherin Baby, pausing in her effort to put a carrot in her ear. “Huff?!”

“Still can’t say his name, huh?”

“Well, she’s not even a year old,” I defended her, “and it’s quite a long name.”

“Huff!” Slytherin Baby demanded banging her tray and sending peas across the kitchen.

“This is a bit mean, isn’t it?” Himself asked as he reached out to stop Slytherin Baby toppling over as she craned around in her highchair to see to the front door.

I shrugged as I fished peas out of my gin and tonic. “I can’t always tell right from wrong when I start my day being woken up at 4am with a wet little hand on my face and a voice screeching ‘Peepee!’”


Hufflepuff Kid lives next door to the Grandparents in their apartment complex and there is only one, little, seldom-closed garden gate that separates him from the wonders of the Grandparents’ house. Wonders that include a treat-stocked kitchen and a traditional Portuguese Grandfather. “They wouldn’t ask for something if they weren’t hungry” he assures me as Slytherin Baby and Hufflepuff Kid cluster around his feet, all but holding begging bowls, as he opens the biscuit cupboard.

“Ok, but why do you have dog biscuits? You don’t have a dog. Do I need to be looking into nursing homes?”

“Hufflepuff Kid has a dog,” he tsks as if it’s the most obvious reason in the world.

“And why- Oh, good grief, now there’s a hadeda in your kitchen.”

“They normally get supper at 5. You’ve made me late. It’s coming,” he adds to the bird who ruffles its feathers and stalks back outside.

Other wonders include a large garden strewn about with push-bikes, balls, dolls, and assorted action figurines dragged out of retirement at the top of the cupboard for a new life of being chewed, bitten and bashed about by the next generation.

But, without question, the holy grail of the Grandparents’ House is the birdbath. The birdbath is a flat rock with a hollowed-out center, just about the size and shape of toddler’s bum, and filled with very suspect, very murky water. There is a regular birdbath in the garden, and that will do, but both birds and babies far prefer the slimy rock water.

Hufflepuff Kid’s only obstacle to this Nirvana is the gatekeeper – Slytherin Baby. At the first hint of a rattle at the gate Slytherin Baby freezes, then whips her face round, nose pointed to the source of her prey like a hunting dog.

“Stay!” The Grandmother commands Slytherin Baby. “Go let him in,” she commands me.

“Isn’t he over here quite a lot? Don’t you guys ever want a break?”

The Grandmother takes a moment to survey her living room, covered in fingerpaint, books with slightly ripped pages, battered cars, a broken drum and a teddy bear trapped on top of a bookcase which should be far too tall for Slytherin Baby to be able to reach. “You think he’s going to disturb my quite retirement?”

“Point taken. I’ll let him in.”

At the gate Hufflepuff kid hesitates, Slytherin Baby hovers in the doorway, waiting for him to make his move.

“Go on,” I encourage him. “She’s bigger than you, but you’re faster.”

After another tense second, he’s off. Slytherin Baby takes after him. Hufflepuff Kid can run, while Slytherin Baby’s still crawling; but she can cut the corner and head him off.

For a moment I watch indulgently, until I realize where they’re headed. “No!”

The Grandmother comes outside to watch Hufflepuff Kid racing to the sludge water, Slytherin Baby crawling for all she’s worth after him and me chasing them both.

I fling myself in front of the rock of disease, blocking him off. For a moment he hesitates, then turns to the less fun, but still water-filled birdbath on the other end of the garden. Slytherin Baby stops and eyes me; trying to decide if she can take me. While we stare at each other and a tumbleweed blows past, Hufflepuff Kid stops and looks back.


Slytherin Baby glances between me and her man. Hesitates. Then, “Huff!” she squeals and starts after him again. Relieved, Hufflepuff Kid starts running away again.

Mother’s Day in Lock Down

A throw back to last year – a first Mother’s Day spent in hard lock down!

“Mother’s Day,” I said to Himself’s back.

“Hmm?” he replied, carefully laying the briquettes on the braai, because it was Friday night, and even if we only had each other, we were going to be social dammit.

“It’s Mother’s Day coming up. Soon.”

Himself glanced at me and his beard, which has been growing since the start of lockdown and has achieved sentience, stroked itself thoughtfully.

“I know.”

“You need to get me something.”

“I know,” he sounded offended.

“And it can’t be a slab of chocolate.”

“Bu–”, The Beard clapped a hand over his mouth, just in time.

“Well, what do you want?” he mumbled around The Beard.

 “I don’t know – a drink that doesn’t taste of pineapple?”

“Not for another 2 levels at least.” He thought for a moment. “You know they’re only selling essential goods,”

“Oh, trust me, Mother’s Day gifts are essential!”

“I don’t know what to tell Himself to get me for Mother’s Day,” I told a friend over the phone, keeping half an eye on Slytherin Baby’s attempts to escape the house.

“How’s this for a crazy idea – why don’t you let him get you a gift.”

“But he’s an engineer.”

“Ah,” replied the friend knowingly.

“Yip,” I said, grabbing Slytherin Baby off the burglar bars. “If you want something thoughtful and practical to make your life easier, he’s your man. But if you want the perfect romantic gesture to put on Facebook, then maybe not.” Slytherin Baby wriggled free and made another dash for freedom.

“Here’s another crazy idea; why don’t you just forget the perfect Facebook gesture?” asked my annoyingly sensible friend.

“The thing is we all know I’m not a Facebook mother; after all nobody thinks for one moment that I bought that yeast to bake bread. But it’s my first Mother’s Day as a mom, I just want to feel like I’m killing it for one day.”

“Look –” the friend started, no doubt about to tell me something boring and wise.

“Oh damn,” I interrupted, “I got to go. Slytherin Baby is devouring my books.”

“Isn’t she a bit young to be reading?”

“Reading?” I asked, then dropped the phone to go rescue my book from my kid’s mouth.

“So, what do I want?” I asked Slytherin Baby later as she tested out her crawling skills by crashing headlong into walls and squeezing under couches.

“I would love to say that being your mom is reward enough,” I said as I pulled Slytherin Baby out from under the couch by her ankle. “I mean I will say that on Facebook, above a beautiful picture of the three of us.” Slytherin Baby glared at me; her mouth firmly shut. “If I can actually get a nice photo of us, that is,” I stuck a finger in her mouth to fish out the dust bunny she was chewing on. “But let’s be honest,” I carried on, as Slytherin Baby screamed and tried to bite me, “Mommy needs a reward.”

“Prepare to be amazed,” Himself declared triumphantly. “I have decided to tell you what your present is now so you can look forward to it all week.”

“You got my list?” I asked anxiously as I tried to think of anything that I could maintain excitement over for a week. “I even alphabetized it to help with your engineering sensibilities.”

“I ignored it completely; you didn’t really want any of that stuff anyway.”

The Beard shrank back as I opened my mouth.

“Here,” he said quickly, shoving stuff into my hands.

“Oh. Wow. My oldest pjs. And look, a laptop. That I already own. You really, really shouldn’t have.”

 “Well, I was thinking about it –”

“Clearly not very hard.”

“And I know you wanted a perfect Facebook photo, but we’re not a Facebook family. What you really want is a day off. So Slytherin Baby and I are going to spend the day bonding and you can lie in bed all day napping and watching series and not doing anything.”

“But when people ask –” At that moment Slytherin Baby took her dummy out of her mouth and lovingly tried to shove it into mine.

“You’re right,” I told her as I wiped gob off my cheek, “Real-life perfect is way better than Facebook perfect.”

Leaning into Life

“Slytherin Baby has discovered boys,” I informed Himself.

Himself whipped his head around. “Do I need to get involved and do some protecting?”

“On one hand, he probably does needs protecting; on the other hand, Hufflepuff Kid needs to learn to stick up for himself.”

We all know that moms babies need to socialize and see others of their own kind and generally not be reclusive shut-ins who endlessly sing nursery rhymes who have nursery rhymes endlessly sung to them. So I encourage the neighbourhood Hufflepuff Kid to bring his mom and visit Slytherin Baby.

Hufflepuff Kid was born to be a surfer. Everything from his white blond hair, to his incredibly wide smile, to his general air of chill, just begs to one day be sitting on a beach with a surfboard and a gaggle of adoring fans.

He already practices his chill charm when I plonk him down on one corner of the lounge mat and hand him a stuffed dinosaur; he flashes me a wide, gummy smile as he gently tugs on the tail of the dinosaur and my heart melts.

I placed Slytherin Baby on the opposite side of the mat with her own toys because I am they are not ready to deal with the whole “sharing” thing.

Slytherin Baby took the stuffed rabbit I gave her, yanked on its ear, gave it an experimental shake, shot me a dirty look and threw it away in favour of a rattle. It was while she was hitting her teddy with the rattle that she looked up and noticed Hufflepuff Kid gently shaking his dinosaur. For a moment she contemplated him; then with an excited squeak she threw herself forward and, in an uncharacteristically coordinated move, caught herself before she faceplanted, then she twisted, turned and turned again with a grace she did not normally display and landed up in front of Hufflepuff Kid, who looked politely terrified. With a delighted squeal, she reached and grabbed his hair, looking around at me proudly, as if to say, “Look what I got!”

“No, no, no!” I told her as I rushed to save Hufflepuff Kid from her grabby little hands. “That’s not how you chase boys,” I explained as I disentangled her fingers from his hair.

“Rawh dwa!” she exclaimed indignantly.

“You can chase them,” I replied, “but you can’t just grab them.” Hufflepuff Kid smiled his thanks.

I have a feeling I will be having a variation of this talk a lot with Slytherin Baby over the years. The thing is, Slytherin Baby does not do anything by half measures, whether it be eating, fighting sleep, shaking her toys or showing affection, Slytherin Baby leans completely into life.

When Slytherin Baby doesn’t want to do something, she screams, arches, screws up her face and generally does her best Linda Blair impersonation.

But when she’s happy, she’s equally demonstrative. She has the sort of smile that lights up a room and the kind of laugh that makes you want to double check if she’s laughing or if a teddy bear is being tortured.

She’s equally enthusiastic when she shows affection. Having been born with a mop of hair and a ridiculously kissable face, Slytherin Baby has learned that when you want to show love or affection or general approval, you run your fingers through someone’s hair or you put your mouth against their cheek. But Slytherin Baby does not just put her fingers in your hair in some wimpy attempt to show vague approval; no, she hooks her little fingers into your hair and yanks in an unbridled display of deep affection. Similarly, not for Slytherin Baby is the weak sauce version of kissing where you gently place your closed mouth in the vague vicinity of a cheek. No, Slytherin Baby lunges for you and smacks her wide-open mouth against your face – the more gob, the more love.

“Somehow I don’t see you sitting at home on Saturday nights for the rest of your life waiting for a boy to call you,” I murmured to my baby as I rocked her to sleep that night. Slytherin Baby stopped trying to climb over the back of the rocker to grab the gecko on the wall and reached out to pull my hair.

“I know,” I told her, as I kissed her check. “I love you too.”

The Art of (Not) Shopping

Whenever I send Himself to the shops, I find myself flummoxed by the notion that men managed to conquer the world.Himself has an incredible intelligence that manifests itself in many ways – he is able to do long sums in his mind, understand impossible scientific theories and do scary things like balancing spreadsheets and doing taxes; the only thing it seems he cannot do is go shopping for me.

Ancient man got into tiny wooden boats and left land to set sail across a vast ocean in the feeble hope that they would find, well, land. Modern man battles to buy four potatoes without a lengthy consult and at least two “double checks”. This concept baffled me until I realised that ancient man was probably just trying to get out of going to the market. I now image that the conversation went something like:

“Honey, next time you travel to town on manly business, can you please stop at the market and pick up a few things -”

“I’m sorry, darling. I can’t go to the market. I have to… um… subdue a local people and take their land.”

“But we have land…”

“More land… er… more potatoes, for the market. Hush, woman! Speak not of what you don’t understand. You will have to go shopping yourself.”

Now, modern man cannot, of course, just run off willy nilly and take someone’s land; there are pesky law things and it is illegal. Unless you own an army – then it’s war.  So, modern man has had to come up with some other way to subvert the feminine expectation of men shopping.

I have conducted in -depth research (coffee with the girls) and I have realised that all men seem to employ a similar technique, which leads me, naturally, to the logical assumption that there is an international male conspiracy. I imagine that there is a Secret International Symposium where husbands from all corners of the globe gather together around a big, manly table and drink single malt whiskey and chew on manly cigars and put their muddy feet on the table.

The topic for discussion this year is shopping – more specifically, how to get out of it. One young buck – clearly new to this whole business, bangs his whiskey glass on the table (without a coaster) and roars, “We should just say No!” There’s a quite mutter of approval from the other young upstarts around the table, some of whom defiantly place their glasses next to their coasters too.

“No, no,” says an elegant older man, gently. “This will never do.”

“Quite so,” murmurs another silver-haired fox, neatly tipping his ash into an ashtray. “This will lead to a decrease in the quality of the cooking.”

Another experienced husband nods sagely. “Yes, this will also lead to a decrease in all the other fun things marriage has to offer. We must make her believe that the whole idea was hers to start with.”

“And how do we do that?” snaps the upstart.

“We employ the dishwasher technique.”

The more henpecked among the husbands look confused.

“You might know it as the tea method? No? well, you do a job for her with as much sincerity and love as you can find in your heart – and you do it badly. She cannot therefore be angry with you for your heart is pure, but neither will she allow you to do the task again for she has compromised enough by getting married at all. She will brook no further sacrifices in the realm of her kitchen.”

One young man, more thoughtful than the rest, nods slowly. “But how,” he asks, “does one go about shopping sincerely but badly? And surely this will lead to the aforementioned decrease in the quality of the food?” The men exchange nervous glances – this meeting was meant to make their lives better.

The young upstart receives a message on his phone – the strident beep of a wife’s message in the middle of the night. He manfully ignores it.

“Yes. She gives you a list and you don’t get exactly what’s on the list and she’s angry with you,” mutters one young buck bitterly – the memory apparently still fresh.    

“That’s it,” smiles the wily old-timer. “You love her so much that you only want the very, very best for her and you must get her exactly what she asks for!”

There’s a low murmur of consternation.

“But how…?”

“You must phone her, as often as you can. Send her photos of the produce; declare you need her expertise and guidance. Consult her continuously.”

The silver-fox nods wisely. “She will be unable to fault you, for you care; however, she will feel so frustrated she will find it easier to just go to the shops herself – her cunning feminine wiles leading her directly to the produce she wants with little or no thought necessary.”

“But what if she wants us to go with her so she can teach us?” says a young one fretfully.

“Then you must put the produce back and say it is too expensive. Argue with her over every treat she picks up and suggest cheap and nasty alternatives.”

“But won’t that lead to the decrease in the quality -”

“No.  She will go back without you, in defiance.”

“But what if she -”

“Then,” says the old-timer firmly, “You must stop pretending not to know that she buys new clothes, cuts the tags off them and puts them in the back of the cupboard, where she has ‘had them forever’.”

The experienced crowd nod wisely. The young bucks look startled.

The Young Upstart opens his mouth to argue when his phone beeps impatiently. Then again, twice. The international signal of an angry wife. Young bucks and wily old timers alike quickly stub out their cigarettes and down their whiskeys and scuttle out to their cars – trying to look manly. Their work done for another year.


A Toothy Problem

“We need to talk”. Commonly held as the most terrifying phrase in the English language. Of course, in recent times, it has been replaced with the phrase “Dear fellow South Africans”.

But I will say this in their defense – it is possible for something harmless or even good to follow. For example, “We need to talk. For Christmas this year let’s not visit family – let’s go on a cruise instead.” Or, “Dear fellow South Africans, you can stop buying pineapples and yeast now.”

But there is one phrase that has never been followed by anything good. One phrase that all pregnant women and new moms know and dread all too well. Even worse than, “Let me tell you about my birth story,” or “Let me show you how to do that.” It is the dreaded, “Just wait until…”

I first encountered the gleeful cackle of the Voice of Doom barely minutes after my pregnancy made itself known. As I hunched miserable and green over a toilet, bitterly regretting my decision to eat breakfast, a voice cheerfully sailed over the toilet stall door, “Just wait until you’re eight months pregnant, you won’t be able to kneel down like that!”

“Oh, you think you’re tired now,” another crone of misery laughed as I hauled eight months of pregnancy, a laptop and a bag of unmarked essays up three flights of stairs, “just wait until you have a newborn.”

“Just wait until she can roll over.”

“Just wait until she can crawl.”

“Just wait until she can walk.”

“Just wait until she can talk.”

“Just wait until she’s a teenager.”

That last one I don’t mind so much because apparently when you have a teenager you don’t have to carry it on your hip everywhere and when they throw a tantrum instead of screaming and kicking you in the middle of a crowded shop they slam their doors and leave you alone for hours.

But without a doubt, the most common and the most terrifying forewarning was, “Just wait until she’s teething!” Teething, I was assured, was a process that would take my sweet little angle and turn into a little imp overnight; it would turn her sweet, good-natured days into a marathon of whining and crying, and her nights from hours of blissful slumber to a never-ending cycle of pacing and crying. Apparently she would cry all night too. She would drool, cry, get diarrhea, have a fever, bite everything and we would no longer be accepted in polite society ever again.

The mommy discussion groups would measure the progress of teething the way teenage girls follow the love-lives of boy bands. “His gums are enflamed; there are at least two on the way.” “She’s been so niggly – she must be teething.” “He’s gobbing and biting, they’ll be through any day now.” “I can feel a hard lump; we’ll be getting our tooth any day now.”

I tried to keep up with measuring Slytherin Baby’s progress, I really did. The problem was her gums always looked reddish pink and whenever she bit me those gums felt pretty damn hard. So, I decided I would find out by her behavior. I looked at Slytherin Baby every day, waiting for her to turn into a little angle so that she could become a horror when she started teething. And I did see her turn from a smiling babbling little cherub, the sort that is featured on nappy adverts into a grumpy little tyrant. The only problem was I saw this change happen several times a day. Every day.

In the end the only way I knew that Slytherin Baby was actually teething was when I noticed two little teeth sticking out her gums.

“That’s why she’s been so crabby lately!” I exclaimed to Himself.

“She has?” he asked as we watched her lean over and start gnawing on my shoe.

“Yes. All those times she’s been a screaming misery, that’s not her personality – that was just teething!” I grinned at him in relief.

“She’s been teething for the past four months?”

And that is how I discovered the unexpected upside of teething. I suddenly had an excuse for all the times Slytherin Baby was cranky!

“Sorry, teething,” I explained to the judgmental old lady in the queue at the bank as Slytherin Baby wailed and smacked my face.

“Teething,” I shrugged at the baby class as Slytherin Baby glared stone faced at the proffered toy before smacking it away.

“Teething?” asked a sympathetic mom friend as Slytherin Baby tired to knock over my coffee, dropped her dummy on the floor and howled at the baby next to her.

“Nah,” I admitted. “She’s just being a jerk.


A Slytherin Princess

“You cannot take the pram on this section of the tour,” the Spanish tour guide told me, looking doubtfully at Slytherin Baby and me.

“No problem,” I replied through slightly gritted teeth.

Himself and I were trying to take a tour of the Alcazar, one of Spain’s famous palaces. When we had first approached the castle, Slytherin Baby leant forward, head cocked, eyes wide as she stared in fascination at the carvings on the wall; soaking in the atmosphere like a seasoned traveler. I was so proud. Slytherin Baby seemed to be getting a real taste for international travel.

And then we entered the palace.

“I am afraid you cannot take a crying baby on the tour.” The tour guide seemed to be trying to sound apologetic while he watched Slytherin Baby flail, arch, scream and grab at the heavy brocade curtains that lined the windows.

“No problem,” I repeated as I dodged one of her kicks, tried to unwind the pram strap that had somehow managed to get snagged around my neck and unhook Slytherin Baby from the curtains she was now trying to climb like a cat confronted with medication.

“The tour starts in two minutes.”

“No problem,” I hissed, trying to contort my kid into the baby sling, while she did her best Jackie Chan impression – kicking, punching and screaming incoherently.

“What can I do?” asked Himself, hovering over us.

“Dummy!” I ordered.

Slytherin Baby grabbed a hunk of my hair and yanked.

“Where did you put the dummy? I don’t know where to look!”

I muttered a suggestion of where he might like to start looking.

“I cannot hold the tour for you, we must start on schedule,” insisted the tour guide.

I dropped the baby sling, clamped my squalling infant firmly under my arm, reached my free hand into the nappy bag and produced the dummy. I glared at my husband, my child and the tour guide in turn. The men backed away; Slytherin Baby open her mouth to yell at me some more. I pushed the dummy into her mouth and held it there, stifling her next round of complaints.

I slid into the back of the tour group, separated from Himself by a gaggle of Americans, just in time to hear the story of the Portuguese queen who had lived there hundreds of years before. Slytherin Baby and I looked at each other.

“Don’t even think about it,” I hissed. “You might be Portuguese, you might have the same name, but you are not a queen.” Slytherin Baby merely looked down her regal little nose at me.

For the next twenty minutes I had one hand clamped firmly around my daughter who wriggled, arched and craned around, trying to see everything she could, and the other hand alternatively trying to keep the dummy in her mouth and stop her grabbing priceless artifacts. I tried not to take it personally that the palace’s security guard trailed us like an unamused shadow, watching my daughter’s grabby little hands.

Slytherin Baby’s larceny tendencies aside, we didn’t seem to be disturbing anyone too much. Until we entered the portrait gallery. Here the tour guide started to tell us more about the life of the queen. I relaxed my grip for half a second and Slytherin Baby managed to spit her dummy onto the floor. Checking quickly to see if Himself or the Americans had noticed, I dove down to pick it up, brushed it twice against my pants and was about to shove it back in her mouth when Slytherin Baby, glaring at the guide, suddenly screamed, “Bwwaa, raaah, GHA!”

“Stop it!” I hissed, trying to move backwards away from the group, but found my way blocked by a bunch of unamused Germans.

“Gwee, maa –”

I shoved the dummy back in her mouth and whispered furiously, “Don’t you dare use those words!”, convinced my daughter had just been cussing in baby talk.

The tour guide shot Slytherin Baby a nervous look, which she returned with a black glare, and he hurried to the next room.

“Ghwa dah,” she muttered softly, staring at a portrait of the queen and her family as the security guard and I followed the group.

“Well that was fascinating,” said Himself, when we ended the tour and entered the courtyard.

“Bwwaa, raah, gha,” I muttered under my breath and shoved Slytherin Baby back into her pram. She alternated between glaring at the tourists and staring at the fountain in the center of the courtyard.

“What was that?” Himself asked.

“Nothing,” I replied. “Do you believe in reincarnation?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“No reason,” I replied, looking at Slytherin Baby, who was gazing wistfully at the castle entrance.

This article was written for and originally posted on the BabyYumYum website here

Travelling with a Slytherin

“Well, did any of those articles about tips for traveling with a baby help you?” Himself asked as we boarded the plane in Dubai for our last leg of the journey home. I juggled a baby, a baby bag, a handbag, my hand luggage; trying to remember which went into the overhead bin.

“Um,” I thought about it for a minute, or I tried to think. Fourteen hours of running through airports, shushing a baby and trying to get said baby to vomit on the arm of the man who encroaching onto my half of the armrest had done a number on my brain power. “I don’t think so.”

“Maybe you can write your own tips for traveling with a baby,” he suggested.

“I don’t know,” I murmured, trying to get the baby’s bottle into her mouth, for some reason neither were cooperating. “Did I really learn anything that would honestly help anyone else?”

“You could always write a-what-not-to-do,” Himself said, taking the bottle away from me, taking off the lid and handing it back to the kid.

“Gah!” Slytherin Baby exclaimed in agreement.

“Everyone’s a critic,” I muttered looking around desperately for an airhostess

“They don’t bring the drinks around till we take off,” Himself told me helpfully.

So, despite my child’s scepticism, here are some of the things I learned from two weeks traveling through Portugal and Spain with Slytherin Baby. For what it’s worth.

1: This is the perfect time to visit family who are considerate enough to live overseas.

Apparently if you don’t have to get up every night, deal with every tantrum and change every pooey nappy, babies are cute and people want to hold them. Especially family members. This means that you have access to people who are dying to hold your child and play with them. I was able, for the first time in a long time, to have a shower from start to finish without running through the house shivering and covered in soap suds to comfort a screaming baby (Slytherin Baby has excellent timing when it comes to tantrums). I was also able to sit down and drink a cup of hot coffee.

If I would make a suggestion, it would be to try to keep track of who has your baby: this helps avoid awkward conversations.

“Where’s our child?” asked Himself when he came across me sitting in a square, enjoying a cup of coffee.

“Er,” I glanced around the square vaguely. “Tia has her somewhere around here.”

“Which Tia? And where?”

“One of them. Don’t worry, they all know what they’re doing. And more importantly, this cup of coffee is hot. Try one…” I waved the cup tantalisingly under his nose. He bit his lip and looked around; his overprotective fatherly instinct warring with his need for hot coffee.

The coffee won.

  2: Babies have an innate sense of timing.

We all know that babies are going to pitch an incredible fit at the most inopportune time. They won’t freak out when you’re walking through an open park with plenty of benches and open spaces, nor will they do it when you’re at home, surrounded by family members to help you. No, they will wait until you are crammed onto a bus. A really hot bus. For a very long time. They will wait until the moment the doors close for a forty minute trip before they screw up their faces, yowl, arch their backs, levitate and spin their heads a hundred and eighty degrees. And you will be forced to clutch your squalling, possessed offspring while all two hundred tourists packed onto the bus glare at you, as you unite people of all languages and creeds in their mutual disdain of your inability to parent your child.    

Of course, if like me, you have a Slytherin Baby, this is not the only time you can expect your child to display an outstanding sense of timing.

I held my child just a little bit closer to me as I stood in front of the awe-inspiring altar piece in the lofty cathedral. Behind me, the devout knelt in silent prayer and the occasional tourist walked quietly and respectfully, admiring the ornate chapels and stain-glass windows. “Don’t you dare start crying in the church,” I whispered to my baby, who looked back at me and opened her mouth. “Or burp, or vomit.” She closed her mouth, looking mutinous. I turned back to the contemplation of a kind-looking Mary surrounded by stern angles. And then I heard it. A loud, echoing fart. The sort of fart that is designed to test the acoustics of the lofty, vaulted church. I stared at Slytherin Baby in horror; she looked back at me smugly, her look clearly saying, “You didn’t say anything about not breaking wind in the church.”

“Why are you the way you are?” I hissed as I hurried to the exit away from the noxious smell, taking one last glance at the altar piece. Mary looked at me pityingly while the angles glared at me.

 3: The language barrier will be a problem.

One of the great thing about Slytherin Baby is her robust health; I’ve never had to deal with any of those niggles and minor ailments. So I don’t have any supplies on hand and, of course, the first time we have any problems would be in Spain. Where we can’t recognise any of the products. Or read any of the boxes. Or talk the same language as the pharmacist.

After ten frustrating minutes, I left the shop and went to speak to Himself, who was waiting outside with the baby. “You have to do this.”

“Ok. What do you need me to do?”

“I need to you to get something for nappy rash and something for constipation for the baby. Good luck miming that.”

This article was written for and originally posted on the BabyYumYum website here