Yesterday started out like any other day. The sun came up. Mr. Mostafa left for work. I made a cup of tea and settled in to work, catch up on emails, etc.
Then Lavender woke up.
From the beginning, she wanted to write. Specifically, she wanted to scribble with the highlighter that I had sitting next to the book I’m currently reading. When I wouldn’t let her write with the highlighter, she screamed, “Nononononono!”
I went to the bedroom and procured a legal pad and a blue jumbo crayon and offered these to her. At first, she said warily, “Nononononono,” but then she settled down at her table and began to intently draw lines with the crayon.
First crisis of the day averted. But within a few minutes, the legal pad and the jumbo crayon were no longer entertaining. She pushed them aside and sat back in her chair, as if to say, “Whew, glad that’s done. What’s next?”
She got up out of her chair and started to play with her shape sorter on the floor next to her table. Satisfied that she was safely occupied, I stepped into the next room to make the bed. But within a minute or so, I realized that I was no longer hearing the clock-clock sound of shapes being sorted. As any parent will tell you, when you can’t hear your toddler, it’s time to panic.
I glanced back into the living room to see that my child had dragged her chair across the carpet (hence, silently), climbed up into it, and was now standing on it, jumbo crayon grasped in her right hand as she mercilessly scribbled on the TV screen.
“Lavender, no!” I gasped, rushing to her and taking her off the chair.
“Nononononono!” she screamed as she furiously kicked her legs in the air. But the kicking meant that her feet literally hit the ground running, and she ran around in circles for a few seconds before making a beeline for the bedroom and flopping down into a pile of pillows on the floor. She busied herself with the pillows for awhile, while I did some other chores around the house.
Finally, I called, “Lavender! Let’s have lunch!” I heated up a plate of food for her and put her in her chair. She gobbled up the food, stood up in her chair, chucked her spoon to the floor, and announced, “Nononononono!”
“Are you done?” I asked.
In response, she climbed out of her chair, ran back into the bedroom, and flopped back down on the pillows.
I put her dishes in the sink, then followed her into the bedroom and continued making the bed. When I looked over to check on her again, she was gone. I looked in the living room. No Lavender. And then I heard the glug-glug of the water dispenser next to the kitchen. I ducked around the corner and there was my child, holding down the button to the drinking water dispenser, the water flowing freely onto the tile floor. She looked at me and grinned from ear-to-ear, never moving her finger from the button.
“No, Lavender, no!” I ran up to her and gently pulled her away from the water dispenser. “That water is for drinking, not for playing!”
“Nononononono!” she yelled at me. She threw herself down on the floor and began to gleefully swipe her hands around in the water all over the floor from the dispenser.
I went to the kitchen, retrieved a towel, and began mopping up the mess. “Okay, if you want to play in the water, let’s go take a shower,” I said. “We have to get ready because we’re going to go see Auntie at her school! Won’t that be fun?”
“Nononononono!” Lavender said pathetically as I mopped up the water, then picked her up and carried her into the bathroom. I stripped us both down and turned on the shower.
Lavender sat on her knees in the shower, looked up at me, and proclaimed, “Nononononono!” Then she leaned forward, putting her face and hands on the wet shower floor. “Nolphnolphnolphnolph,” I heard her say.
I picked her up and quickly washed her. “Nooonooonooonooonooo!” she whined as she kicked.
“It’s okay, we’re almost done,” I assured her.
After I got dressed and ready, I quickly put Lavender’s hair up in a ponytail, and then wrestled her into a onesie and a pair of jeans. We headed downstairs to meet the driver, who was scheduled to take us to the nearby Montessori school where my sister-in-law teaches English. The school was having a Culture Fair, and my sister-in-law had invited us to come see it. I was so excited to see all of the adorable displays and projects that the kids and their teachers had created.
But at the school, Lavender decided that she felt like interacting with precisely no one. Any time someone came up to her and attempted to speak to her, she buried her face in my shoulder, kicked at my torso, and cried, “Nononononono!”
We were on our way back home within twenty minutes.
When the car pulled up in front of our house, I tumbled out and held Lavender in my arms as I fumbled with my house keys. She kicked lazily and called, “Nononononono!”
“Okay, okay,” I said as the door swung open. I put her down in the hosh. Her feet hit the ground running again, and she toddled rapidly around the corner of the house. I ambled dejectedly after her and plopped down into a chair.
I heard the squeak of her shoes and the rustle of her diaper as she ran around the hosh. As long as I could hear those things, I relaxed. I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes briefly, knowing that she wasn’t holding still long enough to get into any real trouble.
But when those sounds stopped, my ears pricked up. I looked around just in time to see my child gleefully attempting to climb into a small fountain filled with stagnant water.
I sprinted to her and grabbed her just as she placed her right leg into the water. “No, Lavender, no!” I said, pulling her out of the fountain, water slinging everywhere from the soaked leg of her jeans. “That water is yucky and it’s too cold to play in the water!” As though it would help to offer a rational explanation of why climbing into the fountain was not a good idea.
Needless to say, my rational explanation was ineffective. The fit that my child threw herself into was practically nuclear. She wound up with good ten-seconds of eyes-closed, open-mouthed silence in which all I could do was helplessly wait for what I knew was coming. Have you ever seen Twister? There’s this scene where Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt are chasing a tornado and all of a sudden the twister vanishes back up into the clouds and they begin to panic because they know the tornado is not over, but is merely building its strength before it crashes back to the ground to wreak destruction along its path.
As a parent, I find myself thinking of this scene frequently.
Anyway, when Lavender let loose with that first scream, I swear, the construction workers building the house across the street went silent. My mother-in-law came running out of the house, breathlessly reciting Qur’an to protect my child from the shaytaan that must surely be possessing her in order to cause her to scream in this way.
“Nicole, what happened?” she asked, scooping up Lavender and continuing to whisper Qur’an verses.
I confessed my heinous transgression. “I wouldn’t let her climb into the fountain.”
“Habibi!” my mother-in-law exclaimed, placing kisses on Lavender’s head. The screams continued, in between hiccuppy proclamations of, “Nononononono!”
“She is tired, Nicole,” my mother-in-law declared, and I agreed. I hauled the sobbing baby upstairs. After I entered the apartment, I sat her down briefly while I took off my abaya and put my bag away. By the time I had finished these tasks, Lavender had run to the water dispenser and was blissfully dispensing drinking water all over the floor again.
“No, Lavender, sweetie!” I said desperately, pulling her away from the dispenser.
She screamed, “Nononononono!”
I carried her to my rocking chair, sat down, and nursed and rocked her to sleep.
As the baby napped in my arms, my phone rang. It was Mr. Mostafa. I answered quietly.
“Heeeeeey, maaaaaan!” he said in his Michael Scott-inspired voice, which is how he always begins any phone conversation he has with me. Because we are nerds. (I couldn’t find a YouTube clip to illustrate this particular voice, but if you’ve ever seen the episode of The Office when Michael gets back from Jamaica, you’ve heard it.)
“Shhhhh,” I said.
“How is your day, kid?” he asked.
I ran down the events of the day thus far. “That’s why,” I concluded in a quiet but ominous calm-before-the-storm tone of voice, “it would be a good idea for you to bring home Firegrill for dinner.” (Firegrill is the local version of Chipotle. It’s not exactly the same, although I’m pretty sure it’s intended to be. But it’s yummy, and certainly enough to satisfy a Chipotle craving.)
Being the smart man that he is, he listened. He came through the door with a large Firegrill bag. By this time, Lavender was awake, but cranky. She scowled at her dad from her perch in my rocking chair.
But she perked up once she discovered that Mr. Mostafa had brought her a cup of guacamole from Firegrill. This kid has a serious love for guacamole.
We all settled in to eat our dinner. With the guacamole cup in front of her and the spoon in her hand, Lavender was the happiest I had seen her all day. By the time she finished, her face was covered in guacamole, and a glob had been mashed into her hair at the top of her head. I mopped her up, and said, “Lavi, we need to rinse your hair out. It’s full of guacamole.” I took her into the kitchen and turned on the sink.
“Nononononono!” she hollered, bursting into heartbreaking sobs.
Mr. Mostafa, ever the pushover, called from the living room, “Babe, don’t worry about it. It’s not worth the fight.”
I sighed, swiped a wet kitchen towel over Lavender’s head, and set her back on the floor. She ran straight to the water dispenser and jammed the button down.
“No, Lavender,” I said, carrying her away from the dispenser again.
Grinning, she toddled over to her baba. Then she did an abrupt U-turn and ran back to the water dispenser.
I sat down in an armchair. “I’m done,” I announced to Mr. Mostafa. “I’m not taking her away from it anymore.”
He said to me incredulously, “What is it with our kid and the water dispenser?” Then he hopped up and ran to our daughter. “Lavender, no,” he reiterated. She laughed uproariously and ran into the bedroom. He followed, then came back out and settled on the floor in front of the water dispenser. A few minutes later, he announced, “Babe, I fixed it!”
“What do you mean, you fixed it?”
“Look. I put a piece of eraser in the back of the button, so when she pushes it, nothing comes out. I turned off the hot water heater here and if you want water, just turn the hot water switch and use that button instead. You’ll get room temperature water.”
“I love you,” I said.
We continued to tag team the rest of the evening, handling our child’s messes, playing with her, reading to her. Finally, at 11:30, when it was still abundantly clear that Lavender was nowhere near falling asleep, he said, “Honey, I have to go to bed. I have to get up for work in the morning,” he explained, as if I were unaware that he had a job.
“I know. It’s fine,” I assured him. “Go on to bed.”
I put on a movie and tried to rock her to sleep. Nothing. She wriggled out of my lap and played with her toys, with her books, with my phone. She scribbled on her legal pad. She did everything but indicate that she was ready to sleep.
Finally, I changed the TV to Bubble Guppies, picked her up, and settled back into my rocking chair. I’d had it. I was done. It was time to sleep. This kid was going to go to sleep.
“Nononononono!” she said, wagging her finger at me and shaking her head. She grabbed the remote control and smacked it on my arm as she sobbed, “No bub-bub!” In other words, no Bubble Guppies.
I took the remote, and as I rocked and soothed her, I changed the TV to Doc McStuffins.
“Nononononono!” she screamed shrilly, taking the remote back and smacking it on my arm even harder.
I heaved a great sigh and changed the TV to Spongebob Squarepants.
“Nononononono,” she said, but sweetly, as if to indicate, “You’re on the right track, Mom.”
I changed the Spongebob episode to “No Weenies Allowed.”
She grinned broadly and settled into my arms. I kissed the top of her guacamole-scented head as I realized that my kid just wanted to watch “No Weenies Allowed.” Within five minutes, she was finally–finally–asleep in my arms. At two in the morning.
Let me tell you, parenthood is not for the faint of heart. No weenies allowed.