• Aisha Iqbal

Monkey see, monkey love

Updated: Apr 13

I'm thinking Zain is almost asleep when suddenly he sits up, like a large doll, and turns to look at me, a goofy grin half hidden behind his dummy. He looks so cute in his soft PJ's, all clean and cosy after a warm bath.

'Go to sleep!' I tell him and he lies down next to me, only to sit up and grin at me again. This time he looks a wee bit creepy, eyes glinting in the dim light of the lamp, the room completely dark. 'Come on Zain!'

This apparently is our new bedtime routine. If I close my eyes and pretend I can't see his gremlin face in the dark, he brings his face super close to mine till his soft little nose is smushed against mine, and when I open my eyes and find his staring into mine, it makes me laugh every time. And then he does it again. And again.

Eventually he does fall asleep, choosing to shove me away after some initial cuddles.

We are co-sleeping so officially now that I've even sold off his cot. I'm not a 100% sure I am pleased with the situation (I've learnt that that is quite acceptable in the parenting world - to not be 100% pleased with a certain situation).

A few days ago I thought to myself, you know I quite like snuggling with baby Z next to us. It won't be forever and I might as well make the most of this time.

Almost every night since then has been quite adventurous. Not the swimming-happily-in-the-calm green-Arabian-sea-in-winter adventurous but the walking-blindly-through-a-jungle-and-getting-smacked in-the-face-with-random-branches adventurous.

Zain has quite the temper, seen mostly at night when he's super sleepy and tired but having trouble actually falling back asleep. So, many a times we wake up to Z yelling, thrashing about our not that big of a bed, kicking Baba in the stomach, smacking me in the face, yelling for doodh-doo and then one of us trudges down to the kitchen to fetch a bottle of milk. (Looking back at when Z was just 3 months old and I would Google 'when do babies start sleeping through the night' every day and then Google what 'sleeping through the night' actually means ... ha ha ha.)

'Why does he get so angry', I ask myself, trying to repress the mama guilt rising up. Has he inherited this from me or Fahad, or actually learnt it from us? We do try our best to be patient and kind and loving but we also have short tempers.

One of the hardest things about being a parent is the responsibility of having a little one learning everything from you... And as much as we might want to be perfect parents, there is no such thing. So - no perfect parents, no perfect kids.

And the lesson, of course, is - that that's okay.

Happy parents, happy kids. That is probably a better goal and even then to remember happiness is not a constant state. It's like a huge landscape of small and big hills, little challenges and happy adventures and harder climbs that lead to moments and hours and days of happiness. And then again, clambering up and down.

As much as I'd like to protect Zain from negative emotions and live in a rainbow bubble of joy, that isn't real life and not exactly practical. Or even possible.

So while we can try our best to be better people, it's okay to not be flawless.

It is fascinating to see Zain develop a wider and wider range of emotions and improve his ability to communicate, and to understand.

Many times when I explain something to him, despite the obvious instinct to not want to, he actually listens. 'Put down that candy and share a smaller chocolate with me,' 'Wait till Baba gets back before you touch the guitar', 'Put the book back please'.

He most obviously doesn't always follow instructions or politely phrased requests but then nobody does.

He isn't even two yet but already I can sense how independent he is getting and I can foresee in the distance me becoming less and less central.

There aren't many things in the world, I imagine, that are as beautiful and exhausting as being a toddler's mama. Being someone's whole world is magical and tiring (but mostly magical) simultaneously. Which is why many mamas will tell you they wouldn't exchange this time with anything.

Along with his range of new emotions (sadness, pretend sadness, grumpiness, fear, excitement), Zain's love for drama and comedy is getting more impressive too.

From copying the most random words and phrases ('horrible', 'sadqay jawan', 'ohmegod', 'it doesn't matter at all') to his hilarious coyness when he meets a cute girl (favourite age range seems to be 6-15 for now!), his head tilting and eye rolling (which I admit to have encouraged and can foresee regretting to have done so in the near future...), Z is very entertaining.

The speed of language acquisition is also incredible. Every day he says something else that makes us unduly proud and excited and amused.

The other day he walked into the kitchen when I was cooking and said 'what you doing!?'. The day before, after smacking me and being a little jerk, he walked over to me while I was in the toilet and said 'Sorry mama!' (Admittedly Fahad asked him to do it but he actually listened and came to find me to do it!).

He got his first haircut and looks quite grown up. His squirrelly teeth and grins make me smile every day. His chipmunk voice and intonations are like music for my soul. The way he says and sings 'mama' still makes my heart feel so light and bright.

He loves cars, can count up to 20 missing 13, 15 and 17, knows lots of shapes and maybe two colours but says the rest incorrectly with much confidence. He loves reading books, finds slides very challenging and is not the most agile climber. He gets comically angry if I tell him off for something or if he bumps his head or falls down. He loves singing duets with me and our favourite songs are 'Tere liye hai meyra dil' and 'Neend aatee nahi'.

He's started speaking in two and three word sentences and that just cracks me up and makes me so proud even though duh, kids learn to talk and it's like a pretty standard human trait.

And while nobody should be expected to be perfect, many times a day, he sure makes me feel very grateful for having him - just the way he is - in my life.

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