• Aisha Iqbal

One of a Kind

You know that toddler dancing along to the music at the theatre, copying all the gestures at the storytelling class, miming the signs and singing along sweetly? He's not mine.


My toddler is the one saying: "don't like it!!" on repeat during a lovely musical theatre designed for his age group ... the one trying to climb all over me instead of jumping up and down to the cheery music like many of the other little children. And when I don't take the not-so-subtle hints, he smacks his (thankfully) small toy cars across my face.


Okay then, I rub my cheek, mutter under my breath, scoop Z up and exit the theatre.


It took me about ten minutes, but I got over the annoyance of having a child who doesn't fit the mould, remembered he's his own little person and we had a lovely time on the bus ride back home. Which was his favourite part of our fancy day out!


The best part about spending time with other parents and their kids is seeing how even this young, all children are so beautifully unique. If you can teach yourself early on in life not to make comparisons (houses, salaries, husbands, cars, children, noses etc.), you can then really celebrate the differences while using the commonalities to bond.


Zain is amazing to me.


I love that he is too young to know about the infinite social rules and customs that regulate our behaviours. Instead, he follows his heart. [Mind you, he has some impulse control now – we manage to not jump in muddy puddles if we don’t have our wellies on!]


He isn’t weighed down by the myriad expectations we somehow build up and abide by, so many things that we don’t do – or do – because we’ve been socialised to believe that is what is expected of a say, 34-year-old Pakistani woman living in the UK.


Zain of course is much freer individual! So instead of clambering over jungle gyms or zooming down slides (as you would expect a child to?), he walks the jogging track and picks up sticks and stones, dirtying his nails, smudging his face with mud like a ragamuffin in a laundry detergent ad.


Z shies away from physical challenges, will back away if other children approach too fast or too close, loves reading, says things like 'very nice singing, mama!' and today 'nice shirt, Baba!'. He loves numbers and letters, likes me to sing to him and sings along, refuses to dance but loves listening to music - his current favourite having moved on from Coke Studio classics and Hey Now to 'Dharti k Khuda' by Ali Azmat and Call. It is about as heavy rock as Pakistani music can get I suppose and it tickles me that he enjoys that as well as Tu Jhoom and random 80s music.


He loves sitting on any and all vehicles, hates showers and baths, has started to make toddler friends and mentions their names and wants to meet up with them. It is quite adorable.


Zain is currently teaching me one of the most useful yet hardest things to do - accept and love a person for who they are, not what you want them to be. Because he is my child and it is so easy to love and accept your own baby, I am getting better at it, and hoping that this skill can then be used to accept other people in your life as well. A win-win situation because everyone wants to be accepted and loved, and trying to mould someone into a different being is stressful and difficult - and pretty much impossible.


This doesn't mean enabling unkind behaviour or selfish traits - I don't feel very motherly or accepting when Z chucks his aesthetically pleasing but very solid wooden toys at me (we are unfortunately going through another somewhat physically challenging phase of biting and smacking. Not adorable.)


But it definitely means not forcing Z to wear a fancy dress shirt if he doesn't want to, letting him wear wellies even if it isn't raining, shrugging my shoulders if he just isn't into the toy tea set I got or musical theatre, if he doesn't want to sit on a swing and instead just wants to run 'Fast, mama!!!' If he refuses to jump on a bouncy castle that before encountering Zain I thought was universally loved by children.


As he grows up, it'll became even more important to guide him to be kind and compassionate, but still let him be his own person, expose him to as much culture and adventure and love as possible but then letting him choose his own path.


It is a beautiful thing to watch Z become more attuned to what is around him, still soaking things up from us faster than we can imagine or regulate (*gulp*), making friends, talking to strangers - and cars (for some reason this child loves offering snacks or his dummy to inanimate objects).


Also having a two-year old is great fun if you can keep your sense of humour alive. You hear yourself saying things you never thought you'd say like, 'keep your hands out of the gutter please!'.


They also keep things real - like being impossibly cute and then bringing you back from your gushy cloud of oh this child is so adorable with a smack on your nose or a kick in the gut ('cutie pie!' Zain will grin adorably at bedtime, cuddly and clean in his pjs and then suddenly give me a fast jab on my cheek for no apparent reason than his own comic relief).


I can clearly remember enjoying Zain when he was just a baby but that seems to pale in comparison to the joy and amusement I get from his company now. I’ve loved watching him go from gurgling and babbling to one words and then broken sentences and now actually full sentences catching me off guard. I asked him if he wanted to read a book the other day and he replied, “No, I’m playing with my cars”. I just gaped at him. Cheeky little bugger!


I am happy to report he STILL loves fans. He has moved on from “what’s that?” to “What’s that sound?” and then if you offer an answer (a car!), he’ll counter you with a “um, maybe it’s a bike I think”. My favourite response to this question so far has been his “um, it’s a farty boy I think” (the sound was most definitely that of a fart).


His hair is untameable. His cheeks still fall in the 'chubby' domain – I will truly sob the day his double chin disappears. And he is most definitely one of a kind.





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