Sherlock Holmes said, “I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues...” However, as we grow up we are told not to brag. Let others declare our accomplishments and wait for congratulations. This, conversely, was not always observed when it came to intellect. If you said you were bright, smart or intelligent, it was seen as self-confident. Like the assuredness of a state opposition leader. But on closer observation, childhood intelligence was a myth.
My parents often hailed my ‘brightness’ because I could control the video player and learnt all the operations of the TV’s remote control by the time I was 3. My dad made me think I was Bobby Fisher when he bragged to his friends that I was a ten year old who could play chess. My mother was no better. I was a miniature Goethe with my compositions from school. However, these two people forgot to tell me something, they were a hell of a lot smarter than me.
Successfully outsmarting parents is like doing a free jump from outer space. A very bad idea. These folks are omniscient. They ALWAYS know. When you get away with something it is because they let you. When you lie to them and you think they haven’t figured out the truth it’s because they couldn’t be bothered. It would come back to bite you in the posterior anyway.
I remember once, when I was a fledgling, I used to be the most spoilt child in Kiambu- with an independence streak a mile wide. I loved doing things for myself because I loved hearing my father say I am mature. There were very clear instructions in my house. I was not allowed to operate the cooker by myself. I was not allowed anywhere near the storage cupboards. I wasn’t allowed outside the gate unsupervised. I wasn’t allowed to go to strangers’ home et cetera.
One afternoon after playing, I decided to go replenish my diminishing sugar levels by stocking up on my staple of tea and bread. The spreads had been put in the storage cupboard and because every adult in the house seemed occupied, I decided to get the bread spreads myself. The Blueband was located at the very back of the shelf, behind containers full of rice and flour and sugar. Since I had no regards- or knowledge- for the logic I ended up pulling the Blueband out with every other container before it.
The clatter of falling containers was like a siren’s song to my mother’s disciplinarian tendencies. She came howling
my second name while I wondered how long it would take me to turn into a grain of rice so as to hide within the wreckage. She saw me covered in flour and holding onto the container of Blueband. She first asked me what I was thinking and then asked me why I disobeyed her directive of seeking assistance where I had been forbidden to go. Those questions are always a trap. Who thinks when they’re disobeying anyway?
I thought my mother would reintroduce me to my father’s belt but she told me that I wouldn’t be going back out to play. She said I would have to crouch and pick all the stuff I had spilled. One by one. Now I’m sorry, but how was I supposed to collect grains of sugar singularly? I raised my chin defiantly and told her, with a daring bob of my head and my hand held out like that maringo WhatsApp emoji, that I would not be doing it one by one. I would just sweep it all together. She slapped me for speaking to her with such impudence and then told me that when she was done with whatever she was doing she should find the mess gone. And I was still to pick up after myself- one by one.
I rebelled greatly by sweeping it all together and made sure to even clean out what had spewed under the wall unit and the seats collectively. I even remember muttering, “One by one ni wewe.” Having made one corner of the house spotless, my mother came and found the mess cleaned and told me to go ahead and clean the rest of the house for failing to gather the mess according to her instructions. I grumbled and moaned while getting the rag and bucket and she came to lounge on the couch backhanding me with a, “One by one ni mimi.” How she heard me- what can I say? Mums have supersonic hearing.
I was played so thoroughly and while recalling this I remembered the defeated feeling of the Brazilian world cup team when they played against Germany in 2014. So many other instances like these occurred. Mummy’s brightest little girl got herself into messes that her parents would get her to clean by using my words against me. They made me share my toys with my cousins and friends by tricking me. They would play with my cousins, ostracise me, share “secrets” and when I got tired of being out of the loop, I would finally hand over my Barbie to my cousin so that I could get the “secrets” too. These guys played us. And to be honest, I am very afraid that it’s still going on.