The idea seemed so simple, “just help get the kids down for a nap” he said. Of course we couldn’t say no! We had just spent the morning falling in love with these 25 orphaned children at the Karibu Centre in Thika, Kenya and were excited by the fact that we were asked to help out so that the house mothers, who look after these children day and night as if they were their own, could have a break for lunch.
It was cute at first, seeing their little smirk when they knew they had outsmarted you. It was heartwarming to hear the laughs of the children
We could do it, there were five of us, the same number as house mothers, no problem. We were wrong, we were very wrong. Little did we know, but according to these kids, the idea of nap time was out the window as soon as the house mothers closed the door behind them. Off we went thinking we just had to get these sweet children into their cribs and they would willingly fall asleep for their afternoon nap. They sleep two children to a crib, and the crib might as well of had a revolving door because as soon as you got one child in, the other one was climbing out the other side giggling. There were a few children who went down without a fight, but only to be woken up by their crib mate climbing over them, and soon they joined in on the game. And so the chaos began. One child in, one child out.
It was cute at first, seeing their little smirk when they knew they had outsmarted you. It was heartwarming to hear the laughs of the children. However, after humoring them for a few rounds of “Kenyan catch me if you can” our patience was wearing, it was nap time after all. We began rounding up the little darlings as quick as we could, but with 25 young children we had trouble keeping them all straight and soon the wrong children were in the wrong cribs, which only caused more excitement. They knew we were weak. I thought it would be a great idea to institute a serious ‘time out’ for those who were escaping from their cribs. I thought having them sit in a chair facing the wall would teach them that it was nap time, not play time.
I thought wrong! It started off well with one child unhappily having a time out. And then another, and another, and another, and soon I had all the children thinking it was great fun to un-stack all the chairs and sit in them. The tables had turned and I had been outsmarted again.
Now add in the language barrier. These children don’t speak English, so anything we were saying to them was just nonsense. I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t listen to a frustrated stranger speaking to me in a foreign language when I could be running and laughing with my friends! Out of desperation, we began trying to translate “sleep” and “no” so that these children would understand what we were telling them (although I am 100% confident they knew it was nap time) . I will tell you that our Swahili needs a lot of work, and once again the plan backfired as I’m sure the words we thought we were saying, due to our pronunciation, do not actually exist in the Swahili language. These kids were still winning, and enjoying every minute of it.
So here we are back where we started, the children are not sleeping, and we are sweating and exhausted, but not giving up. We said we would get these kids down for their nap so that their house mothers could have a well-deserved break, and we were convinced we could do it. Or so we thought. Thankfully, our mercy came 45 minutes later when the house mothers returned from their lunch and within minutes had each child lying down in their crib, without a fuss. Those women are saints.