Clap! Clap! Clap your hands!

Clap! Clap! Clap your hands!

Last week, something amazing happened with our 7 m.o. daughter. My wife and I had recently spoken about training Nitara to do stuff like clap her hands and one morning I tried to teach her to clap her hands but it did not work and she was not interested. However, in the evening my wife held Nitara’s hands and started clapping them together while I clapped mine to show her again how it is done. Then we let go and soon we were surprised to see that Nitara began to clap on her own. And that wasn’t all. When she stopped, I started clapping with my hands and kept on saying “clapping, clapping”. Seeing me do it, she started to clap again and we were excited at having taught her some new actions. We had fun for some time and when we stopped, I waited a short while and then just said the word “clapping”. To our astonishment, Nitara started clapping her hands at the mere mention of the word. We couldn’t believe ourselves so we did this a few times by distracting her in between. I even picked her up and sat her on my shoulders, told her we are doing “dansy, dansy” and then let her hands free and said “clapping, clapping”, and there she went clapping her hands again.

We were overjoyed at the whole development. It was a proud moment to know that our baby was responding to us by actions, that she not only heard words we spoke but also listened to them and retained them in her mind.

I was so happy that I hugged her tight and kissed her round cheeks and told her, “I’m proud of you, my baby.” Then a thought came to my mind. More of a reflection. As kids, we sometimes say that one day we would want to make our parents proud. But what we don’t know, and what I learnt today, is that parents become proud of their children much earlier than the children realize. I don’t have to wait for my baby to grow up, do well at her education, chose her career and achieve something big in order to feel proud of her. I already am proud that she is a lovely baby and is learning to do stuff even if it’s something as small as clapping her hands. Before today, I could never understand this. But now, I love it.

So, though it has been over a week, Nitara continues to respond to the word clapping. Not only that, she even does it unprovoked, and often when she is excited. It’s exciting.

Smile, My Little Baby!

Smile, My Little Baby!

From the day my darling daughter was born, the one thing I wanted to see her do the most was to smile. The first expression I saw on her face was that of fear after just having come out into this world. Then, she cried. Over many days and weeks, I kept looking at her with renewed hope that she would smile. But of course, I knew that babies that small don’t know smiling yet. And what will she smile at? She doesn’t understand what being happy means. And what could have made her happy anyway? A large supply of milk and sleeping for as long or as little as she chose?

So, weeks kept passing by but there was nothing. She got her name – Nitara – but even that did not please her enough to pass a smile. A few times, we thought we did she a smile on her face when she was asleep and then that smile would vanish abruptly. It wasn’t really a smile, maybe a twitching of muscles in her face? Maybe her brain was learning how to move those muscles in different manners? Sometimes my mom claimed that she saw Nitara smile, but I couldn’t actually count on that unless she smiled at me and I saw it too. And a smile didn’t really mean much unless we were sure that she really was smiling about something.

Finally that day came and Nitara smiled at me for the first time. It was in response to a toy that I had shown her. But even then, it was difficult to make her smile on purpose. I tried many things, made faces, made funny sounds, sang for her. And finally I got it.

What Nitara really enjoyed the most was me forming my lips into an ‘O’, opening my eyes wide, and making the sound ‘Ooooooooo’, all together. The more I did it, the more she smiled. Later, when she started to make sounds like ‘A-gooo’, ‘A-gaaa’, using her voice for the first time, I started imitating her sounds. Gradually, I found that she liked my imitation of her and she started to respond to my imitation by making more such sounds, which I imitated again, and so on, and she enjoyed this whole experience so much that her smiles this time were a true result of joy at a new discovery.

Soon afterwards, the smiles turned into laughter. Now, she has been advancing so fast almost anything can make her laugh. Just talking to her makes her laugh. Showing her your tongue makes her laugh out loud. She looks at the most simple things around her, like a photo frame of my mom and me (from when I was a baby myself) throws her into convulsions. My youngest sister, perhaps, is nowadays her biggest source of laughter. They play peekaboo and Nitara has a rocking time with her. In fact, her smiles now have a character of their own. No longer are there simple curving of lips and expansion of cheeks. Now she opens her mouth wide and makes loud joyful sounds when she smiles and you can see the joy in her eyes as well.

So, it has been worth the wait. Every time she smiles feels like the first time and makes me super happy. And, to see a baby smile and laugh and show happiness, isn’t that the biggest reward of being a parent?

How life has changed since the Baby

How life has changed since the Baby

One immediate consequence of having become a father was that it took time away from the things that I generally enjoyed doing before the baby arrived. I loved to read lots of books, write this blog, learn Swedish, and watch Netflix with my wife. Soon after my daughter was born, I did continue to write this blog for a while, though with lesser frequency and they were mostly delayed posts. Then, at around 3 months after the birth, we decided to take parental leave for 6 weeks and visit our family in India. This break, I was certain, would give me time again to be able to do the stuff I was starting to miss over the last few months.

So, we prepared for the travel and I kept notes about our preparation so that I could write a post about it soon. However, I stayed in India for over 6 weeks but not once during that time did I get the opportunity to write a single post even though my mind was bursting with things that I really wanted to write and publish here.

So, what happened? Why could I not do the stuff I really cared about doing for my entire holiday? A few things actually. I realized that neither did I have the time away from my darling daughter (by my own choice) nor the frame of mind to detach myself from her exciting world to be able to do some writing. I could spend entire days, weeks or even months being by her side, watching as she kept trying something new every now and then. She learnt to reach out with her hands and touch and feel my face. She started to grab her toys and then try to put them in her mouth. She tried to roll over on to her stomach but kept failing for many weeks, until she finally did it and then started crying when she couldn’t move back. I saw the first time she saw something funny on my t-shirt (I always wore cartoon prints) and decided to try to crawl to get to me across the bed. She pushed hard with her legs to move forward (a big development) but had no idea how to use her arms and as a consequence of this lack of coordination, she would raise her bums in the air, dig her face into the bed and end up rolling over to one side and onto her back, wondering what went wrong. And I watched with fascination, when even in a state of hunger, she would break her feed and turn her head around to stare at the TV in our room, and then back to the feed and again to the TV, over and over.

On top of that, only a couple of weeks into our vacation I fell sick to Typhoid, which ended up making me too weak to sit in front of a laptop for more than a few minutes at a time. It took me the rest of the vacation period to overcome the illness.

So, due to the reasons stated above, I suddenly realized that I had not been able to make a single post on my blog for over 2 months. So many things had happened in my life as a dad over the past few months that it was now difficult to keep track of all the developments. When my darling daughter transitioned from being a quiet observer to learning to make tiny “a-goo” sounds to call us and then on to filling our ears with her shouting and singing – all in order to amuse herself – seems like a recent blur.

Over the next few days and weeks, I will try to come up to speed again with my writing, the reason being that I am back to Sweden without my wife and daughter – but only for a short while. Next month, I bring them back here and then the routine perhaps would resume and I might find myself short on time again.

So, one thing that I really did learn from my experience until now is how the arrival of a child changes the lives of the parents forever, whether it relates work, social life or just personal preferences. You suddenly realize that you can no longer accompany your friends to that bar that you frequented. You can only hear of others telling you about their upcoming foreign vacations, but you yourself can no longer plan one. So, a lot has changed and sometimes we hope to be able to do the same stuff as others, but we are new parents and still getting used to the new life. However, contrary to what I always hear, I wouldn’t really call it a sacrifice at all. I don’t think I am making a sacrifice if I am giving up on a few things I liked to do so that I can take better care of my daughter. I am happy to do everything I can for her, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. I do it out of love.

And love it really is. Of a kind that I have never felt before. Or never felt possible. Remember the first crush in school? Remember the first time you thought you were in love? Or the first time you actually got loved back? The time when you thought you would die if you did not get your love back? Or the time when you got married? All of those feelings simply pale in comparison to the feeling of love that I feel for my darling daughter.

Darling, she really is. It is impossible to explain how happy she makes me feel when she smiles at the stupid faces I make in order to amuse her. Every single time she smiles seems to me like the first time and fills me with life. The only thing I want to do all the time is pick her up in my arms, hug her and plant tiny kisses on her round round cheeks.

So, on the one hand while having a baby has taken away the routine of my life, my passion for reading and writing and being able to socialize with friends in the same way as before, it has also brought me happiness and love in its purest and most pleasurable form – the love of a father for his daughter. So, the scales are tipped heavily in the favour of the good compared to the bad.

And that is all that matters, doesn’t it? How has your experience been like?

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