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?