On Letting Them Go

When you bring up your child from the moment they are born and then you see them grow slowly over the months and years, you might tend of forget that at some point they will have to learn to be on their own without the parents watching out for them. And knowing when and how to let go can be a painful task for a parent who loves their child deeply.

I had this realization a few days back when we took our 14 m.o. daughter, who had recently been trying to hurry her walking (her version of running) while mantaining her balance, to a play area where there were lots of older kids running around, jumping, sliding, climbing, crawling under tunnels, etc. In the beginning, I had Nitara in my lap and kept searching for a quieter corner where I could let her walk and play. She went on a small slide a few times but then she also wanted to run around the big tree-house in the center.

I gave her my hand to hold and kept walking with her and everytime there was danger of another child bumping into her or if she felt like losing her balance, I would quickly pick her up and put her down somewhere safe. This went on for a while and my wife also joined us. It was soon clear that our daughter was discovering something new and just wanted to run around exploring the world on her own, but we were concerned about her safety because she was our tiny little girl and really small compared to the other children running around screaming and playing.

And then, we decided to let her go on her own and not make way for her. We would wait and see what happens. The moment we released her, she took off. First she ran in one direction and then switched and ran in another. She stop, start, change directions on her own and the whole time we watched with anxiety and waited for someone to bump into her and throw her down. It was a bit difficult to see our daughter be on her own in the midst of so many “threats” around her and not help her at all. But is was also a discovery for us because we realized that she was going to be ok without us. The kids running around that really scared us were actually trying not to bump into others, while Nitara was trying to assess the things around her as well. She felt free, we could see, without us directing her every move, she was free to see the world the way she wanted to, even if it meant making mistakes and falling and getting hurt. I learnt that it wasn’t important for me to prevent her from getting hurt, but to be there quickly if she did so that she felt we were there was for.

And so, for the first time, I felt I let my little angel go and be in this world on her own without me, even if it was only for a couple of minutes and that too in a very safe play area. I feel a lot of things when I think back of that moment. The realization that I am so protective of my darling daughter, the knowledge that she would probably be fine on her own and the sadness that one day I really would stop being there in her life at all. Happily, at least today was not that day.

Nitara Turns One Today

Nitara Turns One Today

Exactly a year has passed since our dear daughter Nitara came into our lives. Don’t know how fast the year has gone by. From seeing her blink her eyes trying to adjust to the new world, to her speed crawling and walking around the home and climbing up the two stories of stairs to get to the terrace many times a day, our baby girl has come a long way. She has grown up so fast and so much, the last one year seems like it all happened in a dream. And yet, it has all been real.

We have seen times of amazement and times of nerve wrecking stress, but what we haven’t missed even a single day with our daughter is the immense amount of love and happiness that she has brought to our lives.

Here’s to Nitara kicking off a new year in her life and to many many more phases of development and growing up.

Happy Birthday Nitara!

This Moment Last Year

This Moment Last Year

At exactly this moment last year we were on our way to the hospital for the delivery.  In the taxi were seated Nupur with her mom and my mom at the back seat and me at the front. Nupur was scared, the moms focussed towards making her feel easy, and I was telling myself that I need to think straight during whatever came next. In some more time, we were going to move into Nupur’s delivery room at Södersjukhuset, Stockholm.

The countdown had begun to what was going to be an excruciatingly long day filled with nervousness, fear and happiness, and the back of the mind realization that lives were going to change forever. And a new life was about to be born. Someone truly wonderful was about to arrive.

And She Walks

Just as I boarded the bus to the airport in order to catch the flight to India to be with my daughter for her first birthday, I checked my phone to find a video from my wife from earlier in the day. It was a video of my little girl chasing her granddad and walking twenty tiny steps without support. A big milestone has been achieved.

Before they left me behind in Stockholm and went to India a month ago, my wife estimated that our daughter was about to walk soon, but I told her that she would start walking when I joined them in a month’s time. We were also watching keenly to see if she would start walking by her first birthday (13th January) or not. I have to say I’ve been dreading missing her first steps and they happened just before I was about to travel. But to find out that she has started walking today, it doesn’t feel like I am missing anything since I will see her tomorrow anyway. My mom just told me that even I had starting walking right on my first birthday. So, it feels more like a return gift from her to me in advance for her birthday in 3 days. What more could I ask her for before I start my trip?

Time to buy some Nike soon?

My Daughter Speaks My Name

My Daughter Speaks My Name

Today, something truly amazing happened. My 11 m.o. daughter, Nitara, had been mumbling a lot since many weeks, in a language that only she understood. The only two words she could speak clearly were ‘Papa’ and ‘Baby’. But today, she said a new word.

Only last night was I feeling sad that my little girl had left me all alone and went with her mom to my parents’ in India. I missed her so much and thought she would forget me over then next one month before I joined her.

But little did I know a surprise was in store for me. My mom called me at around 2am India time and asked me:

‘How often has Nitara spoken your name?’

‘Never.’ I answered, hoping that my mom wasn’t pulling a joke on me.

Mom turned to Nitara and and called out my name, ‘Shitij.’

My daughter said something but I couldn’t understand what.

Mom called again,’Shitij?’

And it was as if a hundred years passed before I heard..

‘T I T I T !!’

I couldn’t believe my ears and I couldn’t contain my happiness. So I laughed out loud. 

‘Shitij?’

‘T I T I D!’

‘Shi..tij…?’

‘T I .. TI..D!’

It just went on and on. I was so happy. My sweet little baby girl called out my name. We immediately switched to a video call and repeated it a few more times. And what made it even more special was that it was my mom, Nitara’s grandmother, who called and gave me the news that my little girl had started to speak my name.

Now I miss my sweet baby girl even more. But I am still happy.

Baby, Mommy Leave For A Long Holiday

Baby, Mommy Leave For A Long Holiday

The past few weeks have been particularly tough for us. I’ve been busy like hell at work and have had no time even to respond to texts from friends and family while in office. When I am home though, I spend all my time taking care of our daughter while my wife finally gets to take a break and focus on the home. Nitara is almost eleven months old now but all of a sudden, she has become very difficult to put to sleep at nights. As a result of all this, we have been super stressed since a while. I have not been sleeping well and could really use a break.

But on Sunday evening, it was finally time for my wife and our daughter to travel to India for over a month without me. Over the past couple of days, I was growing sad at the thought of being away from my babygirl for the next month. On our way to the airport I started to feel gloomier and it was tough for me to stop kissing her round cheeks and put her down on her stroller before she could leave for security check.

On my way back home, I tried to distract myself by listening to music on my phone and constantly reminded myself I was free to relax after such a long time. I decided to have a nice pizza and a beer that night and watch something interesting on TV. By the time I got home, my mood was quite upbeat at last and there was a spring in my step as I reached home and opened the door. Just a few steps in and all my sadness came rushing back as I found, still lying open in the middle of our now silent apartment, my daughter’s play book and the page I had last seen her looking at only a few hours back when I had picked her up and made her wear her pink jacket.

I sat down next to the open book and touched it and felt as if my sweetheart would suddenly come crawling behind me and make some noise. I felt sad again and realized that I would rather spend years of sleeplessness, being driven crazy by her antics and incessant irritating crying than to wish for a single day of alone time without her sweet presence next to me. I knew I missed my baby so much. But I was happy she was soon going to be with her grandparents who would give her just as much love as I do.

Our Little Agent of Chaos

Our Little Agent of Chaos

At around 8 months, our daughter underwent a new kind of development, and it happened when we least expected it to. Over the past few days, she had started to crawl around the home, touching everything, pulling on wires, trying to grab our Apple TV but then dropping it to the floor. While we half enjoyed this development, we thought that we would soon need to arrange “stuff” around our home so that it is out of her reach and she does not accidentally drop anything. But we didn’t anticipate that dropping stuff was only the first step in her real motives.

Back home from work one evening as I entered our apartment, I was stunned to find our living room in a mess with all the stuff stored under Nitara’s changing table scattered all over the place. Her toys box was lying on one side while the toys were spread all over the room.

“What the hell happened here?” I wondered aloud.

It turns out that just a short while back, my wife had left Nitara on her playmat just like every other day, and gone into the kitchen just for a couple of minutes, and upon returning, she found the whole room to be a mess with our little (little?) Nitara standing holding one leg of the changing table for support while all of its contents were lying strewn around. She did not feel she had the energy to clean up right away, so she left the room as it was.

Before I began cleaning up the stuff, I took a while to take in the scene.

“How did the washcloth pack get there? How could she even lift it? Maybe it just fell out of her tiny hands onto the floor and bounced that far away.”

“Why was her brush under the couch and how did her pack of plasters get halfway across the living room?”

Of course, I wasn’t angry. I was delighted that my baby girl had progressed further on her journey of discovering the world she had come into eight months back. She was doing what her curiosity what driving her to do.

I looked at my girl and tried to imagine what she must feel like. She still had no concept of language. She doesn’t say anything and probably doesn’t even know what she is feeling. She just looks innocently back at me and passes her cutest smiles. I smile back at her and picked her up in my arms and give her the kisses on her cheeks that I always do. It occurs to me that making a mess of things was something kids would do all their lives, while I, as a dad, have to take care of the situations every time. It was an important lesson and a reminder that I am a parent – a Dad.

On Fathers and Daughters

On Fathers and Daughters

One night, I was sitting on my bed, my 3 month old baby girl playing in my lap throwing her hands and legs around in an increasingly more fluid and less robotic fashion. The room was dark but there was enough light for us to see each other’s faces. I could see that she was looking right at me while I kept bringing my face down and placing the tip of my nose on hers, like I love doing all the time. She brought her hands to my face and started exploring my cheeks, pulling my hair, rubbing my beard and grabbing my nose, like she had recently learnt to do. Somewhere during this little episode, the realization hit me with an intensity like never before that I was now a father of a girl who I loved so much that it was impossible to describe. Just to look at her playing calmly in my lap gave me a sense of happiness. It felt like I was in a deep state of meditation, in a cave far away from the rest of humanity, and it opened my mind to thoughts I never had before. I was discovering how much I loved my daughter. Right here in that moment, perhaps she was learning to love me too. I was her window to the world, but did she know that right now? I realized that there is something special about a father-daughter relationship that only fathers and daughters can understand.

It is incredibly difficult to know the heart of a father, I realized. Mostly because society talks more about mother’s love, fatherhood gets a distant second mention. Mind you, I don’t think any less about mothers. After all, they go through nine months of pregnancy, then a painful and potentially life threatening delivery, and then years of the child being stuck to them for physical as well as emotional nourishment. It is a huge task and my respect for mothers has only increased with our own experience. But what about a father? What can explain the way he falls in love with a baby who is still in the mother’s womb, months away from birth? He, who accompanies the mother-to-be to the midwife clinics every time and remembers to ask the important questions which she herself would be too nervous to remember. He, who stands by her for dozens of hours while she is in labour, encouraging her to go on. He, who sees the baby’s head and her body come out into the world. And he who then stays awake for the rest of his life so that he can protect them both from the very same world. And finally he, who decades later stays calm and takes charge, while the mother loses herself crying and howling, when that daughter leaves them for her new life with a new partner.

My chain of thoughts is suddenly broken as my 3 month old darling daughter scratches hard with her nails right next to my left eye. In the dark, I know she can see my face and the tears that had just fallen from my eyes. Is it just her innocence or is she telling me not to worry right now? After all, she has barely learnt to move her limbs and there is still a long way to go. I lift her up, hold her tight to my chest and kiss her on her cheeks, and then on her forehead while she continues the exploration of my face and neck with her tiny hands. We sit there like that for a long time as I learn what it is like being a dad to a girl. I used to think that fathers are furthest in the chain of emotions, but holding my little girl in my arms, I question how that could ever be true. I know now how my dad feels about my younger sisters, even though he never shows it, and how much they really must love him back. I know how much my wife loves his father and how much my mom her own. That I am now myself part of this sacred relationship makes me feel special, enlightened.

So, I look down back at my darling daughter and tell her what every father tells his daughter, ‘Nitara! My dear Noni! Papa loves you.’

Chasing The Phone

Chasing The Phone

A few times a day, we do a video call with our family back in India so that they can see Nitara and what she is up to. During one such video call recently, while she was sitting and playing on her play-mat, I got an idea. Nitara had recently started to crawl a bit better so in order to show my mom that, I placed the phone in a standing position on the floor, but a few feet away from her. The phone, with my mom on its screen, immediately caught Nitara’s attention. She quickly leaned towards the phone, got onto her tummy and started crawling. As soon as she was in touching distance of the phone, her one hand made an arc in the air, landed on it and lifted it up. She sat up, brought the phone close to her face and started inspecting the screen with my mom on it. Naturally, the inspection proceeded with one corner of the phone now in her mouth, so I snatched it from her, moved to another end of the living room and place the phone down on the floor again with its screen facing Nitara. She was on the move quickly again and headed for the phone, but the distance being a bit far, she stopped in the middle, rested for a few moments and then resumed crawling towards the phone. As soon as she reached it, a familiar look of curiosity came on her face and just as she was about the grab the phone again, I snatched it out of her reach and went and placed back it in the previous corner of the room. This whole cat and mouse went on for some more time after which it was clear that Nitara had exhausted all her patience and energy for the day and gave up and started crying. We had to end the show right there. As it was also dinner time by then, a bottle of milk was produced before her which contributed greatly to calming her down and eventually preparing her for sleep.

Needless to say, Nitara chasing my phone has become a regular feature of our video calls back home.

There’s A Turtle In Our Home

There’s A Turtle In Our Home

There’s a cute little turtle in our home. It’s always lying on its stomach on the floor, facing a direction that it wants to go in. It pushes forward with its back legs, but doesn’t know exactly how to use its front legs in tandem with the rear in order to move forward. And thanks to its unending efforts, it occasionally manages to raise itself slightly but then ends up rolling over onto its back. It doesn’t know how to roll back to its previous position so it starts crying and I have to rush forward to help it back onto its stomach, ready to push ahead again.

But every now and then, I take my eyes away from it for a couple of moments and when I look back, it has moved forward a bit. I look at it and it looks back at me. No movement, nothing. Then I go back at my laptop. After a while, I look at it again and again I find it has moved forward quite a bit. First it was lying on a play-mat. A few moments later, I found it on the floor. Then, in the play gym. Then under the coffee table.

Like I just said. There’s a cute little turtle in our home. It moves when no one is looking, stops when there are eyes on it. Unsuspecting Dad uses the quiet time to catch up on his work. The unaware Mom prepares dinner in the kitchen. All is well, until you hear a thud. No longer able to maintain her balance trying to climb onto the front of the couch, the turtle – our 7 month old daughter – finally falls sideways onto the living room floor and the suddenness of the fall scares her more than it hurts, and she erupts into loud screams again. I rush to her aid again, pick her up in my arms and try to pacify her, while her Mom also arrives from the kitchen and inspects the scene. Our little girl gets a bit of affection from both parents and once she has stopped crying, I put her down on her play-mat again, and hand her her toys. She is happy now. The Mom is back in the kitchen, and I back at my laptop to resume typing the blog post I knew had been pending for weeks. I write a couple of more sentences, and just as my concentration is back, I throw a quick glance around the room to find my turtle again lying on its stomach on the floor. Where is it headed now?