February 27, 2012
My wife called at 2 am. “Your daughter wants to talk,” she said. They were half-a-day ahead in India, on vacation. On such calls, I have standard questions for my daughter (Almost 2 now): What’s your name? What’s mama’s name? Did you eat mum-mum? She has rote the answers. In between she babbles a few things that I don’t understand, but I respond as if she makes perfect sense. This time though, she didn’t come on the phone. “Not in mood now,” said my wife! Think about someone calling you in the wee hours and then not having a mood for talk! How do you handle that? This parenting is going to make me one hell of a patient man!
Unlike in India here in the US, parents, if they wish, can find out baby’s gender well in advance. At first, we had decided to keep it a secret; however, as the days went by we could not resist. Nine months is a long period for any secret.
I had an intuition for a daughter. Subsequent ultrasounds confirmed my hunch. I have written articles on my daughter while she was in the womb! I wonder if anyone does such a thing.
Being in the labor room, I was the first to see her - even before my wife. I was expecting the baby to look like its mother. So a big surprise was in store. She not only looks like me, but also over the time had all the trivial health issues that I had when I was of her age.
In the early days I could not sleep properly, whenever she was next to me. I feared, in my sleep, I might cause inconvenience to her. Later days, I would stack pillows next to her and sleep on the floor.
While asleep, Mother’s touch is a must - constant warmth is needed. When my wife steps out, I take the replacement. The child senses the change right away - however sound asleep she was.
She is almost two. Time flies. One day she will read this article. I wonder how she would feel. She might not like so much exposure. I myself won’t approve one of my parents writing about me - it’s quite embarrassing.
She knows about 20 words now: cheese, juice, fish, mum-mum, dudu, doggy, piggy, egg, cow, mamma, and a few more. She has mastered the words needed to manage her little world. May be this is how children learn. Prior to babbling, she used to cry to show disapproval. Later she learned to point at things she liked. Pointing was better; it was easier to understand her that way. Now she has learned to say NO. She has a strong opinion on everything. Even before completing my requests, she says NO - it’s a pain.
She calls dada all the time. Whether she knew the meaning of the word or simply chanted it like a parrot, was a mystery. One day someone showed her my picture and she said “dada!”
Once, she had a temperature; we rushed her to the hospital. I looked so desperate, the nurses and the staff thought I am the patient. The real patient was hiding under a bed, playing peek-a-boo.
Peek-a-boo is her favorite game; when she closes her eyes, she thinks, she has turned invisible - no one can see her: ostrich!
Boys are different. One time, at a friend’s home, I asked hi-five from a small boy; at the very moment someone had distracted me. My limp hand was still in the air; meanwhile this kid climbed the nearby couch and jumped at me and hit as hard as possible as if that was his last hi-five. As if he wanted to give me his best hi-five. Girls are different; when asked for a hi-five, most of the time they shy away; occasionally you get a mild pat.
Sometimes, she wakes me up in the wee hours; Points to the kitchen. I follow her to the fridge. She knocks at the giant door. “Cheese,” she says. I open the door. Unwrap the thin cheese slice and I wait silently till she finishes it. She offers me a morsel. I am not expected to decline. This fatty stuff at odd hours makes me gain wait and cholesterol. We walk back silently to the bedroom. Then I put her to sleep. Wait for the rhythmic breathing, then stack pillows next to her, and sleep on the floor.
One time, for a fancy dress event, we had dressed her up like an angel. Her Mother had done extensive shopping for the occasion. On the day, the little angel played and danced and jumped with other angels, spider-men, and little devils. When her time came for the stage show though, she was fast asleep. She could not participate in the event; but she had a blast.
The boys, about her age, are aware that she is a girl. They are gentle with her. The roughness of their games substantially decreases whenever she is around. She, though, is unaware of this chivalry. She fights with them and pulls their hair. Poke fingers into their eyes.
One time a water glass broke in the kitchen; she was immediately secured in a high chair; the floor was combed several times for tiny glass pieces. Then wiped, mopped, and vacuumed. Only then she was released from the high chair. Next day, I am in my room doing some chores, she comes to me, and places a large glass piece in my hand.
Another time she had managed to put both her hands in the pickle jar. I reached her in seconds; my wife, who was not in the picture, somehow reached her at the same time. I held the baby’s hand securely; my wife lifted her gently; like this we took her to the sink and washed her hand again and again. She never realized how close she was to the danger. She enjoyed the attention, playing all the time in the tap water.
My articles are becoming shorter and infrequent. I used to write for an hour everyday. Not anymore. She won’t allow me. I can only write till she gets impatient, which is frequent. Then I need to leave everything aside to play with her. When she sleeps, I run to my desk, to write a few pages.
Next to the writing desk, the shelves house an array of books. These are more books than most people read in a life time. They are neatly categorized. I know their place by-heart. Whenever my daughter is in the room, she shuffles the books on the bottom racks - the ones she could reach. When she sleeps, I re-arrange them, knowing well that she would re-shuffle again. These books have been collected over a period of time. They had been handled with great affection. But now in some of them you will find baby hand-prints. Some dear books have doodles on the front covers. It kills me. I hope the doodler reads them, when the time comes.
I am no more center of my life; there is no greater joy than being a parent. For me, even if I lose everything, the awareness, the knowledge, and the wealth, the fact that I have a child would ensure my sanity anytime.
Ravi Lobo - Archives:
- Everyday is a Miracle...
- Short Story : The New Tenants...
- The Long Wait
- Good News...
- A Fast Train to Virar...
- After the storm
- Mangalore days
- My Wedding and Related Incidents
- Grandpa and Grandson...
- My world
- Forgive me Father
- City by the sea
- A simple life
- Last in the boat race
- An affair to remember
- All about Life Cycle - its Faces and Phases