Archive for May, 2010

In praise of hands-on Dads… and Mums

My father always played a very hands-on role in our lives as children (though, incidentally, at the moment he is quite literally hands-off, given that male Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch women or girls, so no Dad-hugs for me; but there were Dad-smiles and Dad-laughs a-plenty during his visit, which actually are just as good). Bathtime, teatime, storytime, he was fully involved in all of it- and during the last of those three, storytime, would deliberately slow his reading down to lull us to sleep. Saturdays with Dad smelled of wet hair, chlorine and poolside cafe chips (which we weren’t allowed, favouring as my parents did snacks of the apple-and-raisin variety). Later on, when Mum started working shifts at the weekends, he even instigated Saturday Fun Club for my sisters, which involved not only chips but also ice cream and picnics. As a teenager I pretended not to be jealous.

But this involvement was not anything remarkable to us, just a natural part of our childhood which came from a sense that my parents were a team. Now I’m glad to say that G is a “hands on Dad” and we too see ourselves very much as a team (I especially see us as a team at 6.30am when Mummy wants more sleep). At the moment, given that I have the maternity leave and the boobage, I am by default the primary carer. But I hope and feel confident that as Leila gets older, and I go back to work, we’ll work together to keep the homestead happy.

Hands-on dads are to be celebrated. The other day a friend and I were discussing the delights of the post-solid-food nappy- something I anticipate with mounting horror, especially as we’ve opted to use cloth nappies which need soaking and scraping and ugh, let’s not talk about it. My friend’s niece’s daddy has pronounced the napppies “savage”. Isn’t it nice, I found myself saying, that he’s so hands-on as to be intimate with the contents of his baby’s nappy. But then the fact that I felt compelled to praise him made me wonder: when was the last time you heard someone remark admiringly: “isn’t it great that she’s such a hands-on mother!”. I find myself melting a little at the sight of dads with their young children in the park after school ( as I parade around and around and around its perimeter, because it’s the only way Leila fancies napping at the moment). But the mums don’t melt me. People (I) admire  a father for being involved; they (I)  expect a mother to naturally be so.

That I, an unashamed feminist, harbour these indulgent double standards, speaks volumes of the attitudes of society at large. Because yes, a hands-on dad is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Thank goodness for my Dad and Leila’s dad, and my friend’s niece’s dad.  But  a hands-on mum is something to be celebrated too. Let’s be glad of both.

Throw those curtains wide

A golden May morning with family cuddles in bed and a bubble-covered, sun-splashed bairn wriggling in the baby bath under the bedroom window.

Leil dons her Sunday Best, getting her giggle on before heading to church for a little friend’s christening. During the service I well up as I tend to do on the (rather rare) occasions I find myself in a church.

And the moment I’d been waiting for: my Buddhist monk father (that’s a whole nother blog post!), visiting from Thailand, sees Leila for the first time since she was three days old. They simply beam at each other, for minute after heart-filling minute. It’s a mutual appreciation society I’m only too happy to witness.

One day like this a year would see me right.

12 Weeks

I e-mailed the above photo to my sister yesterday, who showed it to her work colleagues in true proud auntie style. An Indian coworker exclaimed that Leila must be a lucky baby, on account of her birthmark. Apparently in Indian tradition they are a good omen.

I suppose she is lucky, in the way that all babies should be and deserve to be lucky: she is fed and warm, loved and safe. And from the sound of her latest range of vocal stylings, she seems happy. The last couple of days have been filled with new chirrups, squeals and quacks. She’s making them now, when she’s supposed to be asleep. It’s quite unnerving, sitting on the sofa whilst a disembodied voice, a high-pitched cross between Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe (only with far fewer skeletons in its closet), if you can imagine that combination, issues from the baby monitor in the corner.

(Today, like a big obsessive loon- I did warn you in my last post- I called my sister at work so that Leila could leave her a voice message. Then called her again to discuss the voice message. Then, when she didn’t answer, texted her to inform her that she had an important voicemail. Then called her again. She was in a meeting with her boss throughout. Yes, I have become that person.)

As much as I love, and am perhaps disproportionately delighted with, these new noises, I confess that I miss the tremulous gurgles and purrs, the tentative ah-goos which were her first proper vocalisations. At nearly 3 months old, Leila is opening out to the world like a flower. A big, colourful, loud flower. When she was born she was my tiny bud, curled around herself and into my shoulder. Now she is all fat thrusting legs and swivelling curious  head and bright beady eyes, and these new hilarious noises. It’s a strange feeling, to be so enchanted by the way she is growing and changing, whilst at the same time feeling wistful for the head that needed to be held up by my hand, the legs that didn’t reach the end of the moses basket, the black, endlessly deep eyes of a new baby.

But I only miss these things because they were amazing, just as the way she is developing is amazing. Being able to see her busting out into the world is a privilege which I thank my stars for every day. And some things stay the same, unmistakably Leila: her cheeky sideways look when she smiles, her silky mullet, her love of bathtime, the way she calms down and gazes evenly when she is perched in the crook of her Daddy’s arm.

Someone should stick a strawberry nevus on our foreheads, for we are the lucky ones, not her.