Baby breath and suchlike bliss
Hands up, baby, hands up/Gimme your heart, gimme gimme..." I sang. He smiled back adoringly.
Bug-eyed, dimple-chinned, full two feet of him stretched to attention as he gazed unblinking (doubtless thinking “Wish she’d hold a note better”), then grinned again (“Wait, it’ll end”). When my tubby toddler had to be powdered for prickly heat the summer sun routinely piled underarm, it was this tune to the rescue.
Not that anyone could be fans of Ottawan -- they’d inflicted even cheesier “D.I.S.C.O.” on us, ugh. Yet, the instant I crooned “Hands up” my distracted firstborn would obligingly raise his own pudgy pair in the air, so I’d sneak in soothing sprinkles of Nycil. Tricks. Traits. Tender. Tough. Every teen faces brings memories surging in the heads of parents once too harried to notice, now chock full with recall. These are some favourites from my kids’ birth through bachpan run.
Baby breath. Some swear by fragrant after-bath baby bottoms. I’m done in by the sweet scented, barely there “Pfff” expelled from a tiny human mouth fed nothing besides breast milk. Watch the fontanelle capping that soft skull heave gently with an inhale-exhale rhythm take your breath away in turn.
Chuckles in dream land. Never a bigger mystery than the question no adult can answer and baby can’t tell: Why was s/he laughing, asleep? Put it down to pure joy for no reason. Add to that the profile pose of dark lashes curl-resting on a plump cheek and you’re putty. I used to stare, unendingly skim a light finger over rosebud pouts in adjoining beds. Until led away by the husband reasoning, “Come on, you’ve seen this at night for years.”
Imperfect perfection. Or the endearing art of spoonerism as only lisping young lips manage. My daughter swapped her “b” and “t” consonants to politely ask visitors “Are you comforbatle?” or do a meal check with me -- “Today also vegebatles?” The last mispronounced word was “treasure”. Climbing into my lap with an illustrated Stevenson, she’d declare, “Let’s hear Treajure Island.” Yup, you’re meant to cheer when speech clears. But when she finally shed the “j” to get that sibilant right, I felt an inexplicable stab of dismay.
High alert. Reading aloud is an endurance test. Easy for parenting primers to spout --neither Ben Spock nor Miriam Stoppard warned us enough about kids believing mothers have energy on tap. Worse, their razor-sharp literalness leaves no chance for a con job. Nodding off over a storybook, I’d try skipping a phrase or two at page end to dart quicker to the next. A small yet sure voice always cut in: “Simba does something more here, na?”
No big deal. Exasperating when uttered with an adolescent shrug, these three words are music to the ears at times. Wonderful the way a child, noticing Mum’s culinary and writing skills hardly match, consoles, “No big deal, you can’t be good at everything!” And pushes me into a delightful T-shirt printed ‘Too cute to cook’ while greeting dinner guests.
Coming full circle with another song... In the film Love Wrinkle Free when Shernaz Patel, as a keen chorister housewife, burst into martial strains of the Battle Hymn of the Republic -- “My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” -- I had to stop my mind from wandering off on a giddy tangent. Barring a single last syllabic beat, that lilt was exactly “Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his nose”. Those who know it will likewise replay the innocent charm of this animated Beatrix Potter nursery ditty. Funny to fantastic, these are my child fixes. What are yours?
Meher Marfatia is the author of 10 books for children and two for parents. She has mothered her own kids well past the terrible twos and almost past the troubled teens.
Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org