I’ve been feeling really happy these last few days and I’m not sure why. I keep wondering if its being with Zi. I’m kind of in awe that one little being could create such an endorphin rush. it feels like being in love. there is air beneath my feet.
these days she’s smiles all the time with stone and i. and that first smile in the morning is addictive. it’s not just mimicry. i smile at her and she bubbles with pure, unmediated joy. too young still to say hello, not yet saying mama, but saying so much with her eyes and crinkled nose and grin back at me.
unlike many other babies, it took her more than five months to start smiling. she wasn’t a smiley baby. in fact, she has a serious screw-face when she’s ready. one i’m sure she’s going to be using on people when she’s an adult.
though she’s always smiling and laughing at home, when i take her out she gives friendly people the most deadpan look. like she’s still deciding whether to engage them at all. and if she does, its going to be on her terms. i didn’t really know babies could look skeptical. but she’s got this look which tells people that she may or may not want to interact with them, but she definitely doesn’t want to be touched. some babies smile and go off happily with everybody. not my child. she not smiling with you jes so. she not going anywhere with you at all. she doh play. a tiny tough crowd.
it’s not surprising. her dad is pretty anti-social though he’s super friendly to those he knows and loves. i’m friendly too, but i keep those close to me close and most others get a bit more arms length. i tell Zi she doesn’t have to smile with everybody – something my mother, an old school lady who believes in the power of relating to people with a bright smile – completely disagrees with. But, times have changed, and girlhood doesn’t have to be all cutesy anymore. i tell Ziya that her emotions are hers. feel what she wants. show what emotions she wants. and if anyone does anything to her she doesn’t like, i’m going to tell her what mariel brown’s mother told mariel-the-little-girl to shout. not ‘no!’, not ‘stop!’ but ‘ fuck off!’. lol. you have to raise girls for a tough world these days.
still, i get that first smile when she turns her head in the morning. i get her last smile while breastfeeding before bed. i see her smiling in her sleep. i don’t know if it’s these smiles, given only to us who have earned them, that are making me so happy. maybe its age, maybe its the whole combination of husband, baby, house, dogs, friends and job, which i work hard at and get back a lot from in return. maybe its that golden minute before something bad happens. maybe its just this precious, fleeting moment, where the everyday difficulties of life, are outshone by silver lining so luminescent that everything else is in shadow.
i teach in women’s studies that its important to value women, not because of what they do or how they look or how good they are at something, but simply because they are. i feel that way about Zi. i hear a lot from other parents about how early their baby is walking or how they just love brushing their teeth or combing their hair and, of course, how they’ve been sleeping through the whole night since four months old and never give trouble to eat. i try not to get into those kinda conversations that compare Zi to other babies, and what they’ve learned or how good they are or the things they do. who she is right now is her call. i value her just because she is and, as she grows into womanhood, that’s something i want her to know she deserves from others too.
From awards to meetings to movies, she goes everywhere with me, chilling, being herself, being with me. we have real fun and have managed to do it both on her terms and mine. i expect it to be more difficult the older and more active and wriggly she gets, so i’ve been enjoying it right through.
maybe that’s why i’m so happy. maybe its just the euphoria of living in the now, the unmatchable delight of giving and receiving so many smiles, the pleasure of watching life spring forth in front of me, the decision to feel such happiness rather than let fear of loss take away from each moment, each day. i’m appreciating her and me, just because we are. and somehow, inside and out, i’m smiling.