By being with Sufiana and trying to understand her with awareness, I’m getting to understand more and more what enriches her mind, heart and soul. And, day after day, my conviction that babies don’t want to be stimulated (distracted?) with toys, artificial sounds and sights, a fake, pretend world, is becoming clearer and crisper.
No matter how colourful the toys, no matter how animated the sounds from the battery-operated gadgets, she moves away from these within a matter of minutes.
The moments that she regales in are the interactions with us…
– the conversations that we have, the stories that I tell her (and NOT read to her). The inanimate objects that she finds fascinating are the ones that we the grown-ups use in our daily lives – the steel utensils in my kitchen, the packs of rice and lentils and spices, the paint brushes that she watches Pari using, the pens that are sprawled on Pari’s writing table, the vegetables in the refrigerator basket, the buckets filled with water and the big mug that I use to give bath to her (I brought a smaller mug for her so she would be able to fill it from the bucket and lift – but it was the big mug that still held her attraction, for I use it to give her bath).
Her favourite place in the whole house is the kitchen
– for that’s where the most interesting activities happen – I cook, it leads to the backyard where the birds and buffaloes can be spotted, it’s the kitchen where the dinner table is and that’s where my laptop is, where I check my emails, listen to songs etc. I tried creating a play-space for her and she finds her way there every now and then, but she keeps coming back to the kitchen to find me there, exchange a smile with me, share a few beautiful words – words that are her own creation. Those words are the most musical sounds I’ve ever heard. Sometimes, she’ll come singing into the kitchen – the song is a version of the mantra I sing to her.
The real paintings….
….on the big walls of an art gallery, the blender in the kitchen, the microwave with the cake pan rotating inside, the big keyboard that Pari plays (and not the small, toy-like thing from years past), the tea-cup that I sip from, the water bottle that we carry when traveling (she doesn’t want a sipper) – all the things that are in use in the real world are what she’s interested in!
Her world is full of learning because she soaks up all the moments and experiences that are real – although they might seem mundane and ordinary to us. For her, they are enriching and exciting.
And, we think we need to create an artificial world
For our babies to learn and make sense of this world – with toys, books, books with textures (when we can have them feel those textures in the real-world context), cribs with mobiles, rooms with specific colours and patterns and letters and pictures, battery-operated gadgets.
They need none of these.
All they need is a home with real people
A home that is lively and playful with people who express their love with play, cuddles, conversations, respect. Our babies need parents/care-takers who do not treat babies as cute, tiny, helpless things that can be swung around, pinched on their cheeks, handed over to strangers without their consent, awareness and approval; who can be bounced around in carry bags when the baby is not willing to be strapped.
Sufiana is showing me the beauty, intelligence and wisdom of a baby’s mind and soul. She’s showing me every single day that she’s no less a person than I am. Infact, she’s got more clarity for so many things than I do. She knows exactly when she doesn’t want one more bite of the food she so relishes. She knows exactly how to communicate every need of her without using a single word. She spends time lost (engrossed?) in her thoughts oblivious of the sounds, the busy-ness around her. She can stay focused for long, long minutes examining mere (mere?) grains of fennel on the floor (she loves to pick each fennel grain and chew it).
She knows how to say “thank you, I”m grateful” with that subtle, gentle, sweet smile every time that I try to acknowledge and understand her – her joy, her pain, her frustration, her tiredness, her excitement, her irritation. The best part is how that smile is conveyed more with her eyes than with the curve of her lips.