Weekly Photo Challenge: Resilient

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Age isn’t just a number; it’s a reflection of the hardships we’ve faced, the laughs we’ve shared, the times we’ve fallen, the tears we’ve shed. In essence, it is a true measure of one’s resilience.

 

Life is an obstacle course, a test of endurance, if you may; it has its highs and lows, twists and turns. Each day brings with it new battles to fight and new reasons to celebrate, a roller coaster of surprises both good and bad; every passing year makes you more resilient.

 

This photo is an homage to life in all its glory.
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This Thing Called ‘Life’

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At times
I just get
Overwhelmed
Thinking
About things
That I have yet
To accomplish
Driving me to
The verge of
Tears

“Get over it”,
I tell myself,
“Life’s short;
Prioritize,
Persevere,
Perspire,
Just push it
And make
Every second
Count”

– Yousuf Bawany, May 2016

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost In The Details

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No borders can stop light from shining through. Don’t get intimidated by the barbed wires life spins around you; think how to break-free and shine like the light you were always meant to be.

In response to this week’s photo challenge.

It Won’t Be Long, So Just Let Her Be!

Daughters are precious. Seems like yesterday when I took her into my arms for the very first time; it’s been 17 months already, and time seems to have no intention of slowing down. At the office, I just can’t wait for the day to end so that I can enjoy the sound of her laughter, the sight of her cherubic face, the touch of her little arms wrapped around me, the taste of the half-eaten saliva-soaked potato chip that she lovingly shoves into my mouth, and the smell of watermelon-flavored baby shampoo in her hair. Every day I get to spend with her is a day I cherish.

There are instances when my daughter’s out with her mother and I finally have some peace. I hate to admit it but I am super-excited about the prospect of getting some alone time for myself, but five minutes into this ‘quality time’, and I start missing her immensely, my existence fading away into nothingness. So to fill this void, I grab my car keys and go pick my daughter up from wherever she has gone to; if that’s not an option (like when she’s with her mother at a wedding reception), all I can do is wait for her to come back. Sigh!

At this point in her life, she’s on a road to self-discovery, learning new words, acquiring new tastes, and making bold choices at a staggering pace. Fairly recently, she started calling me ‘Papa’, while referring to herself as ‘Dolly’. Moreover, she now understands the meaning of ‘No, No, No!’ and she doesn’t wait to say it out loud if something is not to her liking. She’s becoming head-strong, assertive and opinionated, less a child, more an adult. It makes me reflect on the high intellectual level kids these days have as compared to kids in my generation, all the while being painfully aware that she’s growing up faster than I want her to. There are a few quirks of hers that, at times, astound, amaze, annoy, irritate, and even worry me, but looking at them from another perspective, I am reminded that these cute little habits of hers won’t last forever, that the sands of time are a slipping, no matter how tightly I try holding on to them. So if you have a little angel in your life, you should just*:

1. Let her eat what she wants, when she wants; it won’t be long before she starts counting calories.

Loops o’ Fruit

2. Let her snuggle and sleep in your arms all night even if you find it uncomfortable; it won’t be long before she starts getting comfortable with her independence.

In my Arms

3. Let her play with her toys for as long as she wishes to; it won’t be long before she’s drowning in books, fighting to survive in this super-competitive world.

Puzzled!

4. Let her run all over the house like a headless chicken, even if it means getting a few bumps on her head; it won’t be long before she is bound and gagged by the ‘norms‘ of our society.

The Getaway Car

5. Let her ask as many questions as she wants and answer her no matter how many times she asks them; it won’t be long before she discovers Google.

Uber-geek

6. Let her throw tantrums when she’s mad; it won’t be long before she starts hiding her emotions behind  a smile.

The Aftermath

7. Let her hug you and kiss you and call you ‘papa’ incessantly; it won’t be long before she leaves you for another man.

With All My Love

8. Let her squeal with joy as you throw her up in the air, waiting to fall back into your arms; it won’t be long before she gets too heavy to pick up.

Head n’ Shoulders

9. Let her escape your grasp every time you try combing her hair; it won’t be long before she begins spending hours in front of the mirror.

Hair Emergency

10. Let her make ‘pretend‘ calls on your phone; it won’t be long before she starts making ‘real‘ calls and you’ll be the one frowning at the bills.

I’d Rather Have THAT One!

11. Let her put her feet on your feet while you walk; it won’t be long before she finds her own stride.

Pretty / Ugly

12. Let her wear clothes/accessories that match yours; it won’t be long before she hates the very idea of color-coordinating dresses with her dad.

Mom’s Watch, My Watch

13. Let her run straight into your arms when you get home from work; it won’t be long before she has more pressing matters on her mind than to greet her tired old man.

Run Into You

14. Let her make a mess; it won’t be long before she gets obsessively organized.

Girly Obsessions

15. Let her push you to your limits and beyond; it won’t be long before she’s gone off to college, leaving you all alone in your ‘comfort zone‘.

Insanity

16. Let her chase after cats; it won’t be long before she follows in her mother’s footsteps and jumps on a chair every time she spots a feline in the vicinity.

Feline

17. Let her enjoy her regular reading of bedtime stories; it won’t be long before she’s engrossed in a riveting novel she’s just picked up, while blocking you out.

Stack ’em Up

18. Let her have as much milk as she wants; it won’t be long before she finds you chasing after her for her daily intake of calcium.

Got Milk?

19. Let her wake you up in the morning; it won’t be long before she leaves for school by the time you wake up.

The Clock

20. Let her roar with laughter when you make funny faces at her; it won’t be long before she develops a sense of humor and realizes funny faces aren’t ‘funny‘ anymore.

That’s Funny

21. Let her drag/squeeze you into her four-feet-by-four-feet play tent to have a tea party; it won’t be long before she discovers that the exact same (invisible) area around her is actually her ‘personal space‘.

The Play Tent

22. Let her scream at the top of her lungs; it won’t be long before she comprehends the wisdom behind silence.

Cacophony

23. Let her believe she is Cinderella; it won’t be long before she realizes life isn’t a fairy tale.

Fairy Tales

24. Let her discover the rich creamy smoothness of chocolate ice cream; it won’t be long before she gets wind of the Baskins Robbins selection or, God forbid, Peshawri ice cream.

Death By Chocolate

People say you can only understand being the father of a daughter only if you have one of your own, and this has never been truer. The first time I laid eyes on my daughter, I cried, knowing that God has loaned her to me for a very short time, until someone else sweeps her off her feet and takes her away. Try as I might, I can’t delay the inevitable, or stop time for that matter, but she’ll always be my baby girl no matter how old she gets.

‘Papa loves you, darling, and he knows he will always be your first love.’

*Note: As far as personalities are concerned, children are a murky reflection of their parents, as well as what they absorb from their peers and the environment they live in. These are just hypothetical maybes and one should not take offence from them; I’m hoping I’ve made my point, though!

Baby Steps 101 – Learning to be a first-time parent

What goes on in the labor room, stays in the labor room! Some progressive hospitals let the dad into the labor room to enjoy (seriously?!) the whole 360-degree birthing experience, but more often than not, the dad and the couple’s close relatives sit in the waiting area, praying for the health of the mother and the baby. The father-to-be can clearly be distinguished from the lot as the one pacing the entire length of the dimly-lit corridor, biting his nails (or indulging in some alternate idiosyncrasy), waiting for the nurse to come out with some good news; a scene straight out of a silent movie. It could be hours, even days (God forbid), till you hear from the hospital staff, and when you’ve given up all hope, a nurse sporting blood-splattered scrubs (the source is better left unnamed) bursts out of the labor room screaming, “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” (or a boy). What follows is nothing short of a miracle; the silent ambiance is ruptured with shrieks of joy and cries of “Mubarak Ho, Mubarak Ho!” (meaning Congratulations in Urdu). From my personal experience and fairly recent induction into daddy-ville, a possible sequence of events that follow include:

  1. shedding a tear (or two) of relief, or even a full-blown outburst (believe me; no one will judge you)
  2. seeing the baby for the first time
  3. shedding a tear (or two) of joy – again; no judging
  4. checking on the mother’s health
  5. sharing sweets with everyone
  6. seeing the baby again
  7. your mother and your mother-in-law arguing over who she resembles more
  8. saying the Azaan (Muslim call for prayers) in the infant’s ear
  9. seeing the baby some more (you just can’t seem to get enough of her)
  10. having some more sweets (Pakistanis will be Pakistanis)
  11. shortlisting baby names (if you haven’t already decided on one yet)
  12. meeting your wife together with the baby and crying some more
  13. giving the baby something sweet to taste

And then the baby comes home, bringing with it, two invisible (not imaginary) companions named “Sleepless Nights” and “Ceaseless Crying”. You have no choice but to welcome them into your humble abode; no compromises. Waking up at hours unheard of somehow becomes routine. People at work mock/pity you as you walk into your office with bleary red eyes. You seem to be running to the doctor every time the baby sneezes. You used to think your wife was high-maintenance; well guess again! The formula milk and the diapers, the cleaning wipes and the bouncers, the bottles and the sterilizers, the rattles and the swings, and loads of other things-that-shall-not-be-named, don’t come cheap; and don’t even get me started on the filthy expensive vaccinations. But wait; there’s another intruder that creeps into your life and needs no invitation; “Postpartum Depression”. Your wife’s mood swings, an essential part of her hormonal imbalances, may drive you to the edge and back; tears of joy might turn into a crying frenzy on how she would be a terrible mother. In her defense, after what she’s gone through, she deserves a breakdown or two (hmmm… make that a hundred). As a loving husband, you must hold her hand through all the highs and lows, and make sure she knows that you are there to support her no matter what; a freezer full of her favorite ice cream seems to help (a lot!).

One of my daughter's favorite toys - may it rest in peace (or should I say 'pieces'?)

The last paragraph should pretty-much sum up your life for the first three months after the baby’s birth. But as soon as the baby crosses over into her fourth month, most lucky parents (myself included) see a visible change in their lifestyles. The baby becomes more responsive, starts cooing, even ga-ga-ing at times, might even recognize you, bestow you with a smile or two, and seems to settle down into a sleeping pattern. Sleeping for four (maybe even six) hours isn’t just a dream anymore. Life somehow seems much more settled. There are a few outbursts, a tummy-ache here, a little gas there, but all-in-all, you feel blessed after having gone through what you have in the early days.

Five-month olds and coloring books do not mix - take it from experience

My daughter is a little over five months old now and she keeps getting more adorable every second. I can hardly restrain myself from giving her soft cheeks a loving bite. Besides being my favorite dessert, there’s a lot more she has to offer, be it a sincere smile, or a gentle caress. But more than anything, she has drastically changed my perceptions on learning; it is not a one-way street as perceived by most new parents. We spend all our lives trying to mold our children into ideals, but we somehow miss so many things our children can teach us, even as infants. Here are twelve things I learned from my five-month old daughter.

  1. Persistence is the key to getting what you want, when you want; crying always works.
  2. Curiosity might have killed the cat but it won’t kill you, as long as your parents are watching.
  3. Change is healthy, even if it’s just a loaded diaper.
  4. A sincere smile can change any situation from bad to good.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try out new things even if they are not edible.
  6. Appreciate the little things in life, even if they’re as mundane as the ceiling fan.
  7. Don’t care what people might think about you; just let it rip.
  8. Time shouldn’t limit your abilities to do wonderful things.
  9. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying; you’ll eventually learn to sit on your own.
  10. Hold onto the people you love as if it’s the last time you’re holding them.
  11. Raise your voice; you won’t get any milk if you aren’t heard.
  12. Be content with what you have; drinking milk everyday is enough to keep you alive.

Raising a child can be nerve-wracking and fun, all at the same time. But more than anything, its an amazing voyage of self-discovery. It has its ups and downs (mostly ups), but most importantly, it allows you to appreciate the gift of life. You may have other children later on, but the experiences of raising your first born will last you a lifetime.

NOTE: Being a father, I’m writing this article from a dad’s perspective and from my own personal experience. Even though it has a lot of religious and cultural influences, you may be able to relate to most of my experiences.

This article was published at the Express Tribune Pakistan Blog (International Herald Tribune) as well as in the October – November 2011 issue of Expert Parenting and Pregnancy, Pakistan.

A Bitter Pill

Taking criticism, especially constructive, is a bitter pill to swallow. The key is to remember that while this pill might throw our taste-buds off-balance for a few hours (or even days), it will give us lasting benefits if taken regularly; a home-brew with no side effects.