Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas break with Mariama (by Daddy)

It feels a bit funny to call myself “Daddy” in a post.  I am getting used to calling myself that at home, but it is funny to write it online!

One of my highlights this Christmas has been to spend more time with our baby, Mariama.  Although I watched seven younger sisters and a younger brother grow up, I can’t remember noticing the stages of development so vividly as I see them in Mariama.

Can it already be five and a half months?  It just seems like last week she was born, and the next morning I was wrapping her in a swaddling cloth and shhhhh-ing her until she stopped crying.  Visitors poured in to greet, and she quickly learned to smile for them.  We took her to get her earrings (essential so people will know she is a girl), and her vaccinations.  I am so thankful that I didn’t ignore her during those first two months, because I would have missed out on newborn Mariama.  (Thank you, Christy—and also Bill Keane—for reminding us to treasure each phase of life!)

Has it only been five and a half months?  She seems like a completely different baby now.   She is getting so tall and heavy in our arms!  She watches and listens to everything that is happening, as if she understands.  She grabs whatever lands in her hand (especially Mommy’s hair and the long beads that hang in the doorway.)  She knows her name.  She stays sitting up on her own.  She loves her crackly sounding toys (which sound like the dangerous plastic we have to keep away from her to me!) and “reading” books.
But my favorite change is her “talking.”  Mommy firmly believes that Mariama should be interacted with at every moment, and so from the day Mariama was born, Mommy has continued talking to hear almost every moment.  Mariama seemed to pick up quickly, and by two months she was already “talking” with cooing sound—her favorite ones being high pitched ones.  Mommy would respond as if she understood what Mariama was saying “Oh?  Is that right”  “I’m sorry.”  “Then what happened?”

After taking a month’s break or so, Mariama has started back up again.  Often she looks at you, but even when she doesn’t you can totally see her expression changing the moment she knows you are talking to her.  If you are lucky, she will start cooing in response.

Before Mariama was born, Mommy suggested that I speak to her in Hausa, to help her learn it more quickly.  So, for five and a half months, I have been.  “Nkoro [link],” I say, using the name I prefer to call her in Hausa, “Kin tashi lafiya?” (Did you wake up fine?)  “Kina so, ki sha nono?” (Do you want to drink Mommy’s milk?)   “Kin ji wani abu?” (Did you hear something?)  I sometimes wonder if I will be able to keep it up because speaking to Mariama is one of the few times I use Hausa at home.  However, so far, I have been able to say whatever I want to her—and it has forced me to grow a little in my Hausa too.
Around the beginning of October, I noticed Mariama was looking at my hands intently.  Wanting to do something interesting with my hands, I decided to spell the American Sign Language alphabet for her—singing while I did it.  She absolutely loved it, especially the “U” “V” “W” part.  (Maybe she thought it was funny to see two fingers which seemed like one to her suddenly split apart?)   Immediately after I finished, I noticed her looking at her hand a lot, moving her thumb and first two fingers.  Mommy and I grew tired of two different “A, B, C, D” songs before Mariama did, so I started trying to sign other words and songs, but I don’t know much sign language at all.  So today I bought an ASL book. 

Maybe in a few months Mariama will start signing and talking, maybe even in multiple languages, but I am not eager for that day to come any sooner than it has to.  If she and Mommy go out of the house, I miss both of them.  I love Mariama just as she is right now, my beautiful little baby.  Thank God with us for how she is growing!

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