Tag Archives: emily

Reading to Emily

sddMy folks used to read to us a lot. Especially my Dad. I remember enjoying it; my father’s flexible vocal range giving silly life to the characters in the books we were reading and diverting off track to recapture our attention if it drifted.

Emily’s been a bit small for stories to be read to her and hold her attention, but we’ve taken her through a few board books here and there. One of my client’s recently mentioned that their HR director has a philosophy based on a children’s book, "Some Dogs Do," so, sufficiently intrigued, I bought it as a gift for Emily on her return from Denmark.

After supper one night, with her attention locked in by virtue of being in her high-chair with nowhere to scamper off to, I read her the book to peals of giggles and laughter. Again, at nine months, I’m not sure how much she’s taking in but perhaps I manage to hit on some of the vocal magic my Dad used on us when we were kids to entertain and delight.

Either way, it’s a special pleasure for me and I look forward to more storytime fun in the future.

Babies and personal space

One of the things that’s taken the most getting used to with Emily for me is understanding the need to respect her personal space. With other people’s babies I’ve known in the past, there’s been a lot of play, cuddles, bouncing, etc., apparently on our own terms. With Em, we’ve become incredibly aware of the need to let her mark out her own boundaries for play.

We’ve been disciplined about it – never thinking or speaking of her as ‘baby’ but always as Emily (or various unspeakably cute variations on that theme). And as she develops and her personality continues to present itself, it’s been amazing to watch her dictate the terms of engagement with other people.

The other day, my dad tried to pick her up for a cuddle before she was quite ready for him and I suggested he hold back, and just hold his arms out and smile at her. Sure enough, Emily sized him up, stuck her arms out and leapt into his arms for a bit of a play.

Wonderful to see.

Cultural differences in kinship terminology

I’ve been trying to work out to describe how our daughter Emily is related to the various people she’s been meeting over the last several weeks. To my Mum and Dad’s siblings, she’s a great-niece. To my cousins, she’s a first-cousin once removed. To my cousin’s children, she’s a second cousin.

This is all right and true, as established by the common European kinship relationship system, drawn out here.

A few people commented that “[East] Indians have a different way of doing it,” and indeed they do. As to various native American tribes, the Chinese, the Scandinavians and everyone else. As Emily has claim to several of these traditions, I thought I’d look into it to see if there was anything in the Dravidian kinship system (on my Father’s side) or Indo-Aryan (on my Mother’s) or Danish (on Amanda’s mother’s) side to bear this out.

Turns out, not so much. The Danish tradition looks pretty similar to the standard European one as far as I can tell, although there is gender-attribution in the kinship terminology – you reference whether the relationship is on your father or mother’s side.

Similar things hold true as far as using gender to reference relationships in the various Indian traditions, but truth be told, it gets mind-bendingly confusing and no-one in my family uses these terms to mean what they mean in common English usage. From Wikipedia:

The Dravidian kinship system involves selective "cousinhood." One’s father’s brother’s children and one’s mother’s sister’s children are NOT cousins but brothers and sisters "one step removed." They are considered "consanguinous" ("pangali") and marriage with them is strictly forbidden as it is "incestuous." However, one’s father’s sister’s children and one’s mother’s brother’s children are considered cousins and potential mates ("muraicherugu"). Marriages between such cousins are allowed and encouraged. There is a clear distinction between "cross" cousins who are one’s true cousins and parallel cousins who are in fact "siblings". Like Iroquois people, Dravidians refer to their father’s sister as "mother-in-law" and their mother’s brother as "father-in-law."

As Amazing as Amanda is, I think she’d struggle with the idea that I had 8 mother-in-laws when we got married, and indeed I find the idea that half my first cousins were “potential mates” based on random gender bias more than a bit bizarre. There’s even more explanation of this perspective here. Given that I know how genetics work, I’m going to dismiss this kinship terminology as inappropriate for our purposes, especially given no-one I’m related to uses these relationships to have these meanings or consequences.

On the Aryan side, I’ve struggled to find freely available web resources explaining how the various North Indian groupings view kinship. Similarly to the Danes, there are gender specific biases (my mother is technically Emily’s “Dadi” – ‘Father’s mother’, although she doesn’t like the term so we arbitrarily use something else). Most people of my generation, rather than reference their “mother’s sister’s son or daughter” just use the word “kәzin” to cover all of these (in the Sindhi tradition, according to this – section 3.2.1). Which makes it seem vaguely similar to the European tradition.

So that’s it. There’s no “grand aunts”, second cousins are what the children of first cousins are to each other and first cousins aren’t “uncles” to each others’ cousins’ children, but first cousins once removed. I’m sticking with that until I read anything obviously and heroically contradictory :-)

Of course, it’s been abundantly clear that this issue is anything but simple and a number of academic papers have been authored on the subject, including some by none other than my own professor mother. But what is clear to me is that the desire to attribute “aunt” or “uncle” ship to everyone is little to do with kinship – rather it is steeped in the culture of respect for elders and the titles are used for that purpose alone. Which, for me, is no bad thing.

Datukship for Grandpa

The Malaysian equivalent of  knighthood is “Datuk” – which is also the  Malay word for ‘progenitor’ or ‘ancestor’ according to Google Translate. In common parlance, my Dad received his Datukship five months ago when Emily was born. Technically my Mum too, although I’m not sure if Datukship is only for the men or not, but certainly they are both ‘progenitors’ of Emily!

Was amused when Aunty Maria pointed it out. Expect my folks will get the joke made to them a fair few more times in the weeks and months ahead!

Update: My Dad has not been ‘awarded’ a Datukship. He became a Datuk when Emily was born – i.e. he became a grandpa. Apparently this wasn’t clear!!

Cynical much?

Went to the Malaysian Islamic Art Museum today for some touristy action on discovering its high ranking on Tripadvisor – the no1 tourist destination in the state, apparently. It was pretty impressive, actually – a massive, light, air-conditioned, airy space, some impressive exhibits and apparently the best bathrooms Amanda has ever been in. It had about 30 visitors across its thousands of square feet of exhibits, mostly foreign visitors.

Am I being massively cynical to think that if the subject of the museum had been something non-Islamic, in this country it would likely smell, be overheated, understaffed, and totally unimpressive? Or should I just be pleased that at least we have a good (if relatively pricey at RM12 for entry, RM5 for a bottle of water) cultural destination?

Planning on checking out the aquarium in KLCC tomorrow, hopefully that’ll be fun too.

The Science Centre, which we visited yesterday, wasn’t bad but nowhere nearly as polished as the art gallery (although admittedly far more child-oriented… I guess it’d be comparing the circus to the opera house…)

Baby Emily enjoyed both enormously, of course, being in her buggy for both experiences, getting hands on with plasma exhibits in the science museums and just giggling with glee as she whizzed through the art gallery.

Baby training academy

Emily is *so* close to rolling over. Amanda and I have taken to giving her a bit of extra training – more tummy time and some assisted rolls. It’s a matter of days, we think!

One of the many highlights of recent days has been seeing her start to be even more responsive and interactive during activities like this. She smiles during tummy time, gazing around the room to see the smiling relatives looking on adoringly. She even lifts her head up so she can get a good chomp on Sophie the Teething Giraffe (a favourite toy).

The other recent fantastic experience is seeing her react to her buggy – in the UK she wasn’t quite big enough to sit in the buggy chassis for her Silver Cross Surf pram, but the relatively cheap and cheerful Hauck three wheeler we’ve acquired over here (something like this) is better suited to her current size – and she sits in it literally trembling with excitement as she zooms around shopping malls, leaning forward (she’s in a permanent state of crunch) to grab the bar and lift herself up for an even better view. She giggles joyously when we play with her in it.

Huge fun. Being a dad is *awesome*.

Giggles with Emily

gigglesMy daughter’s adorable. She’s not easy to make laugh, though, and therefore it was with a real sense of achievement that I not only managed to eke out a full 2 minutes of giggles out of her with the help of Ambrose the Hippo (now renamed Peeka), playing peekaboo off the edge of her buggy – but also captured it on video!

If you’re a Facebook friend you can view the vid on my wall. If you’re not, you get this pic. She’s even more beautiful when she laughs!

The simple joys of parenthood

Emily continues to be a joy and seeing her come on has been a daily source of entertainment and proud pleasure for us both. Some special highlights for me as she passes her four month birthday:

– Getting her ready for bed in the evening. She has a nightly soak in a warm baby bath – partly to get her used to the idea that water/baths are fun, partly to get her tired enough for a long sleep, and partly to get her clean. I hold her there and try to eke out a smile, which she provides obligingly every now and again, and kicks into the water determinedly. Adorable. Followed by oil massage!

– Helping her cope with teething with Sophie the teething giraffe. Or possibly giraffe shaped teething aid. In any case, watching her hand movements go from random flapping (in itself very cute) to a focussed, directed movement with the aim of getting Sophie into her tiny jaws is an amazing thing.

– Fighting for giggles. Whilst easily one of the smiliest babies I’ve ever met, Emily gives out laughs very occasionally. I’ve a few tricks that can result in a little burst of laughter, including the feigned drop (only to be conducted by her parents!), the tickle (which never used to do anything, but which she is gradually finding more entertaining), the baby-yoga (which she finds disproportionately funny) and a few others we’re working to refine.

– The morning smile. She always wakes up with a big grin and it is possibly one of the most fulfilling things for anyone to see. It melts our hearts and pretty much makes up for whatever overnight shenanigans she’s pulled.

– The lie-in. A consequence of the late night shenanigan, at the weekends she’s occasionally allowed to join us in bed for a lie-in. Sleep is hard for me to come by once she’s granted access to the bed – fear of crushing her! – but her peaceful sleeping smile gives us both some extra rest and fulfilment.

– The bird / leg grabbing manoeuvres – she’s just started doing these. The bird involves flapping arms up and down whilst puling legs in and stretching them out in rapid alternate cycles. The leg-grabbing manoeuvre involves grabbing her legs and lifting them as high as she can. Standard, but adorable.

– Tummy time. Emily’s generally not a fan, but seems to enjoy it more when she’s doing push-ups off Daddy’s chest. Absolutely adorable. Also featured: fake walking on Daddy’s chest.

– What’s going on, Daddy? She was in my lap this evening whilst I downed a cup of Berocca (fending off a particularly unpleasant cold). Fascinated by the bright orange drink, she’d put down Sophie (the aforementioned giraffe chew-toy) to track the Berocca glass as I brought it up for a sip, and then stare at me with a knowing look – as if to say “Daddy, anything that colour can’t be good for you.”

– Digital moments. Skype calls to grandparents and far-flung aunts and uncles have been a source of great fun for her, and for us. We feel much more connected. And I’m so pleased I got the iPhone4 Smile

Anyway, as you can probably tell, I’m enjoying parenthood. Emily had a wonderful time entertaining people at her first Coast party (Happy birthday Holly!), and is now resisting sleep. Ah well, that’s what ‘Music for Dreaming’ is for!

A weekend of Emexperiences

Wonderful weekend, as have they all been, but full on on four specific Emexperiences.

1) Poop. I got to change them all. No novelties here, except for instructing Aunty Sheila… who got to witness the ever unpleasant mid-change poop. Fortunately a well-located nappy cut collateral damage down to zero.

2) Sleep. On Sat night/Sun morning, Amanda decided I was responsible for all of Emily’s post-overnight feed burping… and where she’d only fed once over night the evening before, she was making up for lost time on Saturday. Every two hours, after Amanda fed her, I’d have to keep her upright for 10-25 minutes without dropping off to sleep myself to help the wind through her. Absolutely sleep-destroying and don’t know how Amanda does it every day, even with late night digestives to keep her energy up. My wife, ladies and gentlemen, is amazing.

3) Smiles. Emily did her first verified non-gas related smile this evening and it was an absolute joy – not only to see her smiling and happy but to witness her development. She’s a little on the early side – she’s 4 weeks old and the majority come in with first smiles around 6 weeks – so it was a delightful surprise. I have a new game – make Emily smile! Although am definitely not wishing the time away (sleep notwithstanding!)

4) Bathtime was fun. She always fusses royally about being bathed but fortunately today, whether through getting her water just right or some other act of fluke – she was pretty mellow throughout it. It’s a wonderful bonding experience – if I can get her to stop crying for long enough to enjoy it!

Anyway, wonderful weekend. Next up; things I’ve learned in early Dadhood…