Joy Fernandez is a prominent theatre artist with 25 years of exposure to national & international stage, television and films. He has worked extensively with children in the past and will be supported by members of the Grooming Baby team with early childcare background.
Today he shares with us the miracle that changed his life.
On September 14, 2003, a miracle occurred in my life. A surly little bundle was guided out of her mother and brought out by a nurse for me to see. The bundle, who I know could barely focus, crinkled her half-shut eyes at me rather displeased at being ushered out of her comfortable womb.
She had pixie-like hair and the countenance of an angel. And â€¦ my heart was never the same after that. When my wife conceived (I still remember her voice on the phone packed with emotion announcing, â€˜We are pregnant!â€™), I remember telling her in unequivocal terms that a girl was what I wanted and only a girl. Anything else would be sent back immediately.
She agreed indulgently, knowing that we hardly had any choice but to love whatever little piece of wonder we would be blessed with. But I distinctly remember wanting a girl very, very badly. I come from a country that does not have a reputation of really respecting women or genuinely desiring a girl-child. I wanted a girl, so that in my country there would be at least one girl who could grow up to be whatever she wanted to be, or indeed, just grow up â€¦ in peace, in safety, not judged and always loved. I know there are several fathers like me, but our numbers are nowhere near enough.
I was a hands-on father. I even remember asking my wife to call the paediatrician immediately after getting her home because her first potty was green. I was hopping around like a worried simian, until I was reassured that this was extremely normal for a new-born and we had not brought home an alien. I changed everything from my sleeping patterns, to my work timings, to my alertness levels and of course a few million diapers.
At the time, my wife and I couldnâ€™t wait for her to be potty-trained and onto solid food (this more so my well-chewed wife than I). Now sheâ€™s eleven and I so deeply miss that infant, that cherub. For a brief spell my wife worked and I was home with her. I fed her, cared for her, walked for hours singing terribly tuneless drivel until she fell asleep. Once asleep, I would lay her in the gap between my side and shoulder and sit prone in that position till she awoke. Severe ataxia of my shoulder followed and I reluctantly agreed that keeping her down would have been wiser for us both. Of course what I did was not even a patch, a sliver of what my wife had to do. Mothers are miracles themselves. I remember one rather scary time when my wife sat bolt upright in the middle of the night and while I was thinking â€˜exorcistâ€™, the next moment my daughter mewled for her feed. How that sleeping woman knew that the kid would need a feed at exactly that time, is exactly one such mystery from the phenomenon called motherhood.
As luck would have it, my daughter travelled all round the world with me too, seeing places, experiencing various climates and cultures. I would pack diapers in suitcases like contraband (they were much cheaper here and she was much leakier there). Museums, aquariums, parks, playschools, zoos, theatres, we experienced them all together. And luckily we have pictures and videos from then to remind her of those times. She was only a toddler then. I am glad we did all we did when we could. Especially since now, it is so much more difficult here. There are not too many outdoor options available. Still, we do take her to any nearby jogging park and the beach when we can. Yet, itâ€™s not nearly as much as we would prefer and as much as she would need. There is something magical about chasing a butterfly, or letting a wave caress tingling feet, or building a sand-castle, or watching a bug on a leaf. Nature puts on a show all the time and we just take it for granted. We must truly enjoy natureâ€™s free and wondrous bounty, only then will our children learn to appreciate it as well.
Soon the tour ran its course and my growing miracle was five and school beckoned. I got used to a more routine work-life and she a more routine school-life. My wife devoted herself completely to the kid. Academics, we decided, should never be a pressure, so we plotted a path whereby the child would study a little bit all through the year, so that she would never have to cram madly during exams. Also if a great movie or a function or a show happened to clash with her exams, we were very clear that she shouldnâ€™t miss it. So initially it was a bit crazy, studying a little bit during the holidays etc, but when she realized that this allowed her to have fun the year round too and stress-free exams (she would be decently prepared already), she too was agreeable to our way of thinking.
Her academics have always been great because of this, so we also take care to see that she has a well-rounded exposure to other aspects as well. We have introduced her to wonderful books, texts and poems. She is learning music which she enjoys a lot. And we even try our best to see that she gets enough exercise. We try to eat healthy most of the time, so she can too.
And yes, we have fun. I have worked a lot with children of all age-groups. And I have worked with my daughter with the same zeal and focus. I have introduced her to drama and have guided her to understand voice and diction as best as I do. We encourage her to write too. She does participate in inter-school events and does well in them, but we put no pressure. She is free to say no and we do not push her. No prize is worth her discomfort.
Childrenâ€™s minds are far superior to our minds. They are programmed to do better than us, just like we try to do better than our parents. All they need is intuitive guidance and adequate time with interested parents. Dads especially are seen mostly as providers, so they usually excuse themselves or are excused from taking active part in the raising of their young children. Then suddenly they are confronted with rebellious teenagers and wonder what has gone wrong. You canâ€™t just expect a young mind to conform to your ideas, you must spend time with them explaining the logic behind the ideas, the advantages, the direction.
Over the last few years, she and I have worked together on stage several times and she is now an integral part of my online channel â€˜Joy for kidsâ€™. Here we present funny, entertaining experiments, recipes, stories and poems together. We do it not just because itâ€™s a job, we do it because we really like it. Itâ€™s something that only we can share together. Itâ€™s something that strengthens our bond each day. I donâ€™t know how long she will do things with me. But that doesnâ€™t bother me. I will just keep showing up every day to be her dad and if she needs me Iâ€™ll be there. I canâ€™t imagine my life without my daughter.
We share everything â€¦ our ideas, our passions, our excitement. And we trust each other. I have always told her the truth about things. I have already had all the chats that all fathers must have with their children, especially their daughters. They should know all about crushes, love, lust, good physical contact and bad. Most importantly they should know that their fathers will always guide them, not goad them. They should know that when they make choices or do things that they are unhappy with or regret later (havenâ€™t we all), that their fathers will be there for them, not judging them, but quietly, patiently loving them. And then guiding them again if required, to better decisions and choices.
That is every daughterâ€™s right. That is every fatherâ€™s duty. I know her teenage years will soon arrive and my resolve will be tested, but I look forward to them. I will try hard to be the father that I know I can and should. And when it gets difficult, I could always close my eyes and remember that pixie-haired angel, sleeping blissfully on my shoulder and I know I will have the strength and the purpose. After all she is my daughter, my life!