He ambles to the doorway, before slowly pausing a little. He gazes at the car and waits for the door to open. He knows its Daddy’s car, but he is not sure if the person at the steering wheel is daddy. He suddenly switches into a faster walk - a mini sprint by his standards- to the car. He has recognized the face. Daddy is back.
Eyes raised to meet mine, he flings his tiny arms around to embrace my lower body. This is normal routine on an average day at home. It’s his way of giving daddy a welcome hug. Darren only turned 2 in May. It’s been 24 months of a wonderful learning process.
Growing up, I liked children. I looked forward to the day when I would have mine. That finally came to pass a couple of years back, sometime in May 2012. Darren was closely followed by a wonderful angel, Caren, a few months back.
The Night Routine
In his first couple of months, Darren appeared to have been born with an invisible alarm clock, for he would always wake up at about midnight, staying astir for the next one hour or thereabout. When he did, he would need all the attention in the world.
He would want to be held in a certain position, a trick I accidentally discovered, much later, after many weeks of gambling him back to sleep. With a busy schedule at office, this was something I couldn’t manage to do on a daily basis. We often took turns, most times leaving him to the mum. Luckily, this did not last long, and he soon adopted a convenient sleeping routine.
The First Steps
It was quite a spectacle seeing him attempting to make his first steps unaided. Sometimes I would almost want to stay around and watch him through this graduation from crawling. By 14 months, he had learnt to communicate using sounds. Sounds that were only intelligible to him. With these, he would incorporate sign language, using his right index finger to make his point.
Darren must have noticed that I was always around till late when he slept, only to disappear and resurface the following night. With time, he started getting up rather early, and would be alert by the time I was through with my morning shower. It was like an ambush of sorts. I always found him half-awake initially, only for him to spring into an animated state, his index finger firmly pointing in my direction. So we almost always had tea together, before soothing him back to sleep.
The Trip Away, and his first words
When he was about 16 months, I got some project work out of town. That meant 5 long months away from him. 5 months in which I had to imagine whatever he would be coming up with, every day. Thanks to technology, I always had clips of his progress coming through courtesy of the mum. He had learned a few new words, and sang along to his favorite TV adverts.
When I finally returned, I would be in for a surprise. Waiting for me at the airport was my wife, along with Darren and a friend, on a chilly Wednesday evening. As I carried his little frame to have a close look at the toddler I had left crawling, he maintained a skeptical look any infant would have in the hands of a total stranger. He had forgotten my face.
For about 10 minutes, all my salutations went unanswered. He probably wondered who this stranger was, that everyone was warming up to. I had almost given up when his face suddenly lit up, followed by repeated screams of: “Daddy!!”,leaving us in fits. I was back in familiar territory. On my next trip, I brought him chocolate. He now calls it Kukyet.
- Dan B. Atuhaire