Written by: Christopher Sell
Primary Source: The Wednesday Wake Up
Ithink she was only 3-weeks-old the first time I tried tickling her.
As an excited first-time dad of a beautiful baby girl, eager to see the twinkle in her eyes and hear her hearty laughter, I had just assumed that she was of the age to be ticklish.
Man, was I wrong.
I remember the first few times I attempted to make her laugh. She responded by staring at me with a perplexed look on her face. She was completely unfazed. Her mom laughed at my feeble attempts to facilitate squirmy laughter and reminded me it was too soon.
She was too young. Infants aren’t ticklish. Duh.
I think that was when I first began to realize that this whole parenting thing was going to be a little different than what I had anticipated. My idyllic image of running around the house with my daughter and making her laugh non-stop would have to be put on the backburner. My desire to build snow forts, go fishing, and show her how to play a musical instrument would have to wait. My 3-week-old infant wasn’t quite ready for that.
And I was a little sad about it.
Maybe it’s a “Dad” thing. Maybe it’s a common dilemma for men entering the world of fatherhood for the first time. For whatever the reason, it felt like I wasn’t connecting. I was left trying to figure out how I could communicate in an authentic way with someone less than a month-old.
Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time brainstorming ways to connect with my daughter. I was on a mission to discover how a Dad could build a relationship with his baby girl despite her inability to shoot hoops, play the guitar, or join him in watching Monday Night Football. My investigation thus far has left me pleasantly surprised. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way that may help other first-timers connect with their baby girls.
Music. So she can’t play a riff on a Fender Telecaster just yet – so what? Most studies suggest that babies do indeed benefit from playing and hearing music early and often. My wife and I thought about enrolling our daughter in a local early childhood music class, but decided to hold off. Instead, I started to implement jam sessions with my daughter while sitting at our household piano. We’d play all sorts of Sell Family originals – my daughter was a willing accomplice while I helped her hit the keys and sang along. In the process I discovered that she enjoyed it which is pretty impressive because I have an awful singing voice.
FaceTime. Your facial expressions are like gold. My wife was the first to discover our daughter’s fascination with mirrors. This is typical, as most babies go through a “Mirror Stage” during which they love to look at themselves or others in the mirror, even though they’re not yet capable of recognizing that the images in the mirror are reflections of themselves. Hilarious, I know. But putting your baby in front of a mirror and contorting your face into all sorts of funny and ridiculous expressions may prove to be quite humorous for you and her.
Peak-a-boo. It’s Like Magic. Don’t be fooled at the perceived simplicity involved with your daughter’s new favorite phenomenon. There’s a science to this game. It wasn’t long before we realized that in order to facilitate all sorts of happiness and laughter, we could turn our backs or hide behind the wall for a few seconds and then reappear with a flashy smile. To her, it’s like reappearing wizardry right before her very eyes.
Baths. Bath time isn’t quite like building snow forts or recreational boating, but it’ll suffice. Once she’s old enough, start adding the infamous rubber ducky or other bath-time play toys to the mix. It’s hard to judge the extent to which this will make her happy, but you may just relish the opportunity to create new voices for bath-time regulars like “Finding Nemo” and other nautical creatures.
Catapulting! One afternoon, when my daughter was about 4-months-old, I was holding her when my grip accidentally loosened and she began to slip from my arms. I caught her before she fell all the way to the floor – thank goodness – only to hear her unexpectedly giggle and smile. From that moment on, I’ve learned how to “gently” throw my daughter up in the air and catch her. In the process, I’m able to induce tons of smiles and laughter. Just be weary of the occasional baby drool that may fall victim to gravity and plummet to your face in the process.