For the past few years, I have had the good fortune of traveling the world. During my journey, I discovered that I like babysitting and am good at it. Like any skill, I started out as a novice and today I can manage children for a few hours. Each child I meet teaches me a unique lesson and I felt I should write about a few such occasions.
NYC: Ram is my friend’s son born a few years ago. He is adorable but is also a handful, it takes three adults to manage him when we go outside. Every time, we meet, he has taught me to be curious and positively engage with my surroundings. When his parents first let me play with him, I discovered that I liked spending time with kids and this changed my perspective of the babies.
Airplane to Cape Town: My first adventure starts a few years ago with a child named Noah. I was visiting South Africa and I happened to be on a plane from Munich to Cape Town. A young German couple sat near me and the mother placed her cute blonde baby next to me. He stared intensely at me with green eyes and shook his head to say hello. As the plane took off, we tried to get him to watch a movie but he was too young for it and kept fidgeting around. As we reached the cruising altitude, the air conditioners were turned on and it got chilly so he felt sleepy. Noah’s mother covered him with a blanket and he started to fall asleep on the seat.
As he slept, I turned my gaze to my screen and started watching a movie but I forgot to cover myself with a blanket. Noah noticed this and started pushing his blanket towards me. His little hands couldn’t move them past a few inches but he got up and pushed with both. Although he couldn’t speak, he was communicating that I should keep warm. This gesture moved me and warmed my heart, I covered myself with my blanket and he went to sleep. I continued watching the movie but my heart was with Noah. Over the course of the night, his pacifier would keep dropping off and I would subtly put it back in his mouth. We reached Cape Town and I bid farewell to Noah but I knew I would remember his gesture of compassion for a very long time.
Ivuka Art Gallery, Rwanda: Last summer, I stayed in an art gallery in Rwanda and which has traditional African dance sessions every weekend. One such session, I was drawn to the music and I went to watch. I was the only foreigner there and I was feeling self-conscious. Although I was myself, It felt like I was wearing a vibrant dinosaur costume magnifying my every action and drawing attention to me. However, I wanted to observe as it was my rare chance of observing the traditional African dance in person. The dance involved a group of ten people dancing in unison to the rhythmic drum beats.
Me babysitting kids who while their mom’s danced, teaching me that being different shouldn’t stop me from helping others.
I sat on the steps in the corner looking at young people dance to the music. A couple of women happened to be young mothers and they had their baby with them. They placed the kids on the steps, hugged the kids and gently told them to sit in the place. As the mothers started to dance, the children would run up to them and the drums would abruptly stop. After a couple of these scenes, I instinctively caught a kid and made him sit on my lap. He seemed to like the attention and seeing him, another child came and sat next to me. Before I long, I was cuddling two babies on my lap and we were moving with the beats while we watched their moms dance. They taught me that being different shouldn’t stop me from lending a hand if I could.
Walking to office: Since I hung out with kids a lot (read post), they would joyfully greet me when I passed them. Every morning, as I went to work they would come screaming “Vikram”/”Vikramu” even though it’s a hard name for locals. I would give hugs, lift children and cuddle as part of my morning routine. This was so common that the children’s parents would alert them when I walked by their house so the children would come running to me. This magical event had become an ordinary routine for me but it always left me feeling warm in my heart.
The little boy who spoke my name, giving me a sense of belonging to Rwanda.
One day, as I finished hugging the kids and walked toward campus. I saw a toddler(his name is Ivan) standing in front of his house and looking at me. He pointed his little finger to me saying “Viklam” and squealed. He repeated it that a couple of times and his joy grew with every time. I slowly walked from this scene feeling very grateful for it seemed that I had witnessed a miracle. It’s always joyful when any baby speaks your name but since it happened in a place I was new to, it gave me a new sense of belonging.
More Fantastic babies for another day (or on request):
- Aoi, the first kid to speak my name.
- Hyperactive 6 years old at a restaurant in Macau who taught me that language isn’t a barrier.
- Naughty little 3-year-old running around on a flight to NYC
- Two 4 year olds at SV Temple Pittsburgh who teach me patience 😛
Although I am very awkward around most people, I have been blessed with enjoying many children’s company from around the world. I am grateful that these fantastic babies have magically found me during my meandering journey around the world. These children made me happy while I played with them, they also helped me reflect on how similar we are in spite of our differences.