This blog post first appeared in the The Doha Review.
My Dear Lamees,
In the tradition of my friend Matthias, who wrote A Letter to our Newborn Baby so eloquently and sincerely, as if his words to his daughter were from a heart within his heart, I too would like to take this chance to make the most of this moment to write something, in this magical window where my smile is permanent and my joy infinite.
When you are old enough to read this I might ask you to clasp my finger with your hand as tightly as you are holding it now, as I write this. You have a strong grip despite your extreme fragility. You are barely a couple of days old and already well prepared for at least some of the roller-coaster encounters ahead: you exude gentleness, but you have strength when you need it.
Your sisters are awestruck by you, as if your arrival triggered the romantic and elegant collision of Andromeda and The Milky Way. They look at you as if seeing the stars dance in orbit before their own eyes. Already, their love for you is immense.
Their features are etched on your face: you have bits of one's smile, one's frown, one's pout. You also have one's lung busting cry (but I won't tell you which one so as not to get into trouble). Soon you will also chip off some of their other characteristics too: mischievousness, sensitivity, curiosity and adaptability.
Soon you will show us your own personality in all its wonder, as trial and error, laughs and cries, first crawls, first steps, first sentences, first bloody knee... as all these things shape you in the years leading up to the moment you read this.
You are so gentle, so soft to touch, one of the reasons we named you Lamees.
I keep staring at your unusually pink and perfectly symmetrical lips. The rolling of your eyes behind closed lids while you're deep in sleep begs the question... what do you see? What do you dream of, so soon after leaving the world of the womb for the world of...what is this a world of? A world of order, at times. A world of randomness, often. A world that makes sense, sporadically. A world of fright, regularly.
Just as I want to know what is going on in that newborn mind, perhaps you would like to know what thoughts are swimming around this thirty-year-old adult's mind? The man you will call your Father, your Dad, maybe your Papa. Today you were held by your great-grandmother, more than eight decades your senior. Eldest and youngest in one place, making a single, silent connection. At times I feel it is only you extremists from among us that know the reality of things, the ones too young to be anything but lucid and the ones too old to be anything but wise. It is those of us in the in-between phase that need the pampering, that need someone to save us from ourselves.
Just hours after you were born you were lined up next to other babies that share your birthday in the hospital nursery. There were nine, maybe ten of you. You all had cheeks of pinkish-yellow hues, womb-drenched hair, bodies with tiny limbs that could fit in a shoebox.
I mentioned to the nurse who diligently saw to your health and levels of comfort, that from where I stood, I couldn't see Black or White or Indian babies; I couldn't see Liberal or Conservative babies; I could only see babies.
She replied as if she ponders this thought every day: "Ja... You know, then we take them and fill their heads with all that stuff. Maybe we are the real problem," she said.
My darling Lamees, when you are old enough to make up your mind, I say, belong where you want to belong.
Choose one path or many paths. If one hurts you, betrays you, disappoints you, be courageous and choose another one. Trust your instincts, and trust your intellect. Combine the two at every moment. Choose evidence over convenient truths, no matter how uncomfortable it is to do so. When you find answers that satisfy you, never close yourself off to the possibility of better answers.
You will find love once, twice and more. You will lose love once, twice and more...
You will meet those who say they love you and then prove they don't. They will hurt you so badly that you will question whether you can carry on without them, or whether you can trust anyone ever again. You too will hurt others and give them the same feelings. Love is hard.
It is never too late to ask for forgiveness from those you hurt. As for those who hurt you, freeze them in time and never turn back.
Question everything. Question what they teach you, question what you have seen with your own eyes... question even me. If you find me, your father, at odds with you, never forget to trust your instincts and your intellect. I too am capable of the irrational. Shove a mirror in my face and prove me wrong. Do not obey us because of our authority, but because we can clearly demonstrate that what we are advocating for you is what is best for you.
This planet can be a vast wilderness of ideologies and -isms, competing interests and claims, of myriad levels of power and pompousness, showing the worst of man's inhumanity to man.
It is also a place of wonder where kind, exceptional people live.
It is the only place we can call home. There are people who destroy it through their actions. There are those who cherish and want to preserve it. Side with the latter.
As for your home within a home, remember that home is where you're from, where you live, where you love, but home is also belonging, home is where they love you in return. If those homes are not the same, always choose the last one for yourself.
Your mother is a woman of mighty strength and endless love, look to her as an example of how to ride all storms and never lose dignity in the process. You have no better example.
Right now we live in a world where women lead, women vote, women choose who they want to marry, women who go to space...
But we also live in a cauldron where women live in fear of rape and all levels of abuse. You have my permission to go to war with these Cavemen.
And when you do, they may say you're not a real woman; they may call you cocky, arrogant and full of yourself, wear it as a badge of honour. It is always better than false humility.
You will find humility will scurry towards and wash over you when circumstances require it. You don't need to look for it or project it. Seek it, and the menacing trappings that lie beneath it will be your true motive.
You will encounter the relevant and irrelevant as often as you will come across happiness and pain. To straddle between these polar opposites is not to be unlucky or cursed, it is to be human. How to have more happiness and less pain? I'm not sure, but I do know you and your sisters give me a feeling of happiness so otherworldly I will never trade it for anything.
When you encounter unfairness be extra fair.
When you encounter injustice be ultra just.
You will meet people who tell lies about others, you will meet people who tell painful lies about you. You will lie and be lied to. Try to be as honest as you can be.
When you see others suffering, you are hardwired to feel inexplicable sympathy deep in your gut for them, never conquer that feeling. Never become indifferent to it.
Try to learn something new everyday.
I am a flawed, fumbling type of father who wishes he could live up to even half of the points in the advice listed above.
I am also a father who loves you.