Ask Amma

Communication without Words

In Field Notes on 17 January 2014 at 3:16 am
Srihari, Nanna to 6 month old Vibha in Pune, writes about the looks and gestures that help him and his daughter understand one another without words.
Vibha with her Nanna

Vibha with her Nanna

Ever since I heard about elimination communication, I wondered whether it was possible for months old babies to communicate subtle feelings.  And if they can communicate, whether we adults can receive that communication, given how dependent we are on verbal and written communication.  It is said that 93% of human communication is non-verbal (largely body language).  But body language is not universal and can be misunderstood.  Still, having communicated with pets through my childhood, I was hoping something similar would happen with our daughter.

The thing I remember from Vibha’s early days is how difficult it was for me to take my eyes off of her.  Was that simply my wonderment at this tiny creature or was it nature’s way of ensuring the infant’s needs are met through the watchful eyes of her caretakers?  When she had colic, she would directly look in our eyes seemingly pleading us to do something about the discomfort.  At the same time, her eyes sparkle when sees her favourite ladder.  As if she’s met a long-time friend.  When we noticed the specific sound she made when eliminating and repeated it when we put her on the potty later on, she would turn around to look as if to acknowledge that we got it right.  When she is sleepy, we sing to her and she stops crying, slowly easing into a deep slumber.  When she wakes up in the middle of the night startled by some sound or a dream, all she needs to go back to sleep is a pat on her chest.  That little touch is sufficient to assure her that everything is okay.

Vibha catching a ride with her Nanna.

Vibha catching a ride with her Nanna.

She sports a wide smile after my return from work, something she doesn’t do when she sees me home all day, as if to say “Welcome back home, I missed you”.  Her face becomes expressionless when we go out and we find it impossible to figure out what’s going on in her mind.  Is it her way of not letting her guard down in unfamiliar surroundings?  And now, at 6 months, she gently feels my face with her hand when I am a little down.  As if to say that things aren’t so bad after all.


AskAmma thanks Srihari for sharing this note, part of a series of Field Notes bringing diverse views from readers’  experiences to the AskAmma community.
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