Dad Diary: She Smiles. She. Really. Truly. Smiles

Today was truly the best day since our baby girl’s birth. Well, I should qualify that: every day has been beautiful in its own way. From “her first bath” to “her first time holding my finger” and from “her first real cry” to “I just fed her with the bottle!” Or from “she looks at me” to “singing and dancing together.” And then there was “her first party!” and “just another day, but look at how she has grown!” All those days were wonderful. Not easy, but wonderful.

But today was a real breakthrough. It’s one of those days you’ll think about for the rest of your life.

She smiled. Not a reflex smile, but a purposeful one. Right at me. And she didn’t do it just once, but many times. After her first smile, I cuddled her and responded with a wide smile of my own. That apparently inspired her to show off. One smile was followed by another one. And another one. And another one. And another one… She didn’t stop showing me that beautiful, killer smile. The happier I became, the more she smiled. This wasn’t my precious daughter smiling because her face muscles just happened to move, it was her smiling at me because she was happy. And because she realized that this made her daddy happy in turn, which made her even happier.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I always thought that new parents were exaggerating when they told me how precious, how beautiful, how important that first smile was. Now I know that, if anything, they downplayed it. This was more than heartwarming. It was better than the best motivational talk. This was spiritual.


Our baby Elif Marvel van der Galien. Smiling. Copyright: Michael van der Galien for

Just look at that gorgeous smile. If that isn’t a smile to die for, I don’t know what is. Look and that and tell me it doesn’t melt your cold, icy heart. This is a happy baby who’s purposefully smiling at her Papa.


Thank you, God, that I had this experience today. Nothing beats this. Ab-so-lu-te-ly nothing.