The Look

Nyein C. Aung
3 min readDec 13, 2020

The thing with Magic in real life is that it can only happen when there are no witnesses, and all evidence capturing methods are absent, save for storytelling. It happened one late morning, the day after my 37th birthday. I will not mention the exact time. As a researcher, I know too well that such precisions are, in reality, vague at best.

About a week ago, we had to switch your formula, and your Mum has had to go on a lactose-free diet because we figured out that you don’t tolerate cow’s milk protein very well. You don’t like drinking this formula very much, and I can’t blame you because I myself don’t like even preparing it.

You’re a great baby, and I thank you for this. You never really cry, you hardly shriek, and so far, at seven weeks, Mum and I have not had to deal with these epic fussiness episodes that many have warned us about. This is also off course due to your Mum’s constant hard work and attention, as well as fantastic child-raising methods haded down to her from generations of parents, physicians and teachers in your family. So really, I thank both you and Thinn Thinn for this.

This morning, however, Mum was so sore and tired from feeding and caring for you since something like four or five in the morning. So I asked Mum to take a nap for as long as she needed and I promised her that I’d look after you.

Cue the protests.

Again, you’re a great baby. Your protests are mild and are perhaps better phrased as appeals. They were all about one thing; you don’t like the low lactose formula. You were happy with the first half of your feed — which was Mum’s expressed milk. The other half was the formula, so you were not having it. The feed was starting to stretch too long. You also had your shots just two days ago, so I wasn’t upset at you for any of this, but we both knew that you HAVE to eat.

Mum told me the other day that I could speak to you and that you understood more than I might think. So I said, “Yo Yo. I know you don’t like this formula, and I get it. But your poor Mum is very sore and tired. If we wake her up now, she’ll only get sorer and more tired, and we’ll enter into what Mum was trying to explain to you last night — a vicious cycle. We have to work together. Can you power through this? If so maybe by your next meal, Mum would have recovered some and you can have the good stuff.”

Cue the Magic.

You turned your head away from me. You pursed your lips for a moment. I could somehow tell that you are processing all this. Then, you made eye contact with me, and you copped a look. It was a look that said, “Very well, Father. I will take on the task because I am the only person in the room, capable of executing it, at the impact you require — but not because I want to.” One would expect this look from perhaps Damian Wayne or Alexander Rozhenko but not from a real human infant.

I knew this look, and I knew where you got it from. It was the first time I saw myself. Of course, I have seen my reflection in mirrors and such before, but this was the first time, my own psychic and social presence was mirrored back to me in an exact likeness. I have given this look to most of the people around me at one point or another, including Thinn Thinn, my parents, other family, friends, and especially my bosses and co-workers.

I sincerely apologise to you all for my hubris.

You held the look on your face, maintained eye contact, and you sucked down the other half of your feed with a ferocity that made short work of the bootle in about five minutes. Then, you flashed a smiled at me, closed your eyes, and slept. You always had it in you.

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Nyein C. Aung

I am an Industrial Design PhD candidate and lecturer at Monash University. My research is in aerospace design with a focus on passenger health and cabin design.