Monday, April 9, 2012

We should all be more like babies

It is really interesting to see the world through your eyes.

Mundane things become exciting and new again when you see them through the eyes of a baby who is just trying to figure out the world around her. Bubbles? AWESOME! Hopping birds begging for food in an outdoor market? FASCINATING! Plants that show up in the Spring? AMAZING!

As we grow older the majesty and splendor of the world seems to disappear into the background noise of our daily lives. Being a parent and watching you discover things for the first time is like being given a golden ticket to relive your own childhood! Because of you, I have noticed more flowers, birds, bugs, trees, animals, and other children than I ever would have without you! You give me license to make silly faces, funny noises, and dance around like a weirdo because it makes you happy!

Watching you navigate your way through life has made me realize that age does not necessarily beget wisdom. In fact, we would probably all be a whole lot better off if we did things the way that babies do. I have learned that it is better to take more time getting from point A to point B (sometimes making trips to point C and D, in the process!) if it means you get to touch a freshly bloomed iris or closely inspect the tiny baby in the stroller nearby. I have learned that babies have no point of reference in determining whether they should interact with someone because EVERYONE is a friend at that exact moment. Babies just ARE. They soak up everything around them and cherish all of it for what it is with absolutely NO pre-existing prejudice. It's actually quite beautiful to watch it all unfold.

It's so much fun going out to parks (or anywhere!) with you because you thrive on the energy of the other children! It's awesome to watch your little head whip around when you hear the distinctive sounds of other children nearby and to see your face light up when you get the chance to play with other kids. Even if we're walking along you take every opportunity possible to wave at other people and greet them with a hearty, "HI!" I'm happy to report that most of the time people respond back to you in similar fashion, which makes you grin from ear to ear.

If you're down on the ground walking around on your own, we often follow you over to someone sitting on a bench, minding their own business, until you walk up to them and start your baby-magic. You usually greet them and either try to give them a hug or hand them something. You've done this with people we wouldn't necessarily have been comfortable greeting ourselves (let alone let you interact with them) but watching you do this and seeing their responses to you has made me drop my guard slightly. In the end, even if someone looks like a creepy old man or someone who *may* have just escaped from prison that day; you don't care. Everyone gets a "Hi!" and a wave from you.

I struggle with this a little bit because I need you to understand when you're older that not all strangers will love and cherish you as much as you will love and cherish them; in fact, some could hurt you. But at the same time, it really is amazing to see someone with a sour grumpy face turn it all around just because you wandered over to them to say "hi" and give them a hug. Maybe, in the end, that's what's wrong with this world. Maybe we would be a happier bunch of people if it were less scary to approach strange sour-looking people and just say "hi" to them? Maybe those people are sour-looking because they haven't gotten a hug in a long time? How on earth do we raise you to have a healthy respect for stranger-danger, but NOT squelch your desire to interact with people who may very well need your particular brand of friendliness?

Maybe babies have it right? Maybe babies represent how we are supposed to be with each other? Maybe we all start out wide-eyed and full of wonder and somewhere along the way it is taken from us. I honestly have no idea how it happens. I just need to figure out how I'm going to model the whole "being social" thing so I don't take away any of your genuine desire to interact with others in the loving way you do so. Man... parenting is hard!

Last night you made a very-best-friend-in-the-entire-world at the park. For the 15 or 20 minutes you two played together, you were the only other person in each other's world. Her name was Maddie and she was 4 years old. She, apparently, has a little brother your age, but both your dad and I figure that she must have actually wanted a little sister because she took to you immediately! She helped feed you some cheese for a snack, she handed you her baby doll (which must have been very important to her because she brought it all the way to the park with her), she wanted to dig in the wood chips with you, and you both played on the teeter-totter together. She was very gentle with you.

When it came time for her to leave, she gave you a big hug (you gave her one back). Sadly, we may never see Maddie again. However, it didn't matter to either of you that you had just met each other or that you may never cross paths again. For that brief window of time two complete strangers were completely devoted to spending time with each other in a way that adults just can't comprehend. We, of course, thought it was totally adorable.

This is what I'm talking about! Babies just ARE. At any given moment, they are completely enthralled and devoted to whatever happens to be in their radar. The little details like getting somewhere on time or not knowing the person you're hugging are inconsequential. If there is something to be explored or someone to spend some time with, you are only interested in those things. As a result, your day is filled with exciting awesome things! As your mom, I get to experience those exciting awesome things with you! You know what? It's really fun! I love watching you get excited when a butterfly lands nearby or when you find a great crunchy leaf to tear apart!

It makes me want to be more like YOU! I wish we were all more like babies. Babies have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them!