Throughout many of these posts, it’s possible that the impression has arisen that life (so far) with a young tot is all about negatives, trials and strife. Well that’s what this post is about – that could be further from the truth…
OK, you ARE going to find the first few weeks a strain. Maybe the first 6 weeks or so. It’s all new, you’re all still getting to know one another, and you’ve yet to work out your routine. I was counting days, silently praying for some development and the chance to interact with the being, which was, after all, my own son.
And then it happened. He smiled.
It was over lunch, M. and I were talking about this and that and suddenly the corners of Sunshine’s mouth went up and he gave us his first smile. Up until that point, the best we could hope for was a neutral expression. But then, a smile. Suddenly he was SHOWING us that he was content. His first bit of positive social interaction. I almost shouted “Look, look, he smiled!”. It’s a great feeling.
Add some sounds to that smile and things start rolling nicely. Sunshine is a great one for testing out his voice box and trying new sounds. Even though the sounds are not (yet) words of any kind, you’ll grow to love the “grrrrrrsss”, “vvvvvvvvvvbbbbbbmmmmmmmmmms” and, in Sunshine’s case, the unbelievably cute “Ooowwws” and “Aaahhs”. Recently, when lying in bed in the morning, there he is, eyes like little blue beads, staring at something, and letting out cute little noises. You just want to hug him close and forget about all the angst he’s caused you recently.
So what about imitation? That set in quite “late” with him and me. One evening, M. was out (chez midwife!) and so I was up here with Sunshine in his rocker. Music was playing on the stereo (Muse’s Panic Station, to be precise) and, idly, I was snipping my fingers to the music. I look down and there’s Sunshine, finger and thumb not in a fist but markedly in a snipping position, and he waved his arms, as if to say “Look, I can do this too!”. And the same again when I repeated the action. Woah – he had arrived!
And there’s the other imitation of his, which is one of the best things to happen to me. You’re closish, or standing above him. He’s looking around, then catches your eye. You smile. He smiles back. That smile turns into a heart-shaped beam, the eyes twinkle and then comes that amazing sound. “Guh, huh, huh, huh”. Yes, a laugh! You can make him LAUGH. He’s not just content, he’s experiencing pleasure and happiness! That never ceases to be a wonderful moment – a look at you of pure adoration, the like of which you will scarcely ever see.
As I wrote recently, he started rolling over the other day. That, like his laugh at the beginning, is still in training, but he’s certainly done it in both directions, which is neat, when you think of the fact that, until recently, he could move his limbs but not in a coordinated fashion. Suddenly, he can concentrate and tense up enough to shift his body to one side, because he WANTS to, and NOT because it just happens. I’ll keep you posted on this, of course. He’s also happy to be in a sitting position (held completely by us, naturally), and able to look at things in front of him, rather than only above. The eyes go wide, the head turns – “Wow, there’s a world of stuff here, not just 360° to the left and right, but 360° up and down too!” – it’s wonderful.
And finally, reaching. That’s also pretty neat. We’ve got a straightforward inflatable beach ball clipped onto a lanyard, keychain-y thing, which you can hold over him. Get it low enough, and the hands come out and try to hold the ball. Of course, he doesn’t yet grasp that his hands need to be at the middle of the sides of a round object for it not to roll away, but he’s actively trying to hold things, rather than just grasping on reflex as a newborn does. Am also looking forward to the day when hand-eye co-ordination improves to the extent that he can actually control his arm positions to pick up an item in a place other than directly above him. Now that he’s moving, I think that day is not far off.
In another context, this stuff would seem fairly trivial. But, as a dad, I have found (and you will too!) that such “minor” things are actually huge educational steps, even on a par with walking and talking. These are early stages on the road to those milestones, but they are things we can follow and see, rather than “Oh hey, his tear duct is no longer blocked”, and that is what us guys need. It’s not a negative turning into a positive, but a straightforward positive – things to make you feel good and want to be WITH the baby and not give him or her to someone else to be with.
So, the next time the little one throws a tantrum and you start to feel that a drop-kick into the next garden would surely be the end to your worries, think of this stuff, and you’ll feel better. When the positives start to outweight the negatives, rather than the other way round (which is what life feels like in the early weeks), then this baby stuff really, really gets cool!