The other night, as I walked through a local Barnes and Noble, I couldn’t believe how many books were on display claiming to have the recipe for
stability, success and happiness. They claim to help you discover yourself, find
the true you, reveal the beast hidden within.
Let me save you some money and time. Ten minutes with my eight-month-old daughter is really all you need.
I can’t believe I didn’t notice these things before, being that she is my
fourth child, but today, as I watched her crawl around, I was utterly amazed.
She has just recently started crawling, and from the moment she figured how to
move herself around, she hasn’t stopped. Well, that’s not exactly true—she
crawls until she reaches her goal, and then she stops. Not for long, but long
enough to thoroughly research her surroundings.
From a distance I can see where she is headed and exactly what she wants. She
spots the magazine lying on the floor, excitedly pushes her little bottom up in the air, and directly heads in its direction. She sees what she wants, and she goes for it.
Sometimes, though, when she gets close she discovers it is out of reach. She
doesn’t cry or point or wait for someone to hand it to her. She patiently weighs
her options, and then tries them all out until one works. She will crawl from
different angles, try rolling on her back, inching on her stomach, and reaching
as far as she can with outstretched arms. If it is physically possible for her
to get it, she will figure out a way to make sure that she does.
What is most remarkable is that those times when she can’t get to what she is
after, more often than not, she simply focuses on a new goal. She is too young
to realize that if she cries hard enough, I will come and give it to her. She
has not yet associated desire with demand. So, when she wants something that she
can’t get, she looks for something else that she can.
Once she has reached her goal, she bonds completely with the treasured
object. She happily grabs whatever paper, toy or shoe she has found, and then
puts as much of it as she can into her mouth. It is not enough for her to see
it, touch it, feel it—she must also taste it. It needs to become one with all
of her senses simultaneously.
She is as excited over a plastic cup as she is with her fanciest toy. Nothing
is boring and everything has potential. Because nothing is boring, she is never
bored. She crawls from place to place, drool dripping from her smiling mouth as
she explores her surroundings as if they are completely new. She’s on the same
living-room floor to which she has been subjected for the past five hours and endless
days, yet she acts as if she has never seen this room before. There is always
something that she hasn’t yet found. And even if she has, today is another day
and the plastic cup will still crunch when held.
As long as she is awake, she never stops moving. Never. If she is not
actively crawling, she is kicking her legs, flailing her arms, shaking her head
from side to side. There is no laziness, there is no sitting still.
But at a certain point, she realizes that she can’t provide for all her
needs. And she is not embarrassed to make it clear that she needs help. She
doesn’t pretend to be able to do what she cannot. At a certain point, if someone
hasn’t figured out the problem, she will continue to cry until the answer is
reached. There is no hiding or suppressing hunger, discomfort or fear. If she is
crying, there is a reason.
I am convinced that there is no such thing as a baby crying for no reason.
Sometimes it may be that she wants to be held. But you know what? That’s also a
reason. What is wrong with wanting to be held? What is wrong with stopping and
saying that we need comfort, we need love, we need to know that someone cares?
If only we were as in tune with our emotions to realize that this is not a
luxury, it is not being spoiled, it is a human necessity. Without human touch,
we cannot thrive and grow and live.
And when she is fed, and changed and clean and loved, she is happy. She
smiles. She isn’t afraid to show her appreciation. She isn’t scared to let down
her guard and show that she cares. She grabs me with all her might and squeezes
her tiny body against mine. She slobbers her little lips on my face and tries to
eat my cheeks, expressing her love and excitement in the clearest possible way.
How I wish I could be as real, as honest, as clear as she. How I wish I could
take the time to explore my surroundings and the potential of everything,
regardless of how hidden. How I wish I could focus with such determination and
head towards my goal, unhindered and fearless of whatever obstacle is in the
way, or often the obstacle that only appears to be in the way. How I wish I
would never be bored and always be moving toward something. How I wish I could ask
for what I need, recognize what I don’t, and appreciate what I have. And how I
wish that I could show all those I truly love and appreciate, that I do,
unabashedly, without embarrassment.
My baby doesn’t know how to talk. She can’t say “thank you” or “I love you.”
But she has taught me that actions speak louder than words. For when you have no
walls imprisoning your heart or barriers blocking your mind, you don’t need to
speak for others to understand and learn from you—you just need to be yourself.