For my initial disclaimer on this post, allow me to state: I am not a baby person. I went into motherhood aware of that fact and I love my kids, but I’ll never be that woman who knocks everyone down on the way to the nursery to play with the little peanuts. Nuh-uh.
That said, babies can teach us a lot. For example, the other day as I walked Little Miss back towards her room for naptime, we paused in front of the hallway mirror. Once her bright blue eyes focused on her reflection, they widened into a soul-splitting smile. She glanced up at my reflection as if to say, “She’s pretty amazing, don’t you think, Mom?”
And I wondered—why don’t I respond that way to my own reflection? At one time thirty-some years ago I was the baby gazing into the mirror.
1. Look in the mirror and smile without judgement.
I’ve already mentioned this, but seriously. When is the last time you looked in the mirror and thought, She’s amazing. She’s beautiful. I like her. Don’t other people say or think that about you? Be honest—you know you have cheerleaders in your life, and they are kinder and more unbiased than you are yourself. If for some reason you honestly can’t think of who those people are, it’s time to find some new friends.
2. Freely touch those you love.
When anyone she knows picks up Little Miss, she looks in their eyes and reaches out to put her hands on their face. At seven months old, she doesn’t yet know how to hug or kiss. But she has a precious, unhindered way of showing her love and joy to the important people in her life.
It seems like so often I hold people at arm’s length, afraid to show them how I really feel about them. We’re talking family and dear friend here. Why do I do this? Because to reach up and touch their face reveals my vulnerability—no one can hurt me like those I love most. But to experience true joy, I must take risks.
3. Make your needs known
Most of the time, it’s obvious what Little Miss needs. Her cries are translated into I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m bored/lonely, I’m scared and, most recently as she cuts teeth, I’m in pain. Nothing inhibits these cries, and while I look forward to the day when she can communicate with words, she reminds me that people can’t read my mind.
What is it that makes me think either A, I should bottle up what’s inside and refuse to ask for help or B, assume that those around me should be able to figure out what I need? I’m only human. They’re only human. C-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-e already.
Now, if Little Miss didn’t cry, and if I were a less-engaged mother, she might lay in her bed all day, hungry and scared and bored and in pain and I’d never know.
When I fail to communicate, I’m the baby lying helpless, waiting for assistance and assuming everyone can see I need something.
4. Expect people to like you
This is something I see in both my kids, although sometimes more so in my bold Little Butt. He runs toward life full throttle, expecting everyone to want to be his friend. Obviously he has a lot to learn, but I don’t ever want him to lose this idea. (Teaching him not to tackle those he pursues would be a plus.)
My job gives me the opportunity to meet about 20-25 new people each month, minimum. Do you know—it’s those women with open personalities, shy or outgoing, who make my job fun and easy. The ones who smile and engage. Who are open to new ideas and new people.
There is a universal law called the reciprocity of liking, which states that if you like someone they are inclined to like you. So this baby lesson goes both ways: we’ve got to show others that we like them if we expect them to like us.
But I don’t recommend tackling them to show your affection.
5. Expect life to be interesting and entertaining
Kids—even babies—want life to be fun. While that’s not always a reality, life is always interesting. Think about how easy it is to make babies smile, laugh, or startle. They’ve got their eyes wide open, always trying to figure out what’s going on and what it means to them.
My four younger brothers taught me this lesson early in life. They can make a standup routine out of every subject imaginable. Nothing was/is sacred (some of them have grown up…a little). No blemish or personality quirk is safe from their notice.
While I’m not encouraging extreme sarcasm or snark (much), we’ve got to engage. My Guy tells me all the time that I take life too seriously. By looking on the crazy side, life becomes more fun.
So there you have it. Five lessons that I, at least, need to learn from my baby. What lessons have the little people in your life taught you?