My son is already laughing at me.
In my book, when it comes to this parenting thing, our baby’s laugh and smile rank as some of the most memorable moments. Both come in all shapes and sizes, accompanied by some odd sounds, and can surface at the strangest times, but no matter when they occur, they turn me into one big softie.
One of the many cases in point was the other night. Every once in a while, if I am exhausted and not up to holding our 13-pound baby for an entire late-night feeding, I will rest my son upon a boppie pillow on the trundle bed in his room and give him his bottle while I lie next to him. Some critics out there might have a problem with that, but it works out well for us. Once the bottle was tapped dry, he started to doze off. I took his cue and went “down” with him right there. He’s mostly a crib baby, meaning he sleeps in his crib and not in our bed, but he seemed comfortable and I certainly was.
A couple hours later, it seems my son woke up a few seconds before me and started giggling. There he was lying on his back on the boppie pillow in his sleep sack, featuring an array of puppies, having a full-body cackle with both arms pointed straight out to the sky, pointer finger extended, of course, and his head turned toward me with what I could only perceive as an, “oh dad” type of comment and feeling.
It was a moment to remember, but as the smiles and laughs become more frequent, I am constantly reminding myself not to be overly intuitive with our little one. The fact is the simplest things can cause a giggle. In my son’s case, the mere sight of his hands can often result in a full body laugh and for whatever reason a simple question can also get that reaction. If I ask him, “how was your day?”, I often get a huge smile followed by a silly laugh. It’s strange, but true. It tells me the day was just fine, and I wish I could respond that way whenever I am asked that.
Whatever it is that brings it on, a baby’s laugh and smile are wonderful and something to cherish. It’s interesting to me that I have never thought about how amazing these simple little acts can be. I have been around many babies and heard them giggle, but it’s different when it’s your own. There’s something about it that makes you melt.
What makes it so special is the realization that it’s the beginning of a lifetime of interaction with your child. It’s a base form of communication that only grows from here. I like to think it’s a way of relaying feelings of pleasure and delight. However, what exactly they are communicating is never truly known. For all I know, it could be gas, and probably is on some occasions. It’s fine by me if that’s it. I just adore the interaction, whatever the reason or motivation. There’s the spontaneity and innocence that makes each one better than the last. Add to this the no-teeth and all-gum factors and it’s quite a sight to behold. That’s why I have a photo of it as my cell phone background.
There are some laughs and smiles that stand out more than others. A recent example proved my son is growing up at a faster clip than his silly dad can handle. It was the final feeding of the night and we were all done. He was still awake but barely with his eyes unfocused and doing that weird thing of rolling back before he goes under. When I got up to put the bottle and bib away, I stubbed my toe on something on the floor and he started laughing in my arms. At 15 weeks, it seems he has developed a sense of humor, and it might be a little warped. I limped away as quietly as possible and laughed as well to keep the expletives in.
Of all the facial expressions of a baby, and there are many, it’s no surprise the smile is the most magical. With the smile usually comes a laugh, or snort, of some sort, but what makes those so great in a strange way is the unhappy expressions that surface every now and again. If smiles and giggles come on for little to no reason, the same cannot be said for cries.
As our son grows and the interaction continues and develops on a more routine basis, our understanding of his needs and desires becomes second nature. As the case with most ‘rents, we have become extremely attuned to what’s going on with him. Caring for a young baby is really just common sense. It’s not rocket science. It’s pretty simple so long as you love (maintain) and care (serve) for them. We feel lucky because our son makes it clear to us what he needs and when he must have it. If we are not on top of it, say a feeding, a messy diaper or simple boredom, a baby meltdown soon follows, featuring a tomato face, a bottom lip expansion that defies logic and an elongated chin that would give Jay Leno a run for his money. It’s a look that’s not too appealing, even for the proudest and doting of parents, but it has a definitive way of getting his point across.
It’s those occasional meltdowns that make the laughs and smiles such a treat (and relief). Oftentimes, our son will laugh and smile in his sleep and we are so curious what it is that’s causing it. On a recent visit, a friend told us, “he’s playing with the angels.” While that’s a beautiful thing to say, and perhaps even think, the cynic (journalist) in me doesn’t buy it. Blame it on the job, but this reporter says there has to be a reason he’s laughing and smiling. Whatever the case, the father in me quickly takes over and says just be glad he is.