Monday, June 22, 2015

The Little Things

Now that I’m up around 6-7am every day with a baby who is either eating, pooping, or both (something about that peristalsis action really gets her going) I think about this whole momming thing a lot.

It’s hard. It’s joyous. It sucks. It’s incredibly rewarding. It’s trying. It’s complicated.

One thing I’ve been mulling over a lot recently is how people who don’t have kids often wonder why parents care so much about “little” things their kids do that aren’t a big deal. And I’m not talking about the aforementioned pooping, which I agree isn’t exactly important unless they haven’t been doing it regularly. Parenting is a lot of maintenance work on things that you don’t have to look after adults for, so sometimes a poop IS a big deal. Though probably not one I’d share very often because, you know, poop.

So, why do we care about all these “silly” little things, like playing with their first toy, or mouthing a new sound, having a good walk to the store or sitting up? Because in baby/parent world these are actually huge cognitive leaps. They signal that your baby is advancing towards “person” and all of these “little” things are enormous advancements for them and indicators that you’re doing a good job as a parent. They mean that brain development is happening, that physical strength is increasing, that all the little things you do every day are paying off.

Even if you don’t have kids it does actually matter that the next generation of people you’re going to have to deal with on some level have parents who care enough about them that they want to share all these “little” achievements. Eventually all these “little” things are going to add up to a grown human being who will have an impact on the world. Parents who give a shit about how they impact it are being responsible, however annoying their Facebook updates on Junior’s toe playing may be.

For instance, my 14 week old has just discovered that she can play with things like her little stuffed animal Hello Kitty/Ugly Doll. This means she is starting to understand objects in relation to herself and is noticing the world around her. She’ll now sit in her bouncer for upwards of 20 minutes entertaining her self by talking to it, looking at it, laughing at it, pulling on its feet and ears. This is huge. For me it means a little bit of time during the day where I don’t have to have her to strapped to me so I can wash bottles or write. For her it means discovering all sorts of new sensations and interactions that you and I do and take for granted every day. It’s actually pretty fucking amazing to watch.

It’s like when they start smiling at you instead of involuntarily. Emotionally it’s incredible because of what we associate with smiling. But it’s also cognitively significant, because a smile is a form of communication.

Look, babies start off as tiny, not yet formed humans, who have to learn everything about how to be a person from their parents. They are completely dependent on us and we’re fully responsible for not just their development, but their little, helpless, lives. That’s terrifying. So if we sometimes share what seems inconsequential with you, know that it’s not. And that we have some very good reasons for thinking whatever it is, is important.

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