1) Playing with a five-month-old is simple yet profound. Toys undergo three tests for Sonny: What does it taste like? What happens when he punches it? What happens when he bangs it against something else? It’s much less interactive than playing with a dog, but Sonny’s wonder when a toy undergoes each test and he discovers something about it, like when he slaps his meaty fist against Sophie the Giraffe and she lets out a squeak, which usually makes him smile, or when he bites on Kermit’s plastic eyes and realizes they’re hard, is far more impressive than anything my dogs can do.
2) At a recent staff meeting, my coworker Becky asked everyone to do their best over-the-top cheesy laugh, and I chose to do Sonny’s, a quick burst of guffaw that always makes his dimple shine and makes me smile uncontrollably. I love his laugh so much I spend most playtimes trying to make him “the haps”–baby slang for happy. First, the funny faces come out. Then, the snorting–he loves a good pig snort. If that doesn’t work, the raspberries kick in, on his belly, neck, feet, cheeks, any part of his chubby baby body that’ll earn me a squeal. Sometimes I have to take it a step further and pig snort and raspberry his armpits. If he’s not guffawing by then, he’s probably crying. That’s when daddy’s turned the baby from the haps to the sads.
3) Before you have a baby, nearly everything you’re told at the baby classes, by the doctor, or on the Internet is about how your child can be born fucked up or how you can fuck up your child. You learn about the horrors of SIDS, preeclampsia, genetic testing, and so many other potentially terrible things that on the most difficult days you’ll truly believe your future baby is absolutely doomed. But just when you think you’re bringing your child into a world that’s basically a deleted scene from “Mad Max” you’re reminded by the baby class teachers, the doctor, the comments section that you are participating in the miracle of life, the wonders of childbirth, as if that somehow makes you feel better about all the bad shit that can happen to the wee miracle who’ll turn your (or your partner’s) vagina into a placenta-spewing collapsing star.
But when your child is born and you look into that baby’s eyes and see this little you looking back at you, breathing, crying, everything’s okay. Maybe you’ll actually say it, or ask it, half question, half promise. With each visit to the doctor–the first, the two-week, the month, the second-month, the third-month–you’ll hear everything’s okay, and you’ll want to ask about anything that seems weird, that could be of alarm, and you’ll hear nothing to worry about. Everything’s okay. You’ll hear “strong,” “normal,” “healthy.” You’ll learn height, weight, head circumference. You’ll see stethoscopes, needles, tears. Everything’s okay, the doctor says, you two are doing a good job. You’ll hug your baby, naked and crying. Sometimes you just have to believe.