Lately I find that all I ever do is watch my son. He could be crying, sleeping or just lying on his back with his eyes open arms moving about. Sounds pretty ordinary and to some it might even seem boring bur I personally find it quite mesmerising. So much so that I just can’t stop.
And I don’t think I’m alone in this.
During my sons one month celebration people came to visit and just celebrate with HY and I. Relatives, friends all were stopped dead in their tracks by the sight of my son. He wasn’t juggling penguins that had been lit on fire. No he was just sleeping. Quite quietly with his face sort of half buried into my chest as I cradled him in my arms. Nothing really out of the ordinary. I mean I sleep with my head half buried in my pillow every night but you won’t find (thank God) a bunch of old relatives cooing at me as I do so. And yet there you have it: my son unknowingly had them all completely and utterly hypnotised.
You’d almost think that Jesus had returned when he finally roused himself and opened his eyes to lazily look around him. So loud was the commotion as people crowded around just to look at his eyes.
Hardly anyone gets that kind of attention the moment they grow up. In fact most people in the world spend almost every hour of their waking lives being ignored by other people. You hardly get stared at on the bus on your way to work, or whilst queuing in the check out lane. Most service staff don’t even give you a second glance the moment their done serving you.
It’s almost as if we spend the first years of life being noticed by everyone and then subsequently to make up for that wealth of attention you are then robbed of it and must eke out a living just to gain it back should you so choose to.
What is it about babies that makes people just stand around and look at them so intently?
I can think of a couple of reasons.
1. Babies make us feel like superheroes
Babies are so helpless so frail so in need of care that we can’t help but devote our time and attention to them. Everyone likes to be needed so with babies we get to feel superhuman in comparison. Suddenly we are stronger, faster, smarter than we’ve ever felt before. Now who wouldn’t want that? So we spend all our time staring at them waiting for their cry of help so that we can rush in, apply our strength and intelligence and save the day!
2. Babies are kind of alien to us.
They don’t act the way that we do. I mean, we don’t sit around crying and waving our arms around helplessly the moment we are hungry or have crapped our pants. No, we act decisively. Hungry? We make a sandwich. Crapped our pants? We clean it up. We just don’t understand babies at all so we watch them and try to interpret their thoughts through their actions. Maybe then can we truly understand one another and establish diplomatic relations regarding baby smiles and night feeds. (more of the former, less of the latter)
3. We’re suckers for miniatures.
We love looking at smaller versions of life-sized objects. Tiny ships in bottles are endlessly fascinating! How on earth did they get them inside the bottle in the first place we wonder. And babies are just like little versions of real sized people. Little helpless people who can’t read, write, talk or get back at you for staring at them. They’ve got everything that grown ups have, feet, hands, ears, nose etc but at such a small scale. No detail is overlooked! With tiny feet come tiny toe nails, socks and matching shoes. And who on this earth can resist tiny socks with matching shoes?
4. Babies are everything we aspire to be.
Lastly, we know that babies have it good. Their only care in the world is to eat, sleep and repeat. They know they’ve got the world on a string wrapped around their little finger because that’s how every one treats them. One little cry and mummy and daddy come running along with grandma, grandpa, curious aunts and perhaps the dog. Nobody (in their right mind) can ignore or resist the cries of a baby and they know it. The insistence of would be parents that they, unlike their peers, will never allow themselves to be subject to the whims and desires of such a small individual is sheer hubris. We know they are doomed the moment the little life falls into their laps. Such power was once in each of our possession as well along with a complete lack of responsibility. We commanded the attention, nay devotion of our superiors long before we knew we could and somehow along the way we lost that power. Perhaps by staring at babies we can somehow learn how to harness it once more?
Whatever the case I know that I too am endlessly fascinated with the behaviour of my son. He’s growing so rapidly and his behaviour is still developing. Someone i can’t help but wonder what he’s thinking, whether I’m doing the right thing by him and what he’ll be like when he grows up.
All these thoughts cross my mind and then some as I sit nearby and stare.
I hope that one day he will also have a son of his own. One who fills his life with just as much joy, frustration and endless fascination as his does mine now.