by Ian Doescher
Around the office, and in my personal life, and essentially wherever I go, I have a reputation for being a baby hog. I love holding babies, anywhere from newborn until about 10-12 months old. When a friend, coworker, family member or anyone else has a baby nearby, I’m generally the first to ask to hold it and the last to give it up. I have to stop myself from asking complete strangers if I can hold their babies.
Good news for me: I have tons of babies in my life right now. Two best friends from high school welcomed babies in the last three weeks, one via adoption and one via childbirth. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law just had a baby. Two Pivoteers have babies. Two of my wife’s best friends are due in the next month. My life is stocked with babies right now, and I couldn’t be happier.
When my own children (now 13 and 11) were babies, I loved them dearly but couldn’t quite appreciate—as a harried, exhausted new father—the wonder and beauty of a baby.
Christmas is many things, and for some of us it’s a time when we think about a very particular baby born a long time ago. So, in the spirit of the holidays, here are some thoughts about what makes babies so special to me:
- Babies are simple. “Whaaaaat!” you protest. “I’ve had babies and they are ANYTHING but simple!” Let me be quick, here, to make a distinction between simple and easy. Babies are not easy, and I will be the first to admit being a father of a newborn was not easy for me. (You should have seen me crying the first night in the hospital with my oldest son, crying because I had no idea what to do with the crying infant in front of me.) They are, however, simple: their needs are simple. They need food, shelter, cleaning, sleep, and human contact. Unlike other people in our lives, they’re not asking us for the new iPhone, or asking us to write a report for them, or asking us to give money to a cause, or asking us to come to an awkward holiday gathering, or asking us to vote for a particular candidate. Their needs are simple, and they have exactly one method of telling us their needs are not being met: they cry and scream and holler. It’s not easy. But there is something refreshingly simple about it.
- Babies are guileless. Babies have no hidden agenda; they are completely innocent. Babies aren’t manipulative, funny though it is to imagine babies plotting with the house cat or perfecting their screams in the mirror. Beyond their basic needs, babies don’t want anything from you. They are incapable of the faults we learn as adults: betrayal, pride, selfishness, and so on. It’s refreshing to be in the presence of a human whose desires are so straightforward.
- Babies are curious. Watching a baby learn about her world is one of the best things in the world. They explore everything with their hands (once they realize those dangly things at the ends of their arms belong to them), then—to most parents’ horror—they explore everything with their mouth. Think of how many things they learn in that first year: they learn that tables are solid but water is not. They learn the dog can be loud and funny and cozy. They learn that poking daddy in the eye provokes a fascinating reaction. They are learning so much, and they are in complete wonder of the world around them. I wish I still had the natural curiosity of a baby.
- Babies are adorable. Maybe you expected this to top the list, and indeed it’s probably what I love most about babies. A mentor of mine told me babies are so cute so we don’t kill them. When a baby is sleeping, or awake, or eating, or pooping, or even sometimes crying, darn it all if they’re not the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Some people don’t like babies, and I get that—I don’t judge them—but to me not thinking babies are cute is akin to disliking puppies, unicorns and rainbows.
And that’s it: why I love babies. The vulnerability, simplicity, innocence, curiosity and cuteness of babies are qualities we lose as adults, to our detriment. I hope you get to have at least a little baby joy in your life this season. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!