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Footnotes: Thoughts from the margins of a mom's life


The words between us



January 2014

There is something beautiful about watching a baby watch the world. The emotions playing across the face of my 9-month-old daughter can be read so clearly. Amusement, fascination, peacefulness, fury and joy – babies might not be able to say much, but our communion with them can be rich and complete.

I say communion and not communication because that is what it feels like, hanging out with my baby girl. There are no words between us, no push-and-pull. Instead, we share a constantly in- motion state of being. I watch her gaze at her hands, clasping and unclasping. I watch her pet the dog and belly laugh. I am beholding and she is beheld. She falls asleep in my arms and I imagine she doesn't distinguish between my heartbeat and her own.

Until, of course, she starts to grow. Grow up, grow out, grow away. A few weeks ago she wouldn't stop wriggling on the changing table. As a mom whose first baby rolled off and bumped his head, I had no hesitation in issuing some correction. "No," I chided. Then, more forcefully, "No!" Her response read like a book: comprehension, disbelief, sadness, tears. And she stopped wriggling.

In some way, this first exchange is the beginning of what will become the biggest bridge of all. Language will become our connector, our method of communication, our code. But I wish words didn't have to come between us, that we could stay forever in the nursery, beholding and beheld.

Still, I look at my three-year old and I think how often he surprises me – his jokes, his insights, even his lunch preferences (Greek yogurt today, little boy?). Perhaps my daughter's face is not the open book I assume. Maybe there's more going on there than I can even imagine. Perhaps when she stacks her blocks and suddenly laughs she's gotten the most wonderful idea. And someday, she'll be able to tell me. And I'll be able to tell her some useful things, too. Things that will keep her safe, teach her about the world and maybe even shape the person she is going to become. Though I'd like to behold her forever, I also long to hear her voice. So this January, I toast my daughter. Let the conversation begin.


Tags: Footnotes, In This Issue, Parenting

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