Baby sounds. First there are cries. Then coos. Then giggles and silly fart noises. Babbles. And, lately, James has discovered a high pitched squeal-scream. Fabulous.
We participate in a very adorable mom-baby music class.
You can picture it: All of the little babies, sweet and smiling, and moms gather around the skinny, German, balding, bespectacled instructor while he strums the guitar and sings “Hush little baby.” While James squeals Eeeeeee! EEEEEEEEE!!!!
Not every time. But for the last two weeks, that’s kind of how it’s gone.
Last week, at the end of class, the instructor sat down in front of us (with all the other moms sitting around) and asked “Do you think something’s wrong? Maybe an allergy? Something in his throat? His face turns quite red when he’s making that noise.” He was genuinely concerned. Trying to be nice. But my sensitive inner mom heard something like: Something is wrong with your kid. Why can’t you calm him? Maybe you aren’t concerned enough about your child.
It’s hard to explain how deflating it can be to have people frown on your child’s behavior when you are spending every ounce of your soul to do things right: to get them outside, to sing them songs, to make ridiculous faces and noises to get them to laugh, to bake sweet potatoes and make homemade hummus to make sure they’re getting the right food and all the while doubt that you’re not doing enough.
I could tell the moms felt bad for me. One of them told me how her daughter went through a squealing phase. Another one said: I can tell he’s a happy baby.
(Of course I madly googled as soon as I got home and was assured by the Internet that squealing is pretty normal stuff for a baby his age.)
Oh how I’ve longed for my baby to be the sweet social snuggle bug that everyone coos and ogles over.
Sometimes, he is. But sometimes – like the first time my brother and sister held him – and at the luncheon where everyone I know in the Bay Area met him – he just whines and cries and furrows his brow. I got pretty jealous of everyone who had ever described their baby as ‘mellow’ in those early months. “We feel so lucky,” they’d croon. “S/He’s just such an easy baby.” Easy, I’d think, That sounds nice, as I bounced on the exercise ball to soothe him for the 900-th hour, hoping against hope that my arms would not fall off. Or rocked him endlessly, body in knots, while singing and swaying to James Taylor acoustic concerts on YouTube. (Not that any newborn is easy…just saying ‘mellow’ and ‘easy going’ aren’t words I often use to describe my son.)
There are so many things I love about James. He’s interested in things and likes to explore. He’s got spunk and energy. He’s funny – I’m serious. Sometimes, I feel like he’s deliberately trying to get us to laugh. He’s also full of sweetness and snuggles when you catch him at the right time.
So, what if James has funny ways of expressing himself? What if I have to defend his silly – possibly disruptive- ways to his teachers for the next 18 years? I don’t want to discourage him from being HIM. And I can’t expect perfection. He is, after all, human. (Man, I sometimes think, parenting is going to get complicated!)
Mental note to self: Go easy on loud, seemingly misbehaving babies and children everywhere. Their parents are doing their best.
I, for one, felt like crying after that class. And praying that he’d be quiet as a mouse next week.