When my wife brought my daughter into my part-time job on Saturday, I asked her how the day was going. Kalia seemed quite calm and content. When I play at-home dad during the week, I feel as though I’m kept on my toes a lot. “Well, I have the advantage of having these,” Sara told me as she pointed to her chest.
The almighty breast trumps all efforts at appeasement, but it doesn’t mean I cannot try. When I broke rule number one of parenting today – NEVER wake a sleeping baby – I altered my afternoon. Creating a cocoon with my arms and body, I contorted myself on the bed so Kalia could rest peacefully and protected. As she napped and I “napped,” I thought of some lessons my baby has taught me during the first six months of her life.
1. Breath is life: A sleeping baby breathes deeply, with the belly expanding and contracting as she fills her lungs. The vital nutrients she accepts promote proper development. I watched her breathe with ease, unworried about how she looked or sounded. So often we suck in our bellies, pay attention to nose or mouth breathing, and go short and fast that I wonder how much nutrition and relaxation evades us daily.
2. Slowly but surely: Kalia doesn’t talk or walk yet. She doesn’t crawl. She has moved into the ba-ba-ba, da-da-da stage of vocalization and has moved to pulling herself up on her arms. Slow is good, because she’s learning to perfect her craft rather than rushing through it. In our speeded up culture, we often leave corners cut so that we can stay afloat. How many times have we rushed through a project to find that had we spent a few extra moments we wouldn’t have had to clean up mistakes?
3. Mistakes are great! This one is tough for most of us to swallow past five years old, once everyone starts grading us on everything. If I picked Kalia up every time she plants her face into her playmat, she might not now know how to lift her upper body off the ground. Babyhood gives her room for error. Then we jettison the ability to err, to learn, and to correct. Perhaps this is why we rush through our tasks and hold our breath!
4. Be flexible: The pediatrician told me to make sure that we grab photos of Kalia chewing on her toes, because that won’t last for much longer. Indeed, when I put my foot in my mouth, it’s only in conversation. As moving develops other muscles, some flexibility will be lost. Sara and I intend to add yoga to her repertoire so that she will develop the skills early and avoid some of the aches that come with age. Flexibility opens up possibility, while rigidity closes doors. What doors do we close on ourselves due to physical and mental inflexibility?
We can learn a lot from the youngest members of humanity. Do we have time to watch? My plans shifted from working in the house to cradling my baby, opening the window to these thoughts. In life, I’ve feared mistakes, rushed, and forgotten to breathe. As a result, I’ve been rigid in body and mind. I’m sure we all have.
The healthy heartbeat is variable. The unhealthy heart pumps along at the same pace no matter what comes its way. A baby shifts moment to moment, while growing up seems to create intransigence. If we become more like our babies – variable, adaptable, loose – perhaps we will live healthier and happier lives.