Have you ever seen the movie “The Switch”? You know, the one where introvert Wally (Jason Bateman) is best friends with extrovert Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) and, when she decides to have a baby as a single mom, he flips out a little. She throws herself a sperm donation party, he gets drunk, and he hijacks her pregnancy by replacing the sperm donation with one of his own. 6 years later, he discovers Kassie’s son is his actually his son (thank you, alcohol-induced memory loss!). Anyway, the movie opens with the line, “Look at us. Running around, always rushed, always late – I guess that’s why they call it the Human Race.” That’s exactly how I have always felt, before I became a mom.
Here’s the thing about babies. They’re simple. Now, before you close the browser for thinking I’m crazy for saying that, hear me out.
I’m not saying having a baby is easy, and I know taking care of one isn’t easy either. But babies themselves are simple. They spend 9 months growing in a calm, fluid filled bubble. Their world is small and their needs, while critical, are simple: nutritious food, water and a safe place to develop at the speed they are meant to. When they enter the world, their needs are just as simple: they need to be fed, changed, cuddled and loved. Their increased complexity comes from the world around them, a world that we – as parents – help to shape.
I’m guilty of buying my daughter way too many clothes just because they are too cute to resist. I scoop up toys I think she will love due to their bright colors & funny noises. I “give in” to her (if that’s possible at 7 months) whenever it seems like she isn’t satisfied with what she already has. But the truth is, I’m creating a world for her where abundance and constantly being on-the-go are the norm.
When I take the time to closely watch my daughter, I can see that she’s happiest when she only has a couple of toys in front of her – not 9 or 10 (and to be honest, she probably prefers the box a toy comes in to the toy itself!). She rarely cries if she’s being carried around; she’s just interested in what’s going on and happy to take it all in. And she gives endless smiles when she realizes that someone is giving her attention, taking time to play with her and to love her in the way that she deserves.
When I became a mom, my daughter opened my eyes to a lot of things that I previously overlooked. Before her, I was too busy being part of the Human Race. I know it’s my job to teach her life’s biggest lessons, to raise her to be a kind, good-hearted person and to help her understand right from wrong. But I’ve also realized that she is (unknowingly) teaching me more than I would have ever bargained for in 7 short months.
- You don’t need as much as you think. Does she care if she wears the same thing everyday? No. Does she need to have the latest and greatest of everything? No. Admittedly, she may not yet know the difference, but that’s the point. She’s happy with what she has and doesn’t NEED to have more just because other babies are getting more.
- Take time to do what makes you happy. My daughter doesn’t care if what she’s doing is pleasing someone else. All she cares about is that she’s happy. We, as adults, spend an excessive amount of time trying to please others and trying to become the “perfect” version of ourselves, whether that’s through running a marathon we don’t want to run, buying a pair of too-expensive shoes because they’re the next “it” thing or keeping a job we don’t enjoy because we’re afraid of failing at something else. Babies don’t spend time doing things that make them unhappy. Why should we?
- Be present in the moment. My daughter KNOWS when I’m brushing her off. She knows if I put her in front of a bunch of toys and proceed to scroll Facebook or Pinterest at the same time. That’s not to say that I’m not giving her attention as well; I’m just not giving her all if it. Sometimes she doesn’t care and prefers to play on her own, but when she wants my attention, she tells me in her own way. She’ll lean backwards to lay in my lap and look up at me with her big eyes. She’ll throw a toy too far out of her reach so I have to get it for her. Or she’ll just express her dissatisfaction through her babble. Some of you may think I’m giving her too much credit, but I’m not. Babies knows when you aren’t mentally there & adults do too. Turn your cell phone off. Have a conversation without the TV or computer on. Give others the undivided attention they deserve.
- Give people a chance. My daughter will allow anyone to hold her, and she’ll happily play with anyone who plays with her. She doesn’t discriminate – she doesn’t know how. Yes, there are times when she wants mommy or daddy (usually when she is tired or not feeling well), but most of the time, she’ll cuddle and play with anyone who will take time to be with her. Adults form opinions and judgments too quickly, often dismissing others before we should. Take a cue from your little one and give people a chance first.
- Slow down. My husband and I travel with our daughter quite a bit. We bring her along when we go shopping, to lunch or dinner, to professional sporting events, etc. She’s generally wonderful and has a great temperament, but she also doesn’t hesitate to let us know when she’s had enough, usually in the form of embarrassingly loud babble or a crying meltdown. Funnily enough (or maybe not), these things don’t happen when we give her time to just chill out. We take enough time to play with her and enjoy her company without running around like a lunatic, and she’s happy! As adults – yes, I’m talking to you – we need to learn to stop packing so much in, slow down and truly enjoy life’s moments.
“The Switch” ends with this. “But sometimes [life] slows down just enough for all the pieces to fall into place, fate works its magic…/…Every once in a while, in all the randomness, something unexpected happens and it pushes us all forward and the truth is…/…that may be the Human Race isn’t a race at all”. Is it possible to flip a switch and suddenly do each of the above things? Probably not (unless you’re superhuman). But I’ve got to try, and so do you!
Thank you, my beautiful daughter, for teaching me that life isn’t a race. That we should slow down and enjoy it. That we should relish its simplicity. Thank you for being the teacher you are without even knowing you’re doing it.