When you have a baby everyone wants to talk about babies: your baby, their baby, what you were like when you were a baby, you name it. I remembered the woman in line behind me at Trader Joe’s when I was 6 months pregnant told me to pay attention to what the nurses in the hospital said about my newborn. “They’ll be one that sees something special. They are very perceptive, and they’ve seen so many children…” she told me, mysteriously. I was thrilled: a secret reading of my baby’s future! Who needs a family astrologist (more on that later) when you have a small army of potentially-prescient neonatal nurses at your disposal?
In the recovery room I waited for that magical nurse to come along. My little peanut of a babe seemed particularly tiny, and even the old-hands were amazed at her diminutive limbs that flailed about with such gusto only hours after birth. “She’s going to be a conductor,” one of them proclaimed. Seriously, though, a conductor? Of what? Trains? The BSO? Don’t all babies flail their arms about? Maybe that nurse says that to everyone.
Now Charlie is almost 10 months old, and while we thought she was cute before, she’s way cuter now. In fact, it’s somewhat incredible that we found her at all appealing before, considering how much more appealing she is now (All those friends and relatives who told us our newborn was cute were lying through their teeth). Similarly, while I thought she was fascinating in the hospital, with her little reptilian face and scrawny hands and feet batting away, she is a thousand times more interesting now. Now, in fact, I’m pretty sure that nurse was onto something: my kid has a kick-ass sense of rhythm. She also appears to really like trains.
Can you truly predict who a person will be by looking at them in infancy? Perhaps only in retrospect we can say “Mia was so coordinated, even then: it was clear she was going to become a professional athlete,” or “Barack was eloquent starting from birth, really: he was destined for politics.”
If you could go back in time and listen to your parents talk about you when you were an infant, what would they say? I understand now that all babies have personalities, but Charlie’s seems especially prominent, even when I try to look at things objectively (because clearly, as her mother, I’m very good at objectivity). Although she has yet to pronounce anything even slightly resembling a word (no early “Mama” or “Papa” for us), she never shuts up: she yells monosyllabic vowels as she flaps her arms and pumps her chest to any available beat. Her favorite things in the world include the following, more or less in this order:
1. Banjo (the dog)
3. The Great Outdoors (sometimes bringing her outside is the only this that will wow her into silence)
4. The vacuum cleaner (which we have taken to affectionately calling “Dyson,” like he’s our third child)
5. The dog’s collar (the one thing in the house even dirtier than the dog and the vacuum)
She is strong for such a little thing, and very physical–all that early flailing of the limbs clearly paid off–she now careens around the house on hands and knees, bulldozing everything and everyone in her path. She like fruit and vegetables, but would subsist on bread and berries, given half the chance. She turns her nose up at meat and most dairy, and we joke that we’re raising a little vegan baby, despite all our best efforts to turn her into a proper French carnivore.
She has a definite preference for certain classic works of literature: Goodnight Moon, The Very Quiet Cricket and Are You My Mother? are in constant rotation here. My attempts to entice her into loving Madeleine or Where the Wild Things Are have been unsuccessful thus far, but I’m hopeful that for all her strength of character she will in fact be as maleable as any other child. She doesn’t laugh like a baby, but rather chuckles, like an old soul with a secret.
What can we extrapolate from all of this? I can easily picture her 3, 6, 10 months from now–a lanky toddler with white-blond hair and a contagious grin. In a few more years from then she will be the goalie of her kindergarden soccer team. She’ll learn the piano and pound the keys with reckless abandon. In the far-flung future of her life we will look back and say “clearly she was going to be a dog-trainer,” or “vacuums were always her thing.” She will be an astronaut. An entomologist. A mother. A wild thing. She will ask “why?” and “how?” and “what is god?”, and we will try to answer.