American in Spain

Babies Are Mirrors

July 19, 2009

One interesting phenomenon I'm noticing as a consequence of spending a large part of each day with a baby is that, because babies are unable to communicate their discomforts and desires, we adults project upon them how we feel. For example, there are some people that are always cold, and some people that are always hot. Well, not always, but they are the first to complain when the mercury goes up or down. My wife, for instance, is the first to complain of the cold. She can lie happily under the duvet while I am out on top sweating like a pig. What can you do? Some people are exothermic. Her mother and sister are like this. Her father and I, on the other hand, are the first to start sweating and complain about the heat. So what happens around my infant daughter? The cold folks are the first to suggest that she needs a blanket, and the hot folks are the first to suggest that it be removed because she must be uncomfortable in this heat! The same goes with social situations. The extroverts are certain that she must be lonely and need attention, and the introverts are the first to suggest that people just back off and let her breathe. I, for one, can't stand to have more than one person touching or hovering above me. So when I see 17 women crowded around my daughter making goo-gaa sounds and poking her, I vicariously feel very uncomfortable. I just spent an entire weekend feeling vicariously smothered.

My daughter spent Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning unhappy and cranky.1 Coincidentally, she also spent all that time with grandparents and aunts and uncles hovering over her, each positive that their own particular way of talking to her was going to make her feel better. I resisted as much as I could, so I probably only suggested leaving her alone 15 dozen times. It remains to be seen if she ends up being introverted or extroverted, but the results so far are skewed towards the former.

As I think the above paragraph, my logical left brain is suggesting that such overwhelming contact is good for her, and that, if she can just get past the initial shock, she'll be better off if she can handle contact with many different people like what she's been experiencing. Yet my emotional introvert right brain remains unconvinced.

Frankly I can't wait until she can actually express preferences of her own and settle the debates. Until then, she remains a mirror in which everyone sees themselves.

1As a result, Saturday night she shattered all her sleep records by sleeping soundly for ten hours straight! Neither of her parents were conscious during those ten hours either, but still, that's one tuckered out almost-four-month-old!