Last week at church, an age-old scenario unfolded before my eyes.
There was a woman with a baby. The old lady standing behind her could not resist. She was eyeballing the baby. Then she made a face. The baby laughed. The mother perked up and took notice. She turned to the old lady who gestured, and the woman handed over the baby. The baby was clucked over, shaken, pinched, and kissed. The baby laughed. Then the mother laughed, and the old lady laughed. The husband noticed all this and he got happy too, and laughed. Now that’s a lot of happy to be had from something so small. You would think the folks in government would take notice. It seems we have stumbled upon a new secret weapon that has a lot of power to change the world for the better. Babies are just like that.
They can also reduce grown men to rubble. I know because my former boss got a grandchild, a little girl. Soon he developed a dreamy look in his eyes. He began carrying pictures of the baby. Then at every juncture it seems, he was talking with young mothers in the office, trading baby stories. His priorities shifted and he started to look at his phone often and laugh. He got very relaxed. After that he soon retired because work just wasn’t doing it for him anymore. He wanted to spend more time with the baby.
We are proximal to the city of Toronto, the place they sometimes call the ‘Big Lonely’. People are really scared to like babies there. I know that when my wife came to this country, she would beeline over to any carriage and start asking questions and fussing over the baby. I did not. She became alarmed and asked me if there was something she didn’t know about me, that maybe I didn’t like kids. “No, I explained. You can’t just go over and start messing with people’s kids. People will think you are nuts. You just don’t do that.”
She looked back at me, baffled. “Why not?” I didn’t know. For whatever reason, there are less babies out and about these days. People don’t want to have to tolerate them in public places. You even have entire retirement communities, travel agencies and more, which are premised on the idea that you will not have to put up with kids. Dogs galore, maybe, but no kids. There is also that issue of affordability. Young people just cannot afford to have kids like a generation ago. It all translates to less babies.
My wife has a saying, “bring the babies and the money will come too” and it seems she was right. Waiting around, you will never get an ideal time. Still, there is nothing that changes you like having your own baby. I know that I was somewhat paranoid that if I had kids, I wouldn’t know what to do, that I would be a lousy parent. Turns out that it is a self-teaching assignment. My kids have assured me that it has all been OK. Still, I remember there was nothing that has ever changed me in life, like the evening my wife gave birth. After thirty-three hours of labour, they let her sleep a bit and I was given a small bundle to hold from three AM to five in the morning. That small bundle of humanity looked up at me with eyes as deep as forever and nobody said anything for a long time. Then I made a lot of vows that I hope I have kept.
After a while my wife went back to work. We did shift parenting, she would have them for the week and I would have them for weekends. I didn’t really know what to do, but it seems that almost anything would have been OK, as the saying goes, when they are small their needs are small. They are easily happy. They look to you for the lead. I can remember some notable afternoons because you can get a bit creative. Kids are fun, and they are most fun when you are rediscovering some fun together. That is why babies are therapeutic. I can recall one day, we cut out ‘money’ from green construction paper, then cut out vegetables... tomatoes, lettuce, bread. Soon we had an entire shopping market going. It took up an entire afternoon. Another time, we got socks and we sewed our own sock monkeys. It is true that these pursuits are absolutely unmanly, but I really cannot recall when I had more fun. When the kids got old enough my wife went back to a regular working schedule and the weekends of daddy daughter dates ended. I still miss them.
There are some really crazy people out there, talking in an alarming way about ‘carbon footprints’ and making much of Mother Earth. Waxing very dramatic. They tell us that having kids is bad, that we should pledge not to have kids so that we can save the world. For whom? It is true, some people are crazy. They need to have a kid to sort out their priorities. It would change them.
Having kids is what saves the earth, and it saves you too along the way. It makes you into a better person, happier and more relaxed. Just watch any parent. Their life has been blessed with a kind of sweetness that cannot be had anywhere else.
Go out and try it. Make a baby laugh. It will change your life.