Saturday, October 30, 2010
Why Do We Love Babies?
One thing I have done with our kids and now our grandkids is hold them in a sitting position and make them fly around the house, complete with sound effects. Plane engines, machine guns, and an occasional explosion—the naughty little violent sounds that most all of us boys like.
I don't know why we like these sounds and the things that make them, but we do. Once my oldest grandson said to me, "You can't make a boy not like guns." Well, I'll just leave that one alone, except to say that if it goes boom, pop or pow, most boys like it.
I was flying our grandson around the living room, strafing his aunt on the couch with machine gun fire, and he started laughing with a belly laugh. He just laughed and laughed. Every time he heard the "gunfire," he'd laugh. I had never heard him laugh so hard. Neither had his mother, nor grandmother, nor aunt. His mom got out our video camera and captured him laughing until I was too tired to keep "flying."
Why do we love babies so much? Why do they bring so much fun into our lives?
Yes, they are cute, for sure. But is that the only reason why we like them so much? (That's my other little grandson who is also almost nine months old. He smiles with his whole body.)
I think there are two fundamental reasons that make them lovable.
First, they are so genuine. They are just who they are, with no artificial flavoring. They don't know how to hide their emotions, or hide from them. They don't know how to pretend they are happy when they are not. They don't know how to be mean or jealous and sassy. They are pure vessels. There is no darkness in them. They just are and we love them for it.
The second reason is that, because we serve them, we love them. We give and give and give to them, without expecting much of anything back except that the baby might (or might not) stop crying or fussing or go back to sleep or smile. Babies prove that to love, we must serve. And the more we serve—the more selflessly we serve—the more we love them, and the more happy we are.
How empty this world be like without these little perpetual love machines.
Okay, well, soon enough, they learn to be dramatic—to yell and whine and throw themselves on the floor in the mall in front of the toy store—to manipulate their parents, friends, and everyone in their environment. And it drives us all crazy. Then they take that behavior into childhood, adolescence and adulthood, and it continues to drive us to distraction. Why? Because people are not genuine, real, believable, honest with others or themselves. We play games trying to get along and all the acting and drama wears us out along the way.
Every once in a while, you meet a fearless adult who is pure and honest. They are happy to be exactly who they are and to show you themselves openly, without veneer or varathane. Somehow, they have overcome their fear of being who they are, and have shaken off the phoniness that overrides their genuine selves.
This is why we love babies. They are honest and real and predictable. We see their real emotions. They don't hide them from us. And when they hold out their arms to us, we know that they just want to be held. They love us without having to give an explanation. They don't have to pretend or make up things. They just feel what they feel, and express those feelings as they occur, without editing them or overdecorating them. They are unafraid to be themselves and to expose themselves to the world, as is, no warranty, no deposit, no return.
Yes, we must curtail our childish feelings, but isn't it refreshing to meet a person big or small who is unafraid to be himself or herself and who loves you just because they don't know how to not love you?
These are some of the lessons babies teach us, and I love them for it.