Yesterday I watched a friend enjoy the smiles of her infant- trying to determine if they were the first deliberate social smiles. I remember once watching a documentary on human behavior which speculated that babies begin their “social smile” to caregivers at around 4 weeks old, because that is precisely the point at which a sleep-deprived parent needs something in return for taking care of the demands of a newborn.
Pudding met all her developmental milestones for the first two years of her life, and her first little smiles at one month were no exception. Of course, I completely took those magical smiles for granted a the time. I never knew how lucky we were to get them, nor how hard it might be to care for another without that basic reciprocal exchange.
We expect parenting to be about hard work and self-sacrifice at times, but the very fact that children are typically hard-wired to demonstrate emotional attachment in return indicates that we as humans find that difficult to do without reward. So naturally, it gets harder to parent a child who is not hard-wired in this way, or desires interactions only intermittently, or whose sensory needs interfere with that normal process. Behaviors seem more challenging, relentless even. I wrote about my version of finding that difficult in my post on Friday.
Just like how the baby’s first smile comes in the nick of time, our community pool finally opened on Saturday. Though we had other chores to do in the morning this weekend, we spent the afternoon at the pool. The smile on her face told us Pudding was in heaven. She was sated. She got the input she needed, and peace was restored to our family. As soon as she was in the water, she began interacting more with us, wanting to play games. Back to being a happy family. Not to mention that with Spectrummy Daddy home from work for three days, I got to take my shower every morning.
Of course, we are back to the normal routine today. Pudding is back at school, we can’t go to the pool until late afternoon. On Friday I’d emailed my friend complaining about how I had to give up another thing, and I was really running out of things to give up here. But I was looking at it all wrong. Though we can’t manage it all the time, saying yes to what Pudding wants makes all our lives easier. Instead of giving up, I need to look at it as gaining something, like the new parent trading sleep for the baby’s smile.
I just have to find a way to make sure it doesn’t have to mean saying no to me all the time. I tried taking a shower with both kids this morning, but I won’t be trying that again- Cubby felt crowded in there. Tomorrow I’ll try the morning bath for the kids, and I’ll delay my shower. I’m certain I’ll find a solution sooner or later. Let’s hope that is enough to out a smile on all our faces.
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