We recently adopted two shelter dogs and re-learning to be pet parents has been interesting. The dogs are 7 and 2, respectfully, so they're adults, not puppies. They came house-trained... at least, house-trained for bathroom issues. Only one accident from the two-year old. House-trained otherwise - not so much. We're all still learning indoor voices, and why they shouldn't run around the dining room like crazy, and how to get attention by barking or jumping on the sliding glass doors.
The learning process is a challenge because...well...the dogs can't talk. They can't explain why they do some of the things they do. They can't explain why they're always on the wrong side of the door. They sit before us and give us the deep, soft stare that is trying to convey something...but, its meaning is lost in the translation, so we proceed with what we "think" they want. And, we're usually wrong, judging by their reaction to our response.(do dogs get frustrated? this new pet parent thinks so!)
Remind you of anything? Maybe real parenthood? Maybe those few years of bringing baby home and learning her language - which is similar but not the same as yours?
Shortly after the dogs came to live with us, my middle child had her first baby; Francesca DiVita VanGorder - a beautiful 9lb 10z bundle of joy - came into the world on October 8th, after a bit of a long labor. She startled all of us with a full head of hair and a personality that makes one sing!
This grandmother was not the first relative to visit Frankie. On our side of the family, that privilege went to Chloe, my eldest. She was there the week after Frankie was born, to help her sister traverse the many ups and downs of being a first-time Mom. (we got to watch the puppy and twiggy, for a bit) Grandma got to visit for a week and a half, when Frankie was two weeks old. And, boy is she glad!
Life through the eyes of a baby is a wonder, indeed. This little one is more alert and curious than I remember any baby being, at such a young age. We are hoping her eyes stay the beautiful blue they are, but really, eye color is unimportant. Frankie is asserting her power over all the adults. We jump to her beck and call. Sleeping, crying, cooing, she commands our complete attention - and rewards us with a smile, every time. Don't tell me babies that young don't smile. She smiles when Grandma tells her stories!
What use is any language, foolish words that convey meaning only to the listener - according to the listener's life experiences? Babies care not for words. They live for the tone of voice, the gentle rock of strong arms, the soft beat of a heart beneath a breastbone, where they lay their little heads for comfort. Babies demand understanding and patience. My brother-in-law, Butch, always told us, "When you ask for patience, God gives you more children." Oh, how right he was!
Watching Frankie stare at pictures on the wall, at the colorful moving pictures of my daughter's huge TV, at our faces, at nothing at all, certainly gives us pause. What is she seeing? What, if anything, is she thinking? Do babies think? How can they, when they don't know words, yet? Thinking in pictures is one way they may 'think' but - how do they make any sense of those pictures?
This baby is a reminder that words are merely sounds and our voices are best used for soft musings, happy laughter, and the wonder that is new life. It matters not what we say, only how we say it. And, voice needs to be accompanied by touch. A soothing, gentle rub of the head. A cuddle close to the breast, of Mom or Dad, or any adult. Rocking motions that tame the worries a baby feels.
Would that adults could remember the joy of those first conversations with baby. They require much attention and much listening. Why do we lose that ability, as they grow? Why do we think we "know" what they want (what the world wants), as they grow and begin to talk?
Talk is cheap. It matters not. In life, no matter what age we are, the sound of communicating is far more important that the letters strung together. Words are not the use, just excuse... to explain or insist... often causing more harm than good.
Frankie is a good book, pushing into chapter 5, not a blank slate, as some would think. Oh no, she is full of personality, experiences, love, and expectation. She will grow and her eyes will continue to shine and sparkle, if we adults remember that it's what we do, not what we say, that impacts her life the most. It's how we show our love, that will help her grow strong and be happy.
And now, off to walk the dogs, who have been circling for half an hour - giving me their stare of expectation. A stare I understand - because they use it every morning - quite effectively.