The Baby Effect

Zoe is going through a new stage: smiling at everyone all the time.

Hey, I will take this over the stranger awareness any day.

We are on the Subway and Zoe is perched in my lap, cooing loud, almost bird-like sounds, and clicking her tongue (her new favorite skill). As if she wasn’t already calling enough attention to herself by sitting there and being cute in her black velvet frock with the cream bow around her middle.

People on the subway cannot get enough of her. The man standing in front of us is making silly faces at her, two Asian tourists are taking pictures of her on the bench across us and everyone else is smiling at her.

Zoe’s soft little baby hands have found the coat of the older woman to our left and she tugs on the sleeve, offering the occasional staccato chirp.

“Do you mind?” I ask, gesturing to Zoe’s latest exploration.

“Oh, not at all.” The lady smiles warmly at Zoe. “Must be a nice stage of life, when everyone is smiling at you. I wish everyone would smile at me!”

And what a true statement. Babies are so innocent and worthy of our love and affection. When do we assume we lose this right? When do we have to start earning it?

By age two we have to be quiet to be lovable. By age three we have to play well with our new siblings. By age four we have to be obedient in school. The list goes on and it becomes increasingly impossible to earn anyone’s temporary approval. Before long we live in a constant state of unworthiness.

This isn’t how it’s meant to be. Children never stop being inherently lovable and thus neither do adults.

So keep smiling. All of us need it just as much as the babies do.

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