You know that theory that babies think they are one in the same person as their moms until they reach a certain age — at which point they finally understand they are different people and promptly experience separation anxiety?
I’ve realized that I also feel like I’m the same person as my 9-week-old baby, Peony. Which I think explains why I don’t talk to her much. After all, I don’t talk much to myself. Out loud, anyway.
Does that make me a bad mom?
Of course it’s not as if I never talk to her. I sing. I cuddle. I coo. I smile. I play. She sleeps, eats, poops, grunts, gurgles, smiles. I feed her. I feed myself. I work. I stick pacifiers in her mouth. I stick pacifiers in her mouth again. And again.
I’m with Peony from the time she wakes up to eat at around 6 or 6:30 each morning until she has her last feeding at around 10 each night. And then she goes into the bassinet about an inch from my face.
During all of that I just don’t speak to her too much. I think about her. I gaze lovingly at her. I hold her tightly. I admire her soft skin. I play with her tiny feet. But I just don’t open my mouth to say much to her. It’s not as if I’m necessarily self-conscious about talking to myself (which is kind of what it feels like I’m doing when I actually do it). It just doesn’t occur to me.
I’ve read the same stuff everyone else has about infant development and the importance of communication and the sound of the mother’s voice. However I’m not moved very often to strike up a one-way conversation about the weather. Or the state of her diaper. I think about all of that stuff while I’m holding her or next to her. I just don’t say it with much frequency.
She seems to know my voice regardless, or at least people have told me since the moment she was born that she turns her head in my direction when she hears me. And I actually remember feeling the same thing with Petunia, my 3 year old, when she was a baby — that I didn’t talk to her much in the early months. She turned out just fine (you know, relatively speaking).
But I didn’t make a conscious effort to talk to Petunia at every turn, and the same thing is happening with Peony. Maybe it’s because I’m so in my head, and both of my daughters were such a part of me right from the start that I haven’t felt a need to open my mouth and say it, or much.
Does my lack of words speak volumes about my parenting? Is my baby daughter screwed? Am I?
Image: Meredith Carroll