I will never forget the day my niece was born. When my sister-in-law went into labor, I started the long drive to my hometown and went directly to the hospital, making it there just in time. My niece was born in the wee hours of the morning and I was one of the first people who got to meet her. I hadn’t really spent much time around babies before and I was nervous. I didn’t know what to do. I cleared my throat, looked at my niece for the first time, and said, “I trust you’re doing well?”
She just stared back at me from her baby carrier thing. There was a long awkward silence. Then my brother who was watching said “That was weird.”
And it was weird. It was. But I simply did not know what to do. It wasn’t the first time I had behaved strangely around a baby, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Here are some of the weirdest things that people who don’t understand babies do:
1. Speaking to a baby like she is your tax analyst.
One time I met a friend’s 1-year-old and I didn’t know what to say. I looked around wildly, trying to think of something, anything to speak to the baby about. It was raining outside. I said, “Nice weather we’re having.” Why did I say that? That was a boring thing to say. Even so, I looked at the baby, hoping what I said was interesting to him. The baby was not impressed and crawled away.
2. Speaking to a baby nonsensically.
Trying to avoid the tax analyst approach, I next tried shouting random words that I thought babies would like. Such as: “Plush Toys!” and “Cribs!” and “Onesies!” Then I realized I was just listing things off from my friend’s baby registry.
3. Assuming peekaboo is always the answer.
Crying? Peekaboo. Needs to take a nap? Peekaboo. Needs to eat? Peekaboo. Done and done. I once babysat my niece and I thought, I will play peekaboo with her, and she will laugh, and all will be well. Wrong. At a certain point, she caught on to me, and the peekaboo merely enraged her. She had had enough of the peekaboo. Peekaboo had gone from being the best thing to the worst thing in a matter of minutes.
4. Deciding a baby shirt is most surely baby pants.
My friend asked me to dress her 1-year-old. She had laid out an outfit. I handed the clothes to the baby to put on but she just threw them on the ground. Rude. So, I started the arduous task of getting the pants on the baby. It took a while, but I finally got them on. My friend came back and said, “You know that’s the shirt right?” I’m pretty sure the baby smirked at me. The baby then patiently watched (and mercifully held still, gazing at me with eyes full of pity) as I arranged the clothes properly. I still contend that that shirt was a pair of pants.
5. Thinking naps are things that happen when you say they are going to happen.
My sister in law asked me to put my niece down for a nap. I sat my niece on her bed and said, “Go to sleep.” My niece, who was now 2, literally laughed in my face. I then tried singing to her. She started to cry, most likely because my singing voice is the worst. When I stopped singing, she fell asleep. Not because she wanted to go to sleep, but because she wanted to show me that she would rather take a nap than listen to me sing further.
6. Trying to shake hands with a baby as a greeting.
It happened. I’m not proud of it.
So, babies and baby owners of the world, thank you for being patient with those of us who have no idea what to do around you. One thing I do know is that babies are pretty cool. I know this because every baby I have met has attempted to tolerate me for a short while … at least until I ask them what their plans are for the weekend.More On