Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Baby Small Talk

Yeah, I'm double posting this morning because I don't understand how to wait and dole out content in reasonable intervals.

Due to Sila's one year check up and a sudden and awful case of mastitis for me, I found myself at the doctor's office a couple of times these past few weeks and I quickly found myself having the same few conversations with the people I talked to. Baby small talk is not that different from commenting about the weather; every baby is similar enough that you have a common understanding of what words will come up in the conversation and every baby is different enough that you will feel like you are talking about Florida weather to someone who's only ever known Midwestern weather.

1. The Teeth Conversation

Silas smiles a lot. I'm happy about this; he's a regular Smiley Jr. The downside to his smile is that he reveals a mouthful of teeth. Which starts the exchange, almost every time:

"Oh, what a lot of teeth! How old is he?" said with a curious expression.

"He's about a year old now."

"Oh, my baby is almost one and has only has two teeth!" said with a slight frown, as if they were hoping for more teeth by now.

Don't you worry! I've got the statistics memorized. Most babies don't start teething until about 6 months, but can easily wait until eight, ten or twelve months to come up with that first tooth. All normal. Some babies will get one or two teeth at a time, others will cut a mouthful in a month. Still normal.

I try to suggest that perhaps it will be easier on them since when Silas started teething, I couldn't get him to hold a teething toy. Instead, he preferred to chew on my shoulder; nature's most ergonomic teether for a small baby, I suppose! I hope I don't come across as patronizing, because I know Silas has his "trouble" areas (like sleeping through the night!).

I talk about how Silas started teething at four months and how, though he has gotten his teeth quickly, each individual tooth has been working its way down consistently but slowly, if that makes sense. For example, his upper premolars started cutting through at the beginning of August. A month later, they still hadn't completely broken through the gum. He drools a lot.

As far as I know, teething is not a sign of intelligence or development beyond the fact that he can leave more bite marks when he chews on something. But teeth are a safe topic; most everyone has them.

2. The Walking/Crawling Conversation

This one takes several forms. When Silas was around eight months, I was flying up north to see my family with him. I had Silas tied up neatly in my baby carrier as I moved through the airport. As I walked, I fell in step with a husband and wife heading in the same direction. The husband was holding a baby.

The baby girl had cute, curly blond wisps of hair and a bright smile that lit up when she saw Silas. Her parents looked over at me and the dad started a conversation about how they also had a baby carrier but their daughter hated being in it and preferred to be carried. I nodded sagely, thinking of the time my friends and I went on a hike and Silas ended up being carried in our arms more than in the carrier.

Any conversation about babies always has an exchange of ages, done in weeks for the first 12 weeks or so, months for the first 24 months or so and then, finally, years once they hit 2-3. Their daughter was nine months.

"So does he walk yet?" asked the dad. I shook my head. Silas had just really gotten into crawling at this point. Before my headshake was over, the proud dad continued, "she's been walking for about two weeks now."

I smiled. I could see how excited he was. I told him and his wife I could see their daughter had walking legs and said that they must be having a great time chasing her around.

Babies walk at an amazing range of times. Some start as soon as seven or eight months, mostly girls (from what I've known. No scientific reason here). Others wait until past their first birthday, content to know they will be walking for a lot longer in their life than not walking. Again, all normal.

Sure, I did sort of hope that Silas would start walking as soon as possible, but I was in no rush. Silas started walking about a week after his first birthday. This has lead to me being on the other side of the conversation.

At the doctor's office waiting room, Silas was toddling around in his sandals, to the delight of an older woman. She watched him move across the room and asked me how old he was, and let me know that her daughter's baby girl didn't walk yet.

She looked at Silas again and confided to me, "I know that if my daughter would just put shoes on her baby, she'd walk!"

I'll admit, I was taken aback by this. Anyone who knows me knows that Silas has been barefoot nearly all of his life. It was just passing conversation, but I found myself wanting to explain that shoes aren't really necessary for a baby who is still learning how to manipulate all of the tiny muscles in her feet.

Finally, I said, "Well, maybe. I usually let him go barefoot in the house. But every baby is different." And she nodded, and I understood that it was a case where she believed what she believed and that was that.

So there you have it. Talking about babies is hilarious.

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