It’s tough to say when or where my 4-month-old son, Charlie, will figure out that I’m his daddy. He may already even know. Scientists and experts can figure out a lot of stuff these days, but when it comes to what babies are thinking, well, we’re all still more or less in the dark.
That’s part of the allure to having kids though, I guess. There’s so much mystery involved, so many questions that simply cannot be answered. I suppose that’s why parenting in and of itself is such a topic of debate and conversation all around the world. We want to understand everything about our children, but we never will be able to.
Especially when they’re in that first year of life.
Charlie looks at me now as if he recognizes something in me that flicks a switch down inside him. When I peer in at him in the middle of the night, when his own hunger has woken him from a dream and he is cooing down in there and I rush to him in the moments before his gentle sounds turn to a full blast of crying, he spots me in the nightlight glow and he smiles every single time.
It could be that he’s just glad to see a friendly face, any old face, of course. But I don’t think so. He’s my kid and he obviously gets a pretty big dose of me in his life. Day in and day out, there I am making my funny sounds and goofball faces at him. And ever since about a month ago, he never cheats me out of one of his big beautiful grins.
Who we appear to be to our babies is a fascinating thing to ponder even if we will never know for sure. They won’t remember enough to recall what they were thinking every time we were holding them in our arms and rocking them to sleep or feeding them a bottle. And no amount of jogging their memory is going to ever change that. Yet, I can’t help but believe that when my tiny son spots me out of the corner of his eye, his heart starts to race and his blood runs a little quicker through his gossamer veins.
And that might be the best feeling in the world, when you give it some thought. This genuine belief we moms and dads have, this gut feeling that our bambino is genuinely thrilled to see us stepping out under the hot lights and onto the stage of their life going down in real time, that’s not something we will find too many other times in this lifetime. Even falling in love really hard with another adult somehow lacks one particular certain lightning strike that comes with being seen and welcomed by a baby’s eyes.
At least that’s what I tell myself at 3 AM when I’m wandering over to my babbling boy, gliding across the dark carpet towards the place where I know he is waiting for me, or for someone who at least looks a little like me, to come and feed him.
Hey, when it comes to babies, it’s whatever gets you through the night.