Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother


We Could Learn A lot From Our Children


With baby comes the old neighbourhood lady in the faded floral frock.

Sitting on our front porch bench is the only cue this woman needs to climb our stoop and, using a squeaky, high-pitched voice, repeatedly tell our child she loves him.

She also calls out an onslaught of orders (she wants him to shake her hand, wave, smile and clap). That he’s not a circus monkey willing to perform tricks on demand only makes her press harder. “Shake my hand! Here! Here! Shake my hand!’ She says over and over.

We don’t know this woman. In fact, she barely acknowledges us, which makes this all more than just a little strange.

We suspect she’s lonely, that this small interaction makes her day, so we’re patient.

Of course this overzealous, baby-induced behavior is not exclusive to her. Nothing turns presumably sane folks into big piles of goo-goo-ga-ga mush quite like fresh-faced, apple-cheeked babies.

Indeed they can inspire even the grouchiest of adults to start babbling nonsensically like oversized infants.

It’s understandable — getting treated to a little squish’s gummy grin is like being hugged inside and out.

It is somewhat addictive, really. We find them irresistible because they are refreshingly open to the world and fascinated by the people in it.

For instance, our son doesn’t turn steely-faced when someone looks his direction. He doesn’t try to avoid eye contact by sticking his nose in a giant picture book.

Like his very huggable peers, he’s not cynical or greedy and he doesn’t know how to lie. He is naturally warm and kind, and has boundless amounts of unbridled curiosity.

Parents, don’t you just wish you could bottle this innocence, wonderment and untarnished state of being and hold onto it forever?

If only we could keep just some of that spirit alive.

The number of passersby willing to wave, giggle, coo and play peek-a-boo with unfamiliar children is astonishing, but the rate at which they close down the instant they see another grownup is depressing.

For a moment, like the creaky lady who lives up the street, they’ve made a connection. Then, just as quickly, they’ve hardened up, put on a coating of thick, impermeable skin, and set off again.

Certainly I am not suggesting we go around greeting everyone like overexcited puppies (such as the relentlessly chatty Wilderness Explorer named Russell in the adorable 2009 Pixar movie Up), but basic civility wouldn’t be too much to ask for, would it?

We could simply acknowledge one another. Smile. Say hello.

We could learn a lot from these tiny, happy creatures that so easily draw us out of our protective shells.

After all, we were once just like them, smiling, laughing and loving fully. Living vivaciously and unselfconsciously and inquisitively.

And, finally, we were appreciative of the simple things in life, and that truly is no small thing.