On Being Your Own (Average) Baby

Soren had his 15-month checkup today. I am happy to report that he is of approximately average weight (55th percentile), height (60th percentile), and development. He generally hits milestones right around when he’s supposed to, often right after we go to the doctor and she asks us whether he’s doing X, Y, or Z and we say, well, not really, and then a week later, he’s running around Xing, Ying, and Zing.

In the early days, this stressed me out beyond belief, because I was always worried that something would be “wrong” with him. Waiting for him to smile was almost like waiting for the dentist that time you hadn’t seen a dentist for like 16 years. There’s always a mom, somewhere, whose baby was smiling at two weeks (hey lady, it was farts) and there’s always the worry about autism and delays and brain tumors (and hey, that one turned out to be a legit worry). Well, maybe there aren’t always the worries, but there were for me, in the early days, before I was the professional, laid-back, mom-type expert person like I am now.

I assume it’s normal to want an advanced baby, one who hits all the milestones early, because that eliminates the early worries that something might be wrong and functions as evidence that your child is smart and gifted (and, on some level, just like you!). I fell into this a little, too, at first. But then I realized two things. First, hitting milestones early is not an indication that your child will grow up to have above-average intelligence. Second, having an advanced baby means everything goes faster.

I used to post on a message board that was inhabited mostly by moms, and there were threads for your “cohort” of moms who have kids the same age as yours (for the record, the word “cohort” pains me, as do Danskos). This one woman had a kid of approximately Soren’s age who was walking at like seven months. Aware that everybody thought she was lying, she even posted a video of this baby running up and down the beach like David Fucking Hasselhoff. That kind of makes you feel bad for a minute, because you’re maybe still waiting for your kid to, like, crawl, or do other rudimentary Baby 101 stuff. But then you realize something — the advanced baby is going to be advanced (duh, but hear me out). He’s going to hit the terrible 2s at one. Hell, by now that kid is probably wearing all black and chain-smoking outside the Village Inn, talking about the existential dilemma and stealing silverware to make bracelets, and I still have a delightful little guy who toddles around the house and gives me hugs and says “Dah! Bah!” instead of “Welllllll, Nietzsche says ‘God is dead,’ so it must be, man. Let’s go listen to Bauhaus and stare at the ceiling.”

Soren is the only kid we plan to have. I’m in no hurry for him to grow up.

I think there’s a natural tendency for parents to project onto their kids. We want them to be a reflection of how awesome we think we are (assuming we’re awesome, which thanks to the internet I’ve realized most of us do). We want them to be advanced and smart because we’re advanced and smart and of course our kids are just like we are. I’ve even seen parents of older kids brag about how their kids are little carbon copies of themselves, with the same gosh-darn quirky senses of humor and super-edgy taste in entertainment and literature and love of food and whatever.

Obviously, Soren’s interests, at least when he’s little, will be shaped by my interests. He’ll be exposed to more than his share of sports, animals, Girl Talk, ridiculous electro quasi-hippie music, delicious vegetarian food, Jack London novels (instead of a horsey phase, I had a wolf/sled dog phase), and real-life crime shows (just kidding about that one). I’m not going to consider it a badge of honor, though, if he loves the White Sox when he’s seven. He might like the Yankees (oh, the horror). He might hate sports and like musical theater and vampires. He might become a meat-eating libertarian angry white male Insane Clown Posse fan (oh please no).

The thing is, I want him to become whatever he wants to become. His nature and how he behaves in the world will be a reflection of Ben and me and how we raised him, but his interests, likes, and quirks are his alone. I just want him to be the most awesome Soren Mars __________ ________ he can be. My job isn’t to make him a little me. My job is to give him a safe, supportive, loving, fun, and awesome environment so he can grow into whatever he wants, even if it’s not what I would have chosen — hell, especially if it’s not what I would have chosen. And of course it won’t be. (I’m sure my responsible, suburban, conservative, good-with-money parents never contemplated unleashing a seat-of-the-pants hippie liberal to run amok in the world. I think they’re okay with that.)

So far, I can tell you that Soren is a little shy at first if he doesn’t know you. He loves animals, books, and George Karl. He’s a good eater. He usually goes to sleep without incident and sleeps through the night most of the time (every third night or so, he’ll wake up crying and it’ll take a while to get him back to sleep). He is offended by shoes, socks, and having his nose wiped. He’s developing a dorky sense of humor that might be a little too much like mine.

He’s the most awesome person I’ve ever met.