The following are quotes from Joyce Maynard’s novel Labor Day about what babies know, and what they need, and how we might listen to, and be with them. I found these passages to be inspiring and wise, and wanted to share them here:
One thing he would tell me, though, he said, had to do with babies.Not that he was any kind of expert, but for a brief while, long ago, he had cared for his son, and that experienece more than any other had taught him the importance of following your instincts. Tuning in to the situation with all your five senses, and your body, not your brain.A baby cries in the night, and you go to pick him up. Maybe he’s screaming so hard his face is the color of a radish, or he’s gasping for breath, he’s got himself so worked up. What are you going to do, take a book off the shelf , and read what some expert has to say?
You lay your hand against his skin and just rub his back.Blow into his ear. Press the baby up against your own skin and walk outside with him, where the night wind will surround him, and moonlight fall on his face. Whistle, maybe.Dance. Hum. Pray.
Sometimes a cool breeze might be just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes a warm hand on the belly.Sometimes doing absolutely nothing is the best. You have to pay attention. Slow things way down. Tune out the rest of the world that doesn’t really matter. Feel what the moment calls for.
What I have found is that a baby-though she doesn’t know words yet, or information, or the rules of life- is the most reliable judge of feelings. All a baby has with which to take in the world are her five senses.
…And it has been my experience when you do this-slow down, pay attention, follow the simple instincts of love- a person is likely to respond favorably. It is generally true of babies, and most other people too, perhaps.Also dogs. Hamsters even.And people so damaged by life in the world that there might seem no hope for them, only there may be.