Alice is a big baby. Granted, Hen (we'll try out a nickname, shall we?) is a small baby. Last we checked, she was 9th percentile for weight, and next to Alice, she looked it. Hen's never met a baby aside from her cousins, and in the few weeks since she's seen them, she's grown much more aware. Alice figured her out immediately, and was wide-eyed and chattering, saying hello, hello, little baby. Hen didn't really see her until we set her on the floor in a Bumpo seat, and then, well, then Alice was terrifying. Alice leaned forward to greet her, and Hen started squirming and crying and was clearly frightened.
This is fascinating to me, that she's so used to grown-ups that she doesn't know what to make of her own kind. And what would you make of someone who was sort of like you, but bigger, but also much much smaller than your mom? I can see how this would alarm.
And this was another new thing: when she got upset, I handed her a stuffed rabbit named Elroy that Sam is fond of on her behalf, and she hugged Elroy the Rabbit tightly and instantly calmed. So she has, I think, an official comfort object now. I'm pleased the comfort object's name is Elroy. (Sam named him.)
As for me, it was comforting to talk to a seasoned mom. Seasoned moms are so cool to me right now. I'm very much aware that I'm just guessing here. That I'm managing okay, but I don't really know what I'm doing. And this woman was so chill about the guesswork, you know? She had four kids with drastically different temperaments, and it was astonishing what she had figured out about them, through trial and error. She said her first baby really liked to be taken on a walk beneath trees. And I was very impressed and asked, "Wow, how on earth did you figure that out?" And she said, "Well, when she screams until you take her for a walk beneath the trees, and that happens over and over again, you figure it out."
Mothering is a strange method of learning, is it not? Like a big multiple choice test you couldn't possibly have studied all the answers to, and the only way to get through it is to guess until you get them right. And even then, you're not really sure you got it right at all.
Our playdate made me excited about this process, of figuring Hen out. I took her on a walk, in a carrier this time (instead of her stroller), and we brought Elroy, and I shielded her from the wind, and we got really close to the face on the tree, so she could see it, and I whispered in her ear about the clouds and the blue sky, all while listening to David Sedaris on This American Life, and laughing.