Both my children were pretty happy kids, but my son had a particularly joyful disposition. Maybe it was because he was the second baby, which so I wasn’t as freaked out as I was with my first kid and that sense of calm made him jolly. I’ll never understand how two children who both grew inside me turned out to have distinct personalities. But there are things I just knew about my smiley baby boy, because facial expressions often speak louder than words.
I had a hard time getting a word in when I was growing up. I come from a verbose family. They love to talk, and to talk pretty loudly. So I learned to communicate silently. I wore my sentiments on my face. You could tell what I was thinking, just by looking at my expression. So I guess it's not really all that surprising that both my children are very expressive (if not dramatic). It's pretty delightful when those expressions are gleeful. I mean, is there anything more delicious than baby smiles? It is less charming when they are expressing their disappointment in only getting one cookie for dessert. Oh the horror.
Smiley babies are the secret to getting through a typical day of parenting. Coming home after a full day of work, breast pump in tow, and being greeted by my baby’s grins was a game changer. It would give me the hope I seemed to have lost on my subway commute from the office.
Other than understanding the salvation that is a child’s happiness, here are some other things moms with smiley babies just know:
It Might Be Gas
I never wanted to believe this cliché, but most babies don’t crack their first smile until they are about 6 weeks old. Both my kids hit the smiling milestone at that point. I could tell these were authentic smiles, because they were clearly reacting to my voice or my face. Any “smiling” they were doing before that point indicated they were having some tummy troubles.
They Make Us Feel Like We’re Doing OK
I’m pretty sure my two children siphoned off a good amount of my brain cells. I have no short-term memory anymore. There is just so much to keep track of and even though I am pretty organized and scribble everything on post-its and rely on scheduling apps and set reminders, there is always something I forget: to sign a test, to submit the fundraiser paperwork, to wash somebody’s crusty bathrobe.
Thankfully, having a smiley baby boosted my confidence when I was feeling like a failure. When a full-face grin broke out on my son’s face, my self-esteem got turned up a few notches.
We Might Feel A Little Superior
Look, there are very few times when I feel like I totally know what I’m doing as a mom. So I’ll take a baby smiling at me for babbling in baby talk to her and count it as a win. I made a baby laugh, thus I am better than all other adults. (Right?)
We Are Acutely Aware The Smiling Might Not Last
Like all stages in a baby’s development, this smiley syndrome wasn’t going to last. Eventually, my kids wised up and stopped thinking every little thing was hilarious. So I knew I had to revel in those smiles while they were still happening.
They Could Just Be F*cking With Us
I was aware that my smiley baby might not be forever smiley, but I was also considering that maybe this kid wanted my partner and I to think he was smiling. Was he playing the long game, wooing us with what we wanted to see so we’d be trained to cave and give in to his every demand at the first crack of a grin?
My son is 7 now, and when he wants something the first thing he does is plaster the world’s biggest (fake) smile on his face.
They Get Their Sense Of Humor From Us
They Remind Us To Focus On The Positive
As a new mom, I tended to fixate on what was wrong, or what could go wrong. I was so worried about killing this fragile new creature, or messing her up so much she’ll require a lifetime of therapy to recover from my parenting deficiencies.
One smile from my infant, though, and all the things that are amazing about motherhood suddenly came into focus. I would take a lifetime of parenting foibles if I was only occasionally rewarded with one of those gigantic toothy grins.
Laughter Truly Is The Best Medicine
When I was tired, when I was up late cleaning breast pump parts, and when I felt like there was no end in sight to the drudgery of raising children (who are self-centered narcissists by design) it was a smile or a laugh from my baby that cured my blues. Even if it was just for a minute, I felt right again. Having a baby smile up at you is one of life’s most poignant validations of your existence.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.