This morning, I mixed up a beet, blood orange, and ginger smoothie for the three of us to share. I filled Felix's purple and yellow sippy cup with the thick crimson liquid, and handed it to him. He ran back to his room to sit at his child-sized table and chairs, the same table and chairs I played with as a child.
When I tasted the smoothie in my cup, I realized it was probably too tart, too earthy, for him. He did seem to want to play with it more than drink it. He sat in his little chair, his right arm slung over the back, the cup dangling on its side from his little hand. He watched me as I stood on his mattress and tried to take down the bent curtain rod and detached bracket. I turned around to see his tilted cup, on the verge of dripping beet juice all over the beige carpet.
Imagining permanent beet stains in the pile, I asked him to hold it up right. He did for a second, then let it tilt again, looking at me. I asked again and he complied and relaxed again. We repeated the cycle for a few times, him watching me the whole time, until I stopped what I was doing and sat on the floor in front of him to ask him if he was all done. He was, so I put the cup out of reach.
Later, he held a mini turkey and cheese muffin in his hand in the same position, slung over the back of his chair. I didn't notice until he looked at me and made the same tilting motion to see my reaction.
Light filled my brain in that moment as I beheld him and realized what a little scientist he is, constantly testing his theories, experimenting to understand the natural and manmade laws that surround him. I realized that it is not self-evident why I want him to hold up his cup. He knows nothing of stains, ruined carpet -- ruined anything, really. It is all information for him; for now, the only judgment he knows comes from us, his parents and other caretakers. A can of exploded baking powder all over the kitchen floor is just information, not a disaster or ruined morning.
He watched me with that expression to understand my reaction, not because he was causing mischief or intentionally disobeying me, but because he truly has no idea what I want or why. He is figuring it out all the time. Now, I'm sure there will come a time when he goes against these rules on purpose, but even then, I see how he will be doing it to express a need that needs addressing, filling.
People often say that it must be wonderful to be a baby, that they have it so easy, but I think that's over-simplifying. I think it must be intensely difficult on very basic levels to be a baby, toddler, child in this world.
Imagine if an adult were dropped into a new country or even planet where they didn't speak the language, were in a new physical form that they had to get used to, and were surrounded by rules that seem clear to everyone else but them and have real consequences for breaking them. Most adults (myself included) wouldn't have nearly the humor and awe that most children have in the midst of such challenges.
I am constantly amazed by small, new humans; their tenacity, gentleness, enthusiasm, and determination inspires me. Their lives depend on understanding us -- very literally; if they do not connect and attach to us, they run the risk of being cut off, neglected, abandoned (emotionally or physically) -- yet they manage to be loving, open, honest, and excited in the middle of that enormous vulnerability.
I feel so grateful to be living with one of these small creatures. Even in the middle of exploded baking powder and random face slaps and floors covered with books and toys and laundry.