The wisdom of babies

Babies know everything. 

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a newborn and experienced the unsettling sensation that she understands — well — everything? Those wide, searching, unflinching, drinking eyes seem to hold your heart’s deepest desires, the meaning of life and the intricacies of the universe — plus, you know, how awesome it feels to drool.

Babies, in their lack of concrete knowledge and experience, are intrinsically wise. They know what love is. They ask for what they want. They get enough sleep. They don’t waste time scrolling Instagram. They let their feelings out. They approach new people and experiences with caution. They approach each moment with wonder. 

The art of doing nothing. 

While it’s your job, as a parent, to care for your baby, it’s also your privilege to observe and learn from her. 

The first lesson we can learn from an infant is how to live in the moment. This is a mantra barfed all over self-help books, mindfully whispered at yoga retreats and printed in splashy colors on tea mugs. 

It’s something most adults strive for but fail at — the ability to be in the here and now, rather than falling into the sinkhole of the past or overthinking the future. 

By simply being — by moving spontaneously, observing and reacting — your baby will bring you closer to the present. 

You could watch her for hours, right? Take the experience a step further by getting down on the floor mat with your baby, seeing the world from her eyes. 

What small wonders unfold as the afternoon sun moves the shadows across the ceiling? How crazy is it that we live with cats? What do you feel when you just sit still and watch and listen and breathe? 

Who gives a crap?

Lesson two. Be you. And don’t apologize. 

Babies don’t care if you like their clothes. They don’t feel pretty, fat, smart or awkward. They don’t regret making too much noise at that cocktail party. They could care less if they have poop creeping up their back and seeping through their clothes. Well, they might care if it feels uncomfortable. 

It’s a sad day when shame and inhibition kick in. Though a little modesty and decorum is healthy as we get older, the freedom to scream shrilly in delight or anger seems healthier, at times, than holding it all inside. Babies are comfortable in their own skin. They’re simply little organisms, breathing and pumping blood, moving through this crazy world. But then … aren’t we all? 

Anything is possible.

During my days as a postpartum doula, I held a lot of babies. I always found myself taking a moment to appreciate the blank slate. Unwritten, a baby shows you what it really means to be a human — connecting, feeling, breathing — and what it means to have endless possibilities before you.

That baby in your arms could be a writer, an actor, a bartender or a business owner. Your baby may one day major in physics, philosophy, agriculture or ceramics. She could skip college and train in a trade. He could skip it all and sail around the world. Twice. He could become a veterinarian. She could be president. Your child could become a parent someday, too … or not.

What we learn, holding a content and alert baby, is that the most beautiful stories are still unfolding. Imagine what we could be if we saw ourselves as open, in progress, unwritten? 

A president. A veterinarian. A parent simply taking a moment to look into those wise young eyes, simply taking a moment to enjoy the day. 

Jen Wittes is a marketing director, writer, certified postpartum doula and mom of two living in St. Paul.