The scene was pretty funny: he was spooning puréed green beans into Sarah's mouth, but every time he moved the spoon towards her, he would involuntarily open and close his own mouth–almost like he was the one eating. I tried to keep my snickering to a minimum because I know I've done the same thing. You become so interested and concerned about what they eat that you find yourself pretending to eat the food with them.
It got me thinking about how we have both changed so much since our daughter was born. How I practically feel like a different person since becoming a parent because of the myriad emotions I feel on a daily basis: joy, triumph, exhaustion, failure, worry, relief, and more joy.
The fact that young children experience some of these emotions but are incapable of humoring anyone makes every smile that much sweeter and every tear that much more pitiful. Because they can't fake it–Sarah can't do what adults do and smile to be polite, or hold her tears back when she is hurt or unhappy, or offer me something even if she'd really rather keep it for herself.
They haven't learned the "art" of indulging someone for show or profit, so we are left with raw emotion: so when she hands me her favorite toy, it's because she really wants me to share in her happiness, and when she giggles at her daddy's tickles and kisses, it's because she finds him genuinely hilarious. And when she turns around with that crinkled-nose grin and plants a wet kiss on me while I'm reading her a bedtime story, I know it's love.
They simply cannot pretend.
Seeing her raw emotion makes my emotions seem on hyperdrive. Why do I wince when I see Sarah fall? Why should I feel anxious if she wakes up and cries in the middle of the night? Why do we act like fools to get her to laugh, or sing ridiculous songs to get her to stop crying? Why do I get so worried whenever she has a single sneeze or cough?
I think it's because as parents, we are invested in our children–in every sense of the word–so that we feel what they feel. We find funny what they think is funny. We are saddened when they are hurt and panicked at the thought of their safety being compromised.
It's the reason why I get excited when the theme song to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse comes on TV because I can't wait for Sarah to notice and start to dance. It's also why my joy is always tainted with dread because I cannot stand the thought that something horrible could happen to Sarah one day that is out of my control.
Before I became a mother, I took a family trip to the beach with my husband and in-laws over my birthday (which happens to fall on July 4th). I distinctly remember us all crowding around a single window in our high-rise condo to catch the fireworks that night, and watched as my sister-in-law held her infant son right up to the window pane. I remember feeling almost irritated during the finale, thinking "why is she smiling? She hasn't even looked out of the window one time??"
I thought she was missing it because she was staring at her baby's face the entire time instead of at the sky.
But now that I am parent, I get it. She wasn't missing it all: she was watching the wonder in her baby boy's face, which in comparison made the show outside seem rather boring.
And after all, she was watching the fireworks, she just had a different vantage point–through the reflection in his bright eyes.