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While Mrs. Hunt was in the pantry folding laundry, she overheard the exuberant voice of her daughter Artesia. "He's soft and cuddly and loves new faces," twelve-year-old Artesia was telling her friend Kate. "He's also curious and enjoys a good game of peek-a-boo. But what I like most about my new baby brother is that he lets us know when he's upset about something. Babies don't pretend the way grown-ups do."
"You know what they say," responded Kate, nodding her head. "'A baby is a great way to start a new person.'"
It's true. And almost everyone agrees. A baby is a wonderful way to start a life. Being soft and warm, vulnerable and innocent, issuing tiny yawns and sleepy sighs, babies cast an enchanted spell over all they meet. With "little piggy" toes adorning Lilliputian feet and precious hands resembling wiggly starfish, babies can melt ice-hardened hearts into rivers of love and change sober-faced adults into circus clowns. By simply being themselves, babies transform those around them.
How do babies work their magic on us?
Maybe the answer is simple. Babies disarm us. Existing in a state of nature stripped of pretense, babies invite us to remove our masks and be at ease with ourselves, much as they are. After all, a baby is a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" proposition. Lacking social graces and driven by appetites and urges, babies repress nothing. When a baby is tired, hungry, lonely, or sick, everyone within earshot knows about it. Like Artesia said about her baby brother, "He doesn't pretend the way grown-ups do."
Maybe that's why our hearts overflow with affection whenever we cradle a newborn to our chest. Absent the ability to lie, cheat, steal, play politics, posture, smirk, express sarcasm, or pretend, babies are a sanctuary of purity. As Emerson so poetically noted, "A babe in arms is a channel through which the energies we call fate, love, and reason can visibly stream."
Yet here's the irony. Just as a baby's innocence liberates us, so, too, does it rule. For, as anybody with a baby knows, their vulnerability comes attached to a bellowing pair of lungs. Babies not only need attention, they demand it. Their wants will be provided for-or else.
If you've ever seen a household of adults tiptoeing around a napping baby, terrified to disturb its rest, then you get the picture. That's why Mrs. Hunt folds her laundry in the pantry when her new baby is snoozing in the nursery. She's got exactly two hours to get her chores done before junior wakes up and needs tending. She's a "prisoner under house arrest" to what a philosopher once called a "tiny warden sleeping in his own cell."
But guess what? Like any lovesick parent who has tasted the miracle of life, Janet wouldn't trade a minute of it. Not for anything in the whole wide world. For well and truly, Mrs. Hunt knows that a baby is a gift.
Excerpted from A Baby is a Gift by Joanne Davis` Copyright © 2003 by Redbrige LLC . Excerpted by permission.
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