I think it’s finally starting to pay off. Don’t get me wrong, being a dad is amazing, but, up until now, the relationship was very one-way (as it should be when one of us is a baby). But now, at 6 months, her personality is starting to emerge. She has opinions; likes and dislikes, she has a basic grasp of cause and effect, and she sees value in making daddy laugh. That means that she’s grown from a helpless community service project into a slightly less helpless, more entertaining community service project. And at this point in my infant-induced exile, I’ll take it.
When she’s successful in making me laugh, even if it’s at her own expense, I can see her marking my amusement in her mind. She studies me a lot these days. Many is the time that I’ll look down at her in her chair or her playpen or laying on the floor next to the electrical outlet filled with cords for our Christmas decorations, and she’ll be looking back intently with an expression of recognition. It’s as if I just unknowingly handed her a sharp and potentially dangerous tool for her Life’s Toolbox, and I’ll think: “Oh, God. What did I just teach her?”
Physically, at this point in her development, every day is Basic Training. She’s not crawling yet; it’s more like writhing. She’s moves like a marine creature that evolved to live out of the water, decided that it wasn’t worth it, and is now trying to flop back into the pond.
The sheer will that she exhibits when trying to propel herself from here to there is inspiring and a little scary. I’ve seen her grunt and struggle for a net gain of 4 inches, spit up, drag her head through it, lift herself up like Willem Dafoe being gunned down in Platoon, and press on. And I wonder: Have I ever been that determined to do anything? If I have, I’ve certainly gone soft in my advancing years.
And I know that babies explore the world with their mouths, but I haven’t seen a human being try to put their mouth on this many things since me in my 20s.
In conclusion, with the combination of her determination, clumsiness and giggling, it occurs to me that taking care of a 6-month-old is akin to taking care of a drunk friend; even when they barf on you, if you get them into bed without killing themselves, you’ve done your job