His Newness, Gabriel, my grandnephew, has reached the tender age of 12 weeks, a very healthy boy.
I visited the little one two days ago when his mother and I could intersect our schedules for a half hour. She is doing very well, regaining fitness and taking a place alongside mothers her age who have infants his age.
What can you say about babies? Mothers have lots to say. So do dads, of course, and they notice every subtle shift in mood or wobbling movement. Their every hiccup or yawn is delightful and adorable. With skin is so soft you second guess the sensitivity of your fingertips, you wonder if you have actually touched anything.
Gabriel sat as I held him on my lap and wobbled vigorously, and when I stood him up before me, his little legs made repeated pogo hops up and down, bouncing automatically, like a marionette. Being only 12 weeks old, very little is willful about him. His body is spasmodic and uncoordinated, and yet he is very strong. He is adored, appropriately so, by all who see him, and his parents are doing everything you hope parents will do to support the growth and development of their child. Everyone kisses him, talks to him, wants him to hold.
Yesterday, two days after I visited Gabriel, I encountered a young man who had, by all accounts, never been given any fraction of the love and gentle guidance that His Newness has been showered. The young man I met, not much past his teens, had been given street drugs when he was in first grade and had begun "partying" with his parents when he was in middle school. He was hooked on heroin at the age of 16 or so. As I looked at him, I saw Gabriel, all wobbly and helpless but absolutely developing confidence and curiosity about his safe and secure world, even now.
I wonder if there is a bigger crime than ruining your own child's development, distorting their neural activity and undermining them socially and emotionally from the outset of their lives. I don't know. All crimes are monstrous, certainly. Good parenting is crucial, something I naively hope we all understand.
I am even perhaps naive in believing that parents who try to raise their child well are what is needed to get that child to adulthood without mishap. Values and beliefs guide the child, good or bad, weak or strong. If a baby like Gabriel, who is soaking up every little sound, every nuance of every word, gleaning information at all times from his home and family, is in a pretty consistent steady place, he has a better chance of understanding how to be an effective adult.
His Newness is at the funny stage of being easily distracted now from nursing. He leaves off and looks all around the room, at the people with him and what he does not notice would barely fill a thimble. His mom and dad have to be just as aware, interpreting and teaching him, guiding, setting limits to keep him safe. They are, and he is thriving.
I didn't tell them about the drug addicted 20-something young man I'd encountered whose life is so marginal. The stronger and more positive their love and joy can be now, the better they will weather storms ahead. Besides, holding Gabriel, all cute and wriggly and warm, was a good balm for me, too. I'll be going back for more very soon.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way