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My Four-Month-Old Is Smarter Than Me

Never underestimate a baby.

01/07/2016 1:38 PM AEST | Updated July 15, 2016 12:56
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Clearly, I know nothing about babies.

Never underestimate a baby. My son can barely hold his head up, but he's already much smarter than I am. Just last weekend we went to Melbourne as a family and he showed me how little I know about parenthood.

I was sure this would be a disaster. But the little guy had other ideas from the start.

They say travel broadens the mind. That might be true, but with a baby it also broadens your capacity for self-flagellation. My wife and I discussed this before we went. Eventually we decided things couldn't be any worse, so we might as well transport our travelling circus down south.

In fairness, he has form. At two and a half months, we had taken him for a weekend to Bowral, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. While we never had high expectations of success, the trip down on a Friday night provided a new definition of pain. Peak hour and witching hour had combined. It was a perfect storm.

The drive consisted of 45 minutes of crying, followed by half an hour's sleep, followed by another 45 minutes of crying. My wife sat in the back, valiantly trying to calm him with a repeated rendition of Little Peter Rabbit. Needless to say, he did not care.

That sort of experience turns you off travel completely. We have since reasoned that if we were going to be tired, grumpy and struggling to placate our little screamer, we should do so in our own house. We've already been having more than enough difficulty with life in one place. But this time we didn't have a choice: my wife had a conference paper, accepted before he was even born.

I have heard about babies who can deal with this sort of thing. One of my colleagues took his four-month-old to Japan and Hong Kong in one trip. From what I can tell, that kid would sleep through a building detonation, so he always had a better chance.

In contrast, my own munchkin tends to wake up if the door knob is turned when walking away from the cot. That's if he manages to sleep in the cot at all. Apparently different cries have specific meanings. I'm pretty sure his has only one translation: get back here now, and bring the nipple with you.

I had feared travel would make this worse. If routine helps, this trip would be anathema to him. Everything would be new: smells, sights, weather. I was dreading flying in particular.

As it happens, I was completely wrong. He lapped it up. Yet again, this proves I understand absolutely nothing about babies.

I have always found airports some of the least relaxing buildings imaginable. My son disagreed. The constant clutter of noise, lights and people kept him occupied for hours. He even laughed in the face of delays as they were announced, while hundreds of adults around him frowned.

The plane was even better -- a turbulent roller coaster that put him to sleep with a smile. He was relaxed enough to extensively open his bowels right on take-off, much to the joy of everyone within a three row radius.

Back on the ground, he kept it going. Meeting new people, seeing family, even sleeping in a completely different cot. He took it on the chin, vomiting on strangers like they were old friends.

He was unfazed by change, and smart enough to know it was safe. His incessant curiosity, one of his most innate and inspiring features, made this trip a success. He was soothed by chaos and adaptable to cacophony. I could see the adventurous child he will become, and I was already proud.

So then I had a vision of the future. My son running ahead, forever trying to push the boundaries. And there was I, in the background, needlessly worrying that he will go too far.

I hope he always proves me wrong like this. Here was our first conflict of opinion. I lost, and somehow that made me happy.

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