Some topics are extremely universal, to the extent that you could go to any country in the world and be able to carry a prolonged and mostly intelligent conversation about the specific idea. (Those of you who think I’m leading up to a controversial article about President Donald Trump are yet to be disappointed).
The subject of this article is no exception to this concept. After nearly two weeks of unintentional research, I now deem it appropriate to broach the subject at hand, namely babies. I strongly doubt that besides for those unfortunate souls who live in isolation deep within caves or who float in small vessels through the frigid arctic oceans, everyone on earth has come across a baby at one time or another. It can happen accidentally. One day you’re minding your own business, and suddenly in Tom Thumb, of all places, there’s a woman pushing a stroller with a baby in it. Now who would have thought. (Well now that explains all those “It’s a boy/girl” balloons that are artfully placed by special occasion cards. That can be pretty confusing if you’re not familiar with the concept of children who are under the age of one).
Now what is amazing about babies is that socially accepted behavior does not apply to them. This pertains to all treatment toward them, and their treatment toward you. For example, out of mild curiosity, when was the last time you walked over to an adult and poked him/her in the nose? I mean, that happens all the time, right? Before the corona, hands to ourselves, doctrine, of course. In fact, in some countries, nose poking is the preferred form of greeting, having completely replaced hand shaking and bowing since 1847. (Anyone who is nodding his head in complete agreement is hereby disqualified from any and all gentility and etiquette contests in the future). Hopefully, we have all unanimously agreed that it is nearly impossible to win friends and influence people by poking them in the nose. (Baking chocolate cake though…) So why, pray tell, do children, teenagers, and even adults who hold corporate positions deem it appropriate to poke an infant’s nose. Beep. (Oh so now that I add a sound effect it is completely acceptable).
Some even find it necessary to lift the baby’s shirt and produce a sound that is a cross between a car motor and a spitting fight between immature adolescents. (This is the sole reason for dressing a child in a onesie. It’s a method of self defense).
But it doesn’t end here. Not only can adults treat babies in the most uncouth and questionable manner, babies do not have to adhere to social norms either. This I have witnessed first hand. This past Rosh Hashana, my mother, my sister, her children, and I trekked to the nearest minyan to hear the Shofar. We sat in the outdoor women’s section, patiently waiting for the rabbi’s drasha (speech) to conclude so we could fulfill our obligation before my nephews decided it had been too long since their last snack. At this point, my nephew decided this was a perfect opportunity to rehearse Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in F Sharp Major. If I, or any of the other highly respectable women partaking in the service had decided to raise our voices during the rabbi’s speech, we would be forever debarred from all polite society. However, since my nephew is under the age of two, the only noticeable reactions he got were some brief understanding smiles. It is obvious that babies, while they reside together with us on this earth, have a completely unique set of expected behavior.
The topic of babies, although interesting, was not chosen at random. Babies are given a fresh start, a chance to learn, develop, and become. We treat them with more tolerance because they do not yet understand the ways of the world. (And since they do not recognize social cues, who can miss the opportunity of doing extremely uncivil things, like stroking their hair as if they’re a pet, or tickling their toes. It’s not every day you can behave in such improper fashions and get away with it).
In a way, at the start of a new year, we are like infants. We all received a chance to begin again and start anew. Every one of us are babies, each with a Father Who believes in us and our ability to rectify our mistakes, and improve the person we were yesterday. As with babies, it all depends on us learning and developing, so that we are able to become.