Babies have a funny effect on people. Within minutes of my wife and I sitting down at Second Cup the other day, two women stopped to chat with us about our little 10-day old, marveling at how little she was and how relaxed we were at bringing her out into the public so early into her life.
(And in both cases, the women wanted to know how Erin’s recovery was, which is a very, very personal question when you actually think about it.)
Today, Abby was treated to even more attention. Erin brought her into the school where I did all of my volunteering before being hired on as a supply teacher. The kids there are as close to a homeroom class as I have had this year, and they have been the ones that have been keeping the countdown to Abby’s due date since January. They have also suggested all manners of names for her, guessed her weight, and suggested that I enroll her in that school (although, as a middle school, she might not meet the age requirements for some time).
When Abby arrived, they treated her like a rock star. A good one, too, not like if one of the members of Take That had shown up. My grade 8s gushed and fawned over her, they asked Erin tons of questions (“Is her hair going to be curly like yours?”), and one of them gave her a pair of hand-knitted socks that her mother made for Abby.
How can you not love kids that do that sort of thing?
“It was funny,” Erin told me as we walked Abby around the class to say hello, “one of the kids in the hall asked what the baby’s name was, and I told her it was Abby. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘that’s Mr. Stirling’s baby!’”
When I left my last school a year ago, one of my biggest regrets was that if Erin and I could get pregnant, I might not have a homeroom to bring my baby to. Sure enough, not having found a full-time position by the time we learned that we were going to be parents, I knew that I would likely not have a class of kids or a friendly staff there to fuss over Baby’s arrival. It was yet another reason to feel like a failure.
Today erased all of that.
I may complain about the strangeness of mothers and babies being treated as public property, but I can tell you that today Abby taught me that so much of this is the shared joy of a new life, the kind of heart-rending gladness that supersedes age and race and status and leaves you unwilling to allow a child to pass by without acknowledging the simple goodness of her existence as a baby. I’ve used this before, but it really is a universality that Rabindranath Tagore so brilliantly phrases:
Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.