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Thursday, 25 June 2015

#32: Is That Wind In Your Belly Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?

Since the dawn of time parents have been experiencing the following scenario:

Your baby looks at you.
You look at your baby.
Your baby smiles at you.
You smile at your baby.
You are filled with an indescribable joy.
Their face turns red.
They strain.
You frown.
It wasn’t a smile.
It was a difficult poo.

There’s nothing more beautiful than a genuine smile. It’s hard to imagine living in a world without them although I have visited London.

I enjoy the different breeds of smile - a lottery winner’s smug smirk; the proud beam on the father of a bride; the relieved grin of a commuter reading a text from last night’s date. And lest we forget: a baby squeezing out a massive turd. They’re all wonderful in their own way, apart from the last one which was such a massive let-down the first time I experienced it. I thought we were sharing a beautiful moment but his only agenda was to share his bum nuggets with my jeans.

I read somewhere that if the baby smiles with their mouth then it’s wind but if they use their whole face it must be genuine. I prefer to use the following method:

If they look FRIENDLY, it’s real.
If they look EVIL, it’s wind.

(Obviously you could be really unlucky and have a future Bond villain as an offspring but let’s not focus on that right now.)

The windy smile is a peculiar beast. Just a half-arsed sneer, usually reserved for the face of someone unspeakably foul like George Osbourne or Satan. And it suckers you in day after day until you get the real stuff.

Smiling was the last thing on my mind at first, I was just trying to cope with my new role and daily duties. It was pure chaos when we first got the lads home from hospital – we had all this new equipment in our house and I couldn’t fathom any of it. To add to the confusion our sleep patterns were weirder than Joaquin Phoenix and I was really struggling with nappy changes. Our house was like Wall Street – people heading for a meltdown while they shouted and waved bits of paper in the air.

‘BUY LOW! SELL HIGH!’
‘WHO THE FRIG IS TOMMEE TIPPEE?’
‘IS THAT A SHIT STAIN OR JUST CHOCOLATE?’

As the new routine evolved into habit our household anarchy transitioned slowly into a parenting operation that felt smoother than a cigar hand-rolled by a freshly waxed Michael Buble. Or at least it seemed that way compared to the first few weeks of total bedlam. (Regular readers will know I still struggle with nappy changes but I’ll definitely have that sussed by the time they start university.)

More importantly, regaining some kind of order meant I could start to enjoy their daily progress instead of sweating and swearing. That’s when the waiting game began for those little smiles to arrive.

The first time they open their eyes and look at you the entire world stands still. It’s such a strain for them to open those little eyelids initially I got the feeling they must REALLY want to look at me. People look at me every day but nobody seems to put any effort into it anymore.

Most of the time they’d spend thirty seconds getting their peepers out, just to glance at me with disappointment and promptly shut them again for three hours. Or they’d just open one eye first to check if it was worth opening the other one, like a manager of Tesco does with the tills. 

I was a little concerned about Zac after he’d been opening both eyes for a while as he’d just lie wide awake in his Moses basket staring at the side sheet. There was so much in the room for him to feast his new found senses upon but he just stared at the off-white fabric with a frown on his face that said, ‘Is this all there is? Because I must tell you, this is shit.’

Our two lads started smiled intermittently but they seemed unsure at first. No wonder, as everytime they moved their lips into anything remotely resembling a grin I’d start shouting like I’d seen the face of God in my cereal.

‘HE’S SMILING! HE’S SMILING, THERE’S SMILES HAPPENING!’ and everyone in the house would rush in as if the washing machine was violently leaking, just to catch a glimpse of this historical event. That would scare the bejesus out of anyone and their smile would quickly retreat back inside like a shy zoo animal.

They looked happy and content though so I spent a couple of weeks staring them in the eye, willing them to smile with all the subtlety of a hypnotist with Tourettes. After a few false alarms, twitches and near misses (they sure know how to work a crowd) I got what I thought was a smile from Ben. He then suddenly puked down my front and started crying which quickly dampened my enthusiasm and my socks. He was clearly as disappointed as me. So close yet so far.

Ben always seems to be about two days behind Zac in his development, possibly from being the smaller twin. Although it could just be that he doesn’t want to rush into things. Maybe he’s the smart one, letting Zac jump on the bouncy castle first while he slowly takes his shoes off and checks it has the requisite safety certificates.

And then just like a Parcel Force delivery, it happened when we least expected it. I was late for work, rushing around to leave the house and my wife had hold of Zac. Putting my shoes on I looked up at his face to be met with a smile wider than a drive-in cinema.

I made the noise of a twelve year old girl who’s just been picked to play Goal Attack for the school and did that little camp finger clap in front of my face, but this time it didn’t scare the smile away. Instead it got bigger and broader and more real. To cap it off, as he grinned his heart out he scanned his eyes around the room which seemed to say, I really like it here.

The room must have been quite dusty because I seemed to get something in my eye all of a sudden.

I hoped he wasn’t smiling just because I was leaving the house but I definitely heard giggling from the lounge as I closed the front door.

"I say dear boy, you sure can tell 'em..."
I guess sleep deprivation makes you paranoid. 

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