At Munchkin’s one-month appointment, the nurse asked us if we had seen him smile. We answered in unison, D in the affirmative and S in the negative. The truth is we had seen his face make all the right muscular movements that would in an adult translate into a smile. But these smiles were unconscious, and S was not sure they counted. It was as if Munchkin’s face was trying them on for size while he slept to determine if it was an expression that suited it. Sometimes his lips would curl up in a fleeting moment of dreamy joy. At other times, he would break out in an ear-to ear grin that lingered a little too long, giving his sleeping countenance a cute but rather maniacal look.
As Munchkin approaches his 3-month birthday this weekend, there is no doubt that his smiles are now an act of volition. He cannot vocalize laughter yet, but he laughs with his face when we make silly noises, and he positively beams when he sees us for the first time after a long absence. And while his laughter remains silent, he has begun to vocalize, cooing and making all sorts of noises when we talk to him.
Even though a baby his age is driven by instinct rather than rational thought, it is impossible not to take Munckin’s displays of emotion personally. If he is hungry and we are not fast enough with the bottle or nipple he sheds tiny tears while screaming his lungs out. And when he is unhappy, he contorts his face into a pained grimace of distress to show that his feelings have been deeply hurt. Now that he can also display joy, we’ve discovered that the ability to make him smile acts not unlike a drug — an emotional salve to counteract the pain and stress of his unhappy screams, which makes us so happy that we try to make him smile and laugh as much as possible while he is in a good mood.
As much as he changed virtually before our very eyes during his first two months of life, the changes he has experienced in the last month seem more profound. A day before we marked the end of his tenth week, he rolled over — slowly and laboriously, first pushing up and rotating his upper body and then, after a long contemplation during which he drooled copiously on his arm, flipping his midsection with a few rapid kicks.
We were caught off guard with how fast he figured out how to roll over. After all, there is a lot to be said for being able to swaddle and immobilize a fussy infant, which is not something that is safe to do once a baby can flip himself. At this point, we are still within the safe zone. Munchkin can roll from his belly to his back, but he only does it some of the time. From his back, he can roll to his side, but his head is still too heavy for him to get any further. Still, the writing is definitely on the wall. And though we dread the days when we can no longer soothe Munchkin by turning him into a burrito baby, the last month’s milestones suggest that parenting is about to get a lot more fun and adventuresome in the near future.