I can measure my son’s weight and his height. I can say things about length percentiles and head circumferences. What would it tell you, really?
I cannot fill in on a chart the delicate pressure of his feet resting on my knees as he falls asleep. I can tell you he has a little more hair this week than last, but that won’t help you to feel the difference between his hot, clammy head when he’s crying or tired, and his cool, velvety head when he’s playful or pensive.
I can tell you he’s progressed from “EBF” (exclusively breastfed) to “solids” (that bland term for all food from merely edible to the bliss-inducing), but that won’t really convey what it’s like to see those tiny teeth bite into grapes, or lasagne or (to my mother’s astonishment) chopped liver. Or my private sense of delight when I tear off a ribbon of pancake or press together a clump of cooling risotto see him chew it carefully, taste some new piece of the world.
I can count how many teeth he has, but the number contains no thrill like seeing the little ridge of enamel peeping through his gums after a particularly plaintive night of crying, and no charm like seeing him examine a toothbrush like some sort of strange fossil and eventually venture its bristles towards his mouth.
I can try find out what the books say about “developmental milestones” and tick off crawling and standing this week, and maybe walking next week. Perhaps this is what you call news. What would it tell you about this child? Nothing.
Around here, there is no news, and there is daily news. Today I can reach out a finger and whisper “point and touch” and he will reach a tiny finger towards mine, like ET making contact from one little consciousness to another.
I can tell you he likes bathtime and swimming, but you won’t really know the way he turns the hand shower into a microphone or an oxygen mask, or the way he crawls hell for leather towards the bathroom anytime the water is running, or the way he jiggles himself forwards to jump from the side of the pool into the water, or how he looks underwater.
I can tell you he’s sweet and good-natured and blindingly cute. And what would that tell you? When he woke up this morning, he stretched back into what yogis call Outstretched Child’s Pose, then sat up so abruptly he seemed still to be asleep. It took a moment for his face to catch up with his barely awoken body, and the serene eyes startled open, then crumpled immediately into a frown to try hold back the morning sunshine beaming in through the window onto the bed. Astonishment again at the persistence of sunshine, he shuddered a little and raised his eyebrows in apparent surprise at the day. And as his eyes opened he took me in, sitting nearby and waiting for his waking ritual to bring him into the day. The kind of beaming smile that can heal all wounds and make all days wonderful. This was in less than three seconds of my child’s life. How shall I measure this?