Smiles. They are contagious.
They are the one constant, universal signal in every language that silently elicits positive experiences by all who encounter them. When a baby smiles, it’s as if a tiny glitter bomb exploded, and magic bits are left everywhere for as long as the eye can see.
My best friend’s baby has a smile that can legitimately light a room up; it’s an instant switch that changes any mood and holds captive any frown while instantly turning it into a smile. When she grins, even her eyes sparkle and smile. I adore all of that about her.
She takes it from her Mama. It’s the same.
And then, there’s my baby.
Don’t get me wrong, she smiles. When we are at home, she is nothing BUT smiles.
She has just reached toddlerhood, and she’s just learning how to run (AKA toddle quickly) with a squeal of delight while trying to keep up with her older brother, sister, and two pups. Upon waking for the day, she puts her hand on my face and instantly smiles. She adores her siblings, her daddy, her dogs, and books.
Adventuring outside in our backyard places a semi-permanent smile on her face while picking up anything she can get her hands on and climbing up anything she can pull her weight onto.
You can simply speak her name and she smiles the kind of smile that you can read in her eyes.
She’s got one dimple, and it shows when that thing called happiness is running freely.
It’s when we leave our home, or someone else enters our home, that her lips are pressed and her eyes are questioning.
Her smile vanishes.
Strangers at stores will prod with smiles and baby coos; she gives them nothing. I feel guilty that my daughter isn’t flashing those famous baby grins, so I try to make her smile (at this point, these are halfhearted attempts, at best), to no avail.
They lose interest, I lose heart and quickly start explaining that she doesn’t hand out smiles for free. I don’t know why, but Mama’s, sometimes there’s this thing in me that wishes we didn’t have a silly nickname (mean mugger) and that she’d just smile at others.
There are moments that I get embarrassed that she doesn’t smile.
Silent whispers flood my head willing her to show her dimple and those little baby teeth her mouth worked so hard to grow. I become especially aware of it when we are around other babes with their serendipitous, contagiously bold and beaming smiles, and sometimes, just sometimes, my own smile begins to disappear.
It’s just after those moments that I realize what I’m doing and how dangerous that is. It’s one of the lessons I want to teach my children and it’s something that I’m constantly keeping in check within myself.
Comparison is the thief of all joy and don’t you forget it. The comparison doesn’t get to have a seat at my table, nor does it get to decide what makes me happy. My baby is precious; she is fearfully and wonderfully made.
She gives her best to those she loves and those who love her unconditionally; she silently beckons others to earn her favor and trust. Those are traits that I’m happy to foster and encourage. I’m willing to lose the excuses as to why she’s not smiling to remind my kids that no one, not one single person, has the right to make them do something they’re not comfortable doing. Instead of reaching in my bag of explanations, I now offer my smile and shrug.