So, last week, I visited a friend whose newborn had just turned one.
Frankly, I’ve never found the right way to describe this, let’s call it nomenclature, shall we? I mean you can’t refer to it as a new kid, though it is technically ‘new’. You can’t really call it a newborn unless it’s just a few days old, and directly referring to it as a daughter or son seems so ‘unbabylike’.
Also, I just realized that I’ve been referring to babies by a third person neutral pronoun, and that’s probably the reason why I can’t figure out what to call them!
Reverting to the actual topic of conversation, it was a great visit! My friend’s daughter is in that phase where kids begin to explore their surroundings a bit more ‘wholeheartedly’, probably because they just learnt to put their legs to use and try standing vertically tall for a change!
Babies are intriguing in that phase.
Once again, I don’t know whether there exists a culturally accepted demarcation between a baby and a kid, but let’s go with ‘baby’ because I am certainly differentiating the two based on their ability to speak. Kids speak, babies giggle and wail.
Okay, the reason I find babies intriguing is thanks to the onset of a dual personality trait that stays with them at least for the next seven to eight years, conservatively. Others may argue that people such as Rahul Gandhi do build a case for a lifetime validity on this trait. Now, you’ve probably guessed the dual personality that I am referring to? No… it has got nothing to do with being dumb. I am talking about babies being gullible as well as cynical. Let me explain.
It’s quite easy to understand the gullible part. When a baby gets hurt, you blow some air on the bruise, make some funny noises and actions, and then enact an elaborate drama of throwing away the bruise somewhere in the environment; like that works!
Imagine if the medical entrance examinations actually tested your ability to conjure funny noises and make-believe remedies! We’d eventually end up with the likes of Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, and King Julian on the official panel for the Nobel prize in medicine.
Anyway, point being that babies lap up the con much too eagerly! And that’s not the only place where their credulity shines. You can offer them stupid wrappers and trinkets, in exchange for actual chocolates. You can hand them a shiny spoon and demand the TV remote back. Best of all, you can point at their blind spot and snatch anything from right under their noses! Babies mostly believe that items vanish if you don’t look at them long enough, sort of like a ‘Bermuda triangle of sight’.
However, only a mean person would do all those things to a baby, Or a very hungry adult who badly wants to watch television. Hey, I don’t like chocolates as much, but I do love my remote!
While at one end, babies are such avid believers in the simple cons of life, they are super cynical about the weirdest things that you can imagine. Have you ever handed over your purse to a baby? They aren’t satisfied with just looking at it. They need to know how does one open it and mind you, they do observe.
Once they ‘think’ they’ve learnt how to open a purse, the whole world transforms into a handbag boutique for them! Soon you’ll see them trying to open cushion covers, gym bags, home-theatre sub-woofers, and your pair of boxers if they look oddly similar to a Burberry purse! For some things, babies just won’t take your word for it.
Well, it does make sense after all the creative misdirections that we’ve pulled on them ever since they were born!
Another outstanding example of this cynicism is with food or to be more precise, with non-edible items. Hand anything to a baby, and the first thing they do is try to taste it. It doesn’t matter if you explicitly mention that THIS IS NOT A FOOD ITEM. They just gotta try it! I have even seen them try shoes, boogers, ear-wax, and when desperate, even their own feet! It’s almost like their world is a collection of ‘Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans’.
Frankly, I am surprised why more people do not let their babies taste beer way early in life! I am sure that a life-long aversion to the bitter taste has its merits from a parent’s point of view? No! Don’t do that. You need your kid to hold his/her own in future beer pong contests!
So why do babies doubt some things and rely on experience, but treat your word as gospel for other things? I am sure that there is a reasonable psychological or medical explanation for this sort of behaviour. Maybe they can’t process subliminal realities as adults can. They see, hear, and in general, react to things very literally. For them, tasting good food is the only way to qualify it as such. But on the other hand, something vanishing behind your back is believable because they haven’t yet begun to imagine the world behind your back. Neat, huh?
But that is the ‘Reader’s Digest’ explanation, which is uninspired at the very best. So, I am going to stick with my dual personality theory.
All babies have the two sides to their personality deeply ingrained in them. As toddlers, they flip through them at random and hence confuse the bejesus out of adults! But as they grow up, one personality becomes more dominant.
The kids whom we generally label ‘obedient’ have a strong tendency to be gullible and easily believe, not that it’s a bad thing when practised under the right influence! On the other hand, the ‘brats’ and the ‘pain-in-the-arse-kids’ are the ones who take everything in life with a dose of cynicism; including rules, advice, and supposed ‘facts’! But, I believe that with age, kids do manage to strike a delicate balance between both sides, because that’s the only way to live as an adult right?
I mean, yeah! That is definitely true for most of us, who were fortunate enough to grow up ‘normally’.The less fortunate ended up joining their in-house political party and dreamt of leading a nation of 1.35 billion people, most of whom are far more cynical than they are gullible! Or is it the other way around?