Right before our eyes, a little personality is forming. Not that we didn't expect that--kind of hard to keep your child a completely unformed infant. But the speed at which it happens is surprising even for this experienced parent. Every day, Max seems to expand on his understanding--and ability to interact with--the world around him.
One day he starts really being amused by things, laughing and smiling at anything that causes him pleasure. Then he's suddenly reaching out to try to grab things, sometimes bouncing so excitedly he seems to want to get up and run after whatever he sees. At this pace, it won't be too long before he's taking dictation and making dinner. But I jump ahead. Currently, he's pretty focused on noticing things that escaped his senses earlier--people eating, light switches and fabric textures are all capturing his attention throughout the day. This is especially apparent on the changing table, where his contortions to grab at the light switch or to feel the wall or to grab the clothes we're preparing to put on him make the simple act of getting his diaper on seem more like making mid-flight repairs to a fighter jet.
He seems to enjoy pretty much all forms of play, within reason, and when we leave the house, he bewitches all who see him with his big blue eyes and bouyant smile. This causes us no end of entertainment. Mom singing and dancing to goofy 70s tunes? Check--big smile. Dad shifting and contorting his body in all manner of movements? No problem--he loves it. Big bro Jackson, making silly faces at him? Nirvana. Our neurotic dog, Q, standing in the corner, staring at a blank space on the wall? Hilarious in his eyes. And the TV? Forget it--he's mesmerized by even the most banal HGTV fodder.
But let's be fair--lots of babies are wonderful when the big people are making an effort to entertain them. But what separates Max from the pack is what he does when we're NOT making him the focus. This is one good-natured baby. Kitchen needs cleaning? Put him in the bumpo seat and watch him happily follow our movements around the kitchen. Take him out to restaurants? This is where he really shines, sitting happily in his car seat for 90 min, even 2 hours, while we enjoy a leisurely meal with family or friends. Yard work day? Not an issue--stick him in his activity center (we call it his "office") and he'll happily spin around, grabbing and pushing and chewing on the built-in toys, occupying himself for an hour or more.
And then there's the reaction to the group dynamic. This is where lots of babies have problems with anxiety as new faces enter the picture and over-stimulation lurks around every corner. This past weekend was a big test on this front--Sarah's and my parents were both in town, and we attended my niece's first b-day party, meaning lots of family members and friends were poking, prodding, holding, ogling and generally wanting a piece of Max. Naturally, he seemingly has no problem with this, being handed from one person to another, even being fed along the way, and never missing a beat. We know the stranger anxiety period is coming--it's as inevitable as death and taxes--so we're enjoying this malleable little person as much as we can before he turns into Chucky and makes handing him off a lot more difficult.
Truthfully, though, Sarah and I don't really fear the whole stranger anxiety thing--we fully expect Max to continue to be interested and energized by any and all stimulus for the foreseeable future. We've made a point of encouraging this flexibility by not shielding him from noise and chaos, and now both of us have the sense that this is going to be a ping-pong ball of a kid, bouncing enthusiastically from one source of entertainment to another, eager to interact and learn, regardless of what's going on around him. Then again, if we do find ourselves struggling with him some day down the line, we can always sequester him in our bedroom and put on the latest episode of "House Hunters."