July 8, 2007

She's drooling at a four-month level!

As a new parent, it's easy to become obsessed with milestones.

I often pull out my copy of "What to Expect in the First Year" to see how Evie measures up against the monthly checklists.

In most areas, Evie is a superstar.

She is 3 1/2 months old, and she's already met some of the 5-month milestones: rolling over (effectively ending "tummy time" as we know it), bearing weight on her legs, and holding her head up like a pro.

I know it's normal for babies to reach some milestones early and others late, but there was one in particular that I was dying to see:

"By three months, your baby will probably be laughing. By four months, your baby should be laughing."

At three and a half months, Evie was not laughing.

The first time Evie smiled, it seemed like just another in the series of random facial expressions she was trying out.

She was just over a month old. At first, she smiled in her sleep, and then at occasional random moments.

As the weeks rolled on, she began smiling at specific things. The clock. The fish tank. Me.

It seemed like laughter was the next logical milestone.

In our spirited moments of social interaction on the changing table, Evie often seemed like she was about to giggle.

She would coo, smile, and open her mouth wide - but no sound came out.

It was like the sound had cut out for that one moment.

Sam and I tried everything.

We tickled her tummy.

We held her upside down.

We sang silly songs.

We told bad jokes.

No laughter.

I wasn't worried about Evie being a serious or melancholy baby, because the smiles were so plentiful and all-consuming:

But still, I wanted to hear that little laugh. I was looking for that bit of confirmation that yes, I'm raising a happy baby, and yes, she's able to express that joy.

Maybe I just wasn't that funny.

Maybe I didn't understand Evie's sense of humor.

What if she had her first laugh at daycare? How could I cope with that?

Today, I did what I do on most Sundays. I took Evie to Safeway.

After we returned, I set her in the bouncy chair while I unloaded the groceries. I was hoping she would stay quiet. Instead, she began to bat at the dangling toys and coo at them.

I called Sam over. "Evie's in a friendly mood; you should play with her."

And there, in the bouncy chair, she achieved two milestones at once. She squealed in delight (a 4-month skill) and she laughed for the first time. It started as a high-pitched giggle, then turned into a gentler, rolling laugh that flowed as naturally as those plentiful smiles.

So what prompted Evie's first laugh?

It turns out that it wasn't Dad's ironic wit, or Mom's dry observational humor, that tickled her funny bone for the first time.

Sitting in a vibrating bouncy chair, holding a soft teething toy, having Dad tickle her tummy while Mom put away groceries.

This is the type of thing that my daughter considers funny.

And I'll happily spend the rest of my life trying to keep those giggles coming.

It's a good thing I bought more batteries for the bouncy chair.

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