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I thought of this post a month ago and had titled it, “10 month old wonder”, but the weeks slipped through my fingers and all of a sudden, Elisabeth turned eleven months.  I thought I should just buckle down and write it. Elisabeth has always been an alert, watching baby. Like most babies, she loves faces but more recently she has been fascinated by everyday objects like fans, neon lights and signage in stores. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when we went to the grocery store.

Teething continues to be a challenge and nap time hadn’t happened that day so in an attempt to get something else going (something, anything to accomplish), I decided we’d head to Food Lion for bananas then next door to the post office. Now that Elisabeth is big enough I usually hook her into the front of a grocery cart.  I always imagine that she likes it, sitting up on her own, looking around, not being led as much by me as she is when I wear her.  But that day I had the Bjorn in the back of the car and it just seemed easier. Elisabeth is still small but she’s getting heavier so while I love the Bjorn, we opt for the BOB more than we have in her earlier months.  My love of wearing her is just one of the reasons that I still do it.  But as we walked around Food Lion, I was reminded of another reason that I love wearing her: we are at the same level; I can see what she sees.  When Elisabeth is in the cart, she can be looking anywhere and I’m not part of that engagement.  When I wear her, we are one body.  She turns her head and I notice. She reaches her arm out and I stop.

Visiting Food Lion through her eyes was fascinating.  When I grocery shop, I tend to be a bit single-minded, like most of us I imagine.  We are intent on our purpose and go to it.  A baby who is almost a toddler obviously doesn’t have a goal when she enters a grocery store.  SwingingShe’s merely along for the ride so the store becomes the intention, the experience.  Elisabeth craned her little neck up to look more closely at the boxy, overhead lights in the produce department. She looked at the signs that hung from the walls, above each aisle.  She looked at other customers, what they had in their hands and what was in their cart.  I noticed these small observations and marveled to myself about something that I had never thought of before: the mindfulness of babies.

Babies aren’t mindful because they set an intention to do so, like you or I.  Babies are mindful because it’s how they learn, grow.  It’s just who they are at this point in their life, I think.  They do it without thinking, just like a habit they picked up. The block that a baby picks up, turns over and then tosses aside; it’s like that is the only block that she has ever seen before.  The first block that she knows and she seems to treasure it.  I can’t imagine being this thoughtful.  Can you? The moments of awareness that I have that might come even close are when I am with Elisabeth.  When we talk down the street and I stop at the house with the lilacs in bloom.  I always stop, get as close as I can to the tree, close my eyes and inhale deeply.  [You can do this when you’re wearing a baby.]  And now, here at the Food Lion, on a random Wednesday afternoon after a failed nap in search of bananas and flour.  Her mindfulness suddenly becomes my own and we wander the store together in a strange, contented state of wonder.

On Saturday afternoon while I was at the final day of my post-partum doula classroom training, my husband and Elisabeth were at our neighbor’s for a Kentucky Derby party.  When I arrived home, she was pointing at things in wonder, not just looking anymore.  That was new.  So many new things all the time.  I am literally watching her brain grow every hour that we are together.  Maybe my own capacity for mindful observation will grow too.

When are you at your most mindful?  Are you with a child, alone or in a certain environment?  Leave a comment.