Just a few weeks ago, back when we could go out and live life unencumbered by social distancing, I stared down a baby brunching with his family across from my table. He wore a kangaroo onesie and looked me right in the eye as he rubbed scrambled eggs all over his face and mother. An actual egg-slinging demon, I thought. Gross.
I used to roll my eyes at every child who popped up on my social media. I did not care about their ukulele lessons, first steps, or how they burped in their sleep. (As a napper myself, the thought of anyone filming me in that groggy state seems straight-up sadistic.)
But now, with a pandemic ravaging every facet of life, my brain reduced to a revolving cycle of checking Twitter, screaming, and maybe attending a Zoom happy hour or two, I’ve changed my mind. I really, really care about all of your babies.
Instagram stories I’d normally pass over have become my new favorite TV show. To hell with the penguins roaming empty zoos, I would rather watch your child coo in her crib, completely unaware of the unraveling crisis outside.
Mothers, I’m sure it’s tough to work at home while your child claps along to “Baby Shark,” and I commend you for getting literally anything done this week. But man, do I love to see your child’s nubby little hands cut through the air in sheer delight, tiny feet ambling along as you film wobbly dancing. They still look better than I did last night, trying to follow a paso doble tutorial on YouTube.
My cousin is a single mother. While writing this, she sent a photo of her toddler jumping on the kitchen table, arms outstretched for a hug, because babies are about as good as spring breakers are with the whole social distancing thing.
Babies are quite used to crises. They can rebound from a tantrum or accident quite quickly, crying themselves to the point of dehydration one moment and giggling the next. I watched the daughter of a former colleague lift up her skirt, cover her face, and shout “WE ARE STAYING IN-DORTHS!” through fabric with the kind of confidence and clarity missing from our current administration. Governor Cuomo may drag his feet with declaring the whole shelter-in-place thing, but the babies of Instagram aren’t messing around. STAY IN-DORTHS, people!
This urgent time in history is frightening for a number of ways, including the fact that it has the power to turn even the snarkiest among us into baby-loving, Winston Churchill quote-sharing, unapologetically earnest humans. A few nights ago I watched a very distant acquaintance play an original song on Instagram live. It sucked. I cried.
I find the idea of a father “giving his daughter away” during a wedding trite and more than a little misogynistic. But did I choke down a sob when I saw the news story of a woman standing outside the window of her dad’s retirement home, holding up her ring finger to show off her new engagement? You bet! More than once, in fact. (So sorry your wedding’s probably going to be cancelled, by the way.)
Yes, there is still a limit to the schmaltz one can take. Like many, I found it in the celebrity rendition of “Imagine.” Gal Gadot, Will Ferrell, Natalie Portman, and others sang the John Lennon song in an effort to lift our collective spirits, mostly just making us all rally around our united hate of the video. As it turns out, in the case of a pandemic, stars like John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, who rented a “house on the beach” to keep their kids entertained, are not just like us.
But babies are! After nearly two weeks of physical isolation, I find solidarity with those who exist to wail and shout and run around the house with no pants on. They have not set out to heal the world. They just want to eat and poop and maybe cuddle a bit, if they're not too tired. And really, in times like these, what else is there to do?