By Greg Clark, December 17, 1921
There is no more vain and no more popular argument in the world than at what age a baby is most sweet.
At lunch the other day, I happened to remark to George that in my opinion a baby three months old was without doubt the sweetest and quaintest creature in the universe.
“It’s astonished gaze,” I said, “It’s smile, it’s first silvery chuckle, it’s first difficult groping with its hands –“
“I disagree with you,” put in George. “To my mind, a baby is at its most delightful age at about fourteen months.”
That, of course, is precisely what George would say, for his little girl is exactly fourteen months old. As if I didn’t see through his absurd point of view, he went on:
“At fourteen months, they are intelligent beings, essaying their first little words, their first timid steps, discovering for the first time all the wonders of the world. I repeat, at fourteen months they are intelligent creatures, not mere little bundles of soft flesh, crying and kicking and oblivious to everything in the world except noisy rattles and gesticulating and diddering parents at their cribside.”
This, I might say, was a deliberate dig at me and my little boy, who, by the way, is exactly three months old, and the gentlest, cunningest – However!
George continued to shout in that manner about his little girl until everyone in the restaurant was staring at him. I never knew anyone who could blather so about a child as George can.
“Hold on, just a minute!” I exclaimed. “Give me a chance, won’t you? You’ve had fourteen months to rave about your child to me. Surely you can shut up for a minute and listen to me. As I was saying, a child of three months is not far short of fairyland. What I mean is, as a child grow older, it grows coarser, becomes, in fact, more human, and therefore more gross. Now, a baby of three months has that elfin air –“
“Look here!” shouted George, quite angrily. “What do you know about it. My baby was three months old, and six months old, and ten months old, and now It’s fourteen months old, so I know what I’m talking about.”
“I’ve seen other children,” I remarked.
“That’s not the same,” replied George.
“No,” I answered sweetly, “it is not.”
And we finished lunch without even talking about the new dominion cabinet. George and I have this kind of row about once a month.
It shows the futility of arguing about babies.
For instance, a young lady who has two very kindly asked me how our baby was.
“And is he smiling yet?” she said.
“Smiling!” I exclaimed. “My goodness, yes! He’s been smiling since he was three weeks old!”
“Oh, but not knowingly,” said she. “They don’t smile really until the seventh week.”
“Well, this boy of mine was smiling at three,” I declared.
“Of course,” she said, “a little pain or makes them appear to smile.”
Now, what could you say to that?
“He laughed out loud at three months,” was all I could think of to say at the moment. But it fell on deaf and unbelieving ears.
Our old family doctor has the misfortune to be a grandfather. His first grandchild is just about the age of our boy. And in his attitude towards our baby we can detect something just a little more than the professional manner.
“Oh, a fine boy, a fine boy!” he says, as our fellow, observing that it is the doctor, shows off his lung development in a few shouts.
“My little-grandson,” adds the doctor, “just laughs and gurgles all day long. I’ve seen countless babies in my day, but I never met so good natured a child as he.”
Of course, we discount his professional opinion to a proper degree.
“Well, now,” we all say at once, “this little fellow is so good we often wonder if it is right. We can’t imagine what has got into him just at the moment.”
“This grandson of mine,” continues the doctor in a loud, firm voice, “gains nine ounces a week.”
“Oh, surely that isn’t healthy,” exclaims my wife. “Ours gains five and a half, and that’s just about right.”
“Tut, tut,” says the family doctor. “The more the better.”
Doctors shouldn’t have grandchildren.
Our boy’s maternal grandma lives with us. She is a philosopher.
“The most beautiful age for a child,” she states, “is the age it is.”
“You will have a lot of fun with this fellow when he is creeping.”
“Not more than now,” I say.
“You will have great sport with him when he walks, and you can take him out to the parks.”
“Not more than when he is creeping,” I say.
“He will be great company when he is four or five.”
“Not more than when he first walks,” say I.
“But the greatest day of all,” says grandma, “will be the day he presents you with a little boy just such as he now is.”
And before such a mystery, at so marvelous thought, I am dumb.