There is an obvious evolutionary advantage for babies to be cute 1. When the baby wakes up and needs to be fed, changed, or just wants to cry out into the silent night parents need their kids to be cute. It cuts through bleary-eyed disgruntlement and opens up wells of compassion. I remembered all of this from our first go-round with children a decade and a half ago. It really is a good thing babies are cute.
What I’d forgotten was what that compassion felt like. I had the memory of the emotion, but the experience of it had faded over the years.
But then the day after Bump was born I held him in my arms and happened to look down. He was staring at me with that fixating gaze only infants can generate. There was a wide-eyed fascination in him as he blinked with a shutter speed so slow it would melt any heart caught in its path. And I felt it. Memory and experience merged once more and I knew an irrevocable bound had been formed with this little human.
Make no mistake, it’s genetic warfare. Bump is cute, and everything in my entire genetic makeup is geared to being melted by that cuteness so this little human’s genes can survive. Evolution is a sneaky process. But I don’t limit myself to describing this bond via genetic terms alone. The bond forged in that wide-eyed gaze transcends mechanism, it is mystical. This child came from my wife and me, I saw him enter the world, I feel the obligation to teach him well, and I am in awe before the notion that he will grow and become a person in his own right. This is the love which can only be born in the relationship between parent and child. And I don’t think the way this bond is formed, whether natural born or through adoption, has a huge impact on the way parents feel. The minute any parent is fixated with the wide-eyed gaze of a infant, or given the absolute trust only a small child can give, that bond is forged. It changes us we ways we can’t even imagine.
- Yes, I’m a pastor. I find the concept of evolution fascinating. No, I don’t find it incompatible with my faith. If you read this post and want to argue over this footnote I fear you may have missed the point somewhere along the way. ↩