The best advice I got when my kid was born was to talk to him. “Just tell him what you’re doing if you can’t think of anything else to say,” a nurse told me.
Language is important for brain development, of course, but there’s something much more basic going on here. You’re bonding with your baby by talking. In the same way prayer, meditation, or talking aloud to your pets lowers blood pressure and reduces stress, talking to your kid fosters intimacy.
You lean into them and talk. You sing to them. You cradle them and tell stories.
And how do babies respond? They watch you and listen. They touch your mouth. They repeat your inflections. They laugh and croon to you.
When he was big enough to ride in a backpack, he’d hold my ears while we walked. Constant contact. Touch points. You. Here you are. Here I am.
This is how I interact with my dogs too. And the gerbils and the hedgehog. I sing to them. I tell them about my wacky day. I ask questions and wait, sometimes, as though there might be an answer. This is how we love. We reassure with our voices, with touch, with eye contact.
You know this already because you fell in love by talking. You couldn’t stop talking at first, could you? There was never enough time to tell everything. To share all the stories. Suddenly it was morning again, her voice raspy, and later you’d understand it always rasps when she’s tired, or on the edge of a cold. Later there’s enough history to predict the future. But for now, you love that rasp in a new and tender way.
Like the daily walk from school with the kid.
“Oh,” he says, “so now you’re too cool to hold my hand?”
“What? That’s not a thing. There’s no such thing as too cool to hold your hand. You were holding your bag and I thought –”
“I shifted my stuff so I could hold your hand,” he says, and reaches to you again.
I just stood there and felt that. I still do.