Striving for Smiles
So what do you do to get those smiles? Anything you can! Kara Della Vecchia's son smiled for the first time when he was 6 weeks old, while her husband played "pat-a-cake" with him. "That first smile was amazing!" says the Boston resident. "As parents, you do everything you can to get more smiles because they are so rewarding! We have looked like fools making faces and baby noises, trying to get a repeat performance! At that point, our son was colicky (screaming every night between 5 and 8 PM) and wasn't sleeping—those first smiles really helped us get through the tough times!"
Sometimes you come upon the magic smile-maker quite by accident. Robyn Frendberg's son was a few weeks old and his inconsolable crying was starting to exhaust her. Then one day, "I was facing a long day of unsuccessful pacifying, so I pulled out the rocking chair and started rocking him," says the California resident. "That didn't help either, until I accidentally let my long hair sweep across his face as I was reaching for something on the floor. Instantly he stopped crying. When I looked down to figure out what happened, he greeted me with a big, genuine smile."
Sometimes parents aren't even the instigators of the smiles, but it still feels just as good. Recently a breeze blew across the face of Catherine Lang-Cline's infant daughter. "She closed her eyes and had a huge open-mouthed smile," says the Columbus, Ohio, resident. "Precious! It just makes me smile thinking about it. Like I said, you can feel your own heart smile when your baby smiles."
Dr. Strathearn believes the mother-infant relationship is one of the most important factors influencing infant social, emotional, and cognitive development. "Some parents think that expensive 'educational' toys, videos, or gadgets will boost their child's development," Dr. Strathearn says. "The truth is that their day-to-day responsive and caring interactions are far more valuable for their child. And interacting with their child can also be a rewarding and motivation factor for mothers, as our study has shown."
Perhaps Kimberly Jones of North Carolina expresses it best: "An overwhelming feeling of happiness comes over me [when my son smiles], and I wish I could live in that moment forever," she says. "My son, my firstborn, is everything to me and when he smiles I know I'm being the best mom that I can be."