So, babies are pretty cute. I know, right?

But really, they are. Their cuteness is a pretty defining part of why everyone wants to keep having them. They are very endearing. Perhaps never moreso than when they are smiling. As with all baby things, the time that smiles will start to appear is variable. However, you can reasonably start to expect them at 6 weeks, +/- a couple weeks. Your baby may have been smiling for a long time prior to that, but it’s likely that those were smiles born of passing gas or going pee. You know, the classy stuff.

Around the six week mark you’ll find more and more that your baby smiles (typically at first when he is asleep) without the concurrent expulsion of bodily waste. Then it won’t be long until you notice he’s smiling when you come around. Baby smiles are different than regular smiles. It’s difficult to put too fine a point on it, but it’s there.

Friends and family will smile when they see you, but as nice as that is, there’s something about it that is diluted. A grown-up understands social norms and expectations. A grown-up, to take a far more cynical tack, may have ulterior motives for being happy to see you. Perhaps you owe them a favor, or give really good shoulder massages or any number of other things that imply they are happy to see you, but also happy to see you because of “X”. Removing at least some of that cynicism, it’s reasonable to say that adults smile at other adults, but they do so with understanding, reason and intent. They smile with purpose.

But a six week old? That’s a tiny human that knows how to do maybe a dozen things TOTAL. You did more than that in the last five seconds. You understand how you blink, what you’re reading, how to tap your foot and that indeed that is your foot you feel moving. You know that you feel hungry, how to hold in going to the bathroom for five more minutes and on and on and on. Even the most incapable of us know how to do and understand literally thousands of things. That there baby, though? Not so much. Oh sure, there’s a lot of learning happening for a baby all the time, but he might not even really be aware he has legs at the moment.

When that same baby sees your face pop into his range of vision and goes from serious face to smiley face, there’s a purity there that is difficult to find anywhere else. That baby doesn’t know many things, but at that moment he knows “Hey, I like that face.” Those smiles will only last for a second or two, and will be highly inconsistent. You’ll be hooked immediately and find yourself trying to coax them out of your baby like some not-very-depressing-at-all version of a junkie. And it’s totally understandable.

Babies that small have a pretty good chance of not really being able to entertain themselves yet. They haven’t mastered much of their own motor functions and they don’t have much of a memory, short or long term to allow them to build a collection of preferences. So when you’re there, chatting with and poking at and cooing with a baby and you elicit a smile, you are basically manufacturing happiness. You are fostering little seedlings of joy in a human who at this point probably doesn’t even really understand what it is to be happy.

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