Forrest Gump said “there’s an awful lot you could tell about a person by their shoes. Where they’re going. Where they’ve been.” Shoes are indeed one way to infer the experience on an individual. In a baby, hands take the place of shoes. The hands of a child are truly remarkable and contain so much more than tissue and bone, flesh and blood, ligaments and muscles. Since babies really have no experience from which to learn, hands are a reminder of what they will become. Hands are a harbinger. The hands of a child are endlessly prophetic.
The hands of a baby are soft. Much like my own hands, they’ve never experienced manual labor. They are not calloused or worn. While I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid doing any sort of real work and thus preserving my baby-soft hands, a baby never has to make the choice. Their hands are representative of how they are born; pure and natural. A babies hands, by virtue of their softness, are a mirror image of their innocent lifestyle. Holding the hands of an infant is cradling a newborn baby chick who will eventually grow up to be a delicious rotisserie. It’s briefly clinging to a cloud destined to evaporate. It’s diving into a pool of marshmallows covered in cotton balls only to realize the foundation is still cement. It is a temporary relief from the hardship of your own calloused hands. That is, for the average laborer who puts them through more strife than I. The softness is a reminder of the scarcity of plush in your own.
The hands of a baby are sharp. Seriously, baby fingernails are ruthless and when they shank you with their miniature, razor-tipped digits you’ll think you spawned the incarnation of Wolverine. Babies flail their arms around wildly and with the coordination of Muhammad Ali (present day Ali, not the Ali of yore). Parkinson’s jokes notwithstanding, the tiny swords babies wield on their fingertips are a constant reminder that one day your child will grow to become capable of inflicting real harm upon you. When my father and I used to wrestle when I was a child, he’d always let me momentarily believe that I had the upper hand before swiftly crippling my signature arm bar by simply rolling his much more abundant frame on top of mine, prompting me to shriek in agony while my mother screamed, “YOU’RE HURTING HIM!” I was ok, but the pity was still nice especially since my dad usually relented due to his fear of my mother’s wrath. Females are capable of inflicting emotional turmoil despite their smaller frames and lack of fighting ability. It’s an evolutionary advantage. However, as I grew bigger and stronger, my father grew older and weaker until I became capable of physically dominating him at any juncture. This was inevitable and is destined to repeat itself in any father-son relationship. One day the son will mature and strengthen while the father is compromised by age and senility. The daggers protruding from my son’s fingertips as he repeatedly punctures me are a constant harbinger of the potential physical domination that awaits me as I wither away into corporeal obscurity.
The hands of a baby are sticky. Babies get their hands into everything and somehow even the most innocuous of substances becomes sticky when they come into contact with the hands of a child. Simply feeding my son a spoonful of applesauce is hard enough. If I lose focus and let his flailing hands intercept the incoming utensil, there is no telling where the applesauce will end up nor how mysteriously sticky it will become when it reaches its final destination. My wife knew I had fed my son while she was napping due to the presence of a sticky, applesauce-like residue on his lower thigh and behind his left ear. How it got there I’ll never know, but I assure you it involved his hands at some point. On an unrelated note, babies are master illusionists.
The hands of a baby are strong. The pediatrician told us that a baby is capable of holding itself suspended from a bar without support and surely that must be true because not just anyone can graduate from the University of Phoenix doctoral pediatrician program. Living in California on a modest income has not enabled us to visit the real experts. Nevertheless, a babies’ hands are strong enough at birth to support its entire body weight. Now while this may not seem like a monumental achievement for even the most mediocre adult, given the utter helplessness of a baby in virtually every other aspect of life, the superhuman strength contained within the puny phalanges of an otherwise powerless creature is truly amazing. With this knowledge, it is only to be expected that my son was able to slice a sizeable chunk of flesh from my exposed neck with his jagged claws and all-powerful tactile members. I’ve asked for a dickie for for father’s day.
The hands of a baby are constantly changing. Every new day brings a new act, behavior, habit, or enjoyment. Their hands are not exempt from this. Babies grow at an astonishing rate and merely keeping up with the physical changes is daunting enough. Considering that in addition to marveling at my son’s tangible growth, I’m also expected to attend to the more critical duties like keeping him alive and somewhat happy. Being a parent is hard. It is easy to get caught up in the fascination of how rapidly a baby matures and forget more semi-important things, like keeping the applesauce off the back of his head.