Put on a Happy Face


I met Terry for the first time when he was a mere four pounds, a healthy boy born a month early. He's now a curly-headed, four-month-old, who glows when he smiles.

When he was brought in for his four-month-old visit by his mother, Susan, I recalled a recent study I had read about babies this age. The article described a technique that is used to explore a baby's ability to tune in to the feelings of those around him. Terry's mom loves to learn all she can about her baby, so she was eager to try this experiment with me.

Mom sat on a stool in front of me and held her baby upright on her lap. I was standing behind Terry's mom, where I could clearly see Terry's face but not his mother's. I then asked Susan to make one of three faces: a sad face, a mad face, or a happy face. Susan smiled broadly at Terry. One look at his beaming face and I guessed correctly that Mom had on a happy face. A few seconds later Terry's lips moved downward in what I guessed correctly was an imitation of his mom's sad face. Then Terry's eyebrows went up and he almost blanched as his face grew stern when his mother put on her mad face, a face he rarely saw.

Both of us laughed at how quick a baby was to sense and respond to the moods around him. I was reminded once again why happy families have happy babies, and how sadness and anger within a family will change the affect of a baby as well.

Mom later told me that she showed her eight-year-old daughter this "trick." How proud her daughter was to show off her brother's "talent" to friends and neighbors alike!