I went to see BABIES last night, for the second time. Who would have thought that a movie about four babies' first year of life would continue to attract an audience? We went to see Sex and the City 2 a week ago at a small town theatre and only seven women and one man came to that showing; in contrast, last night 10 men and women opted for a not recently released, small budget movie that proceeds with no conflict, plot, or fast pace. The movie clearly has legs (other than the eight adorable and pudgy ones sported by the babies in the film), and while the movie's babies mesmerize, I also found some parenting take away points following two viewings.
1. Development wants to happen (in healthy babies) and does.
Development happens from the huts of Namibia and Mongolia to the high rises of San Francisco and Tokyo. These four babies nursed, cooed, crawled, played, walked, talked, and played some more all within the first year of life. Some years back I read The Myth of the First Three Years: A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning, in which the author claims that the parent doesn't necessarily need to stroke the baby's brain in any particular way in order for intellectual and physical development to take place. The development we see in BABIES bears testament to this book.
2. No fancy toys are needed to accomplish basic developmental tasks.
In Tokyo, the Dad dangles developmentally appropriate toys in front of his baby's face and in San Francisco we see Mom read books to Hattie. We also see Hattie in her room surrounded by dolls, toys, and many more books. In Namibia and Mongolia we see no standardized toys but we do see a rooster gingerly walking around as Bayar lies on a day bed. Here, the rooster serves as a live "mobile." In Namibia and Mongolia we also watch the babies play with stones, siblings' toes, wood chips, water, dirt, or live kitties. The babies find objects to play with and these objects appear to encourage intellectual and physical development just the same as the "certified" toys.
3. Germs were not a problem for any of these four babies.
Certainly, dirt and flies were everywhere in Namibia and Mongolia. In Namibia, Ponijao puts his face in a mud puddle and drinks. He also licks the tongue of the family dog. I, for one, am not a fan of flies. But frankly, I saw danger in all four countries what with the constant noise and traffic in Japan and America. Still, all the babies remained safe and indeed thrived.
4. Love, love, love is what you need: love, touch, connection and delicious eye contact!
In all the countries, before the babies arrived, the moms patted their pregnant stomachs lovingly. And during the first year of life, we saw all the moms bouncing, cuddling, and kissing their babies. Love and wellness seem to be the very essence of development. Nothing more, nothing less.
Though obviously sharing a small sample size, BABIES offers compelling examples of how effective simple parenting can be. Parenting without all the bells and whistles appears to work just as well for the small sample of babies in this film. This movie is still showing in Boston and suburban movie theaters. Whether you see it in the theatre or from the comfort of your couch, I have a feeling you'll find the footage of these babies developing in international environments as mesmerizing as I do.