There is a stage that occurs when the baby is six to nine months of old that scares the crap out of a parent. This is when the child learns to gasp, making a new sound. The first time it occurs the child will be safely buckled in the rear facing car seat and you, the mom, will be driving along singing the ABCs, singing to the radio, or just relishing the silence. Then the child gasps. WTF? What could you poor little baby be choking on? The stuff animal that is always in the car? The card books left in the car to entertain the baby? An unsuspecting marble that somehow got in the car when you weren’t looking? Or did some stranger open the car door and give your child a piece of popcorn or peanut when you weren’t paying attention? You pull over at the first chance, a gas station, a neighborhood street, a church parking lot. You frantically take off that infernal seat belt, shove open your door, and rip open the back door. . . to find your baby smiling and gasping at you. Now that you have done a comic routine only dreamed up by the best writers of MASH, The Simpsons, or I Love Lucy, your child will repeat this process to see you perform again and again. Within moments, the gasping becomes ordinary to you and returns to the background noises that clutter your existence.
Until it happens to your husband. Then he freaks out, demanding instructions to CPR or the choking method because he was too busy doodling and dreaming of sushi during the child safety class to pay attention. His frantic concern, distorting his face in the most comically genius-way making the baby laugh. Your husband looks to you for an answer to this new noise, and you shrug and say it’s a testing of sound and reaction. This time the cruel joke is on him, and he too quickly tunes out the noise so that he can go back to watching football or the latest crazy pundit on the Fox News Channel. This process goes down the line through relatives, friends and babysitters, until no one acts in outrage and fear. The baby loses interest with the noise and moves on to the next stunt to get more attention. Hopefully it’s the first word and not trying to walk.
That is, unless, your baby is Tornado S. Tornado S was not rewarded with as grandiose comic gestures as his brother because I remembered distinctly pulling over in a church parking lot to check on a smiling, living Tornado E, but none the less, Tornado S loved gasping. It must be because it is one of the few sounds made with inhaling. He still gasps with joy, and he is quickly nearing his 18 month birthday. Nothing makes the heart jump into your stomach like the sounds of gasping coming from the crib. Though when you enter you act as cool and confident as a cucumber (yes, they are rather confident) so that you don’t give your child more comic fodder, you were still mentally checking everything in the crib and in the room as you ran up the stairs, praying that Tornado E didn’t somehow get to the marbles on the top shelf of the closet. Damnit, I knew I should have thrown them out, but they were a gift. The noise wakes my husband up in the morning to hurry to check on Tornado S who just stands holding the railing, smiling from ear to ear, waiting to get out of bed. It also happens when he is presented with his favorite food, his favorite toy, something he likes, something funny on TV, basically when ever he’s happy. He does laugh too, but he always relies on the gasping.
Maybe he’ll out grow it in a year or two or he’ll be giving his pre-school teacher a heart attack.