The baby will be four months old the day after Christmas, and it seems to me that it is about time we stop referring to her as “the baby.” I don’t know if other people do this, but it seems to me that for all three of our children, we referred to them as “the baby” for a period of time when they were, well, babies.
Of course, we refer to them by name also. But we use “the baby” as shorthand, even though it would be much simpler to say “Ellie.” Kelly will say, “Can you take the baby while I finish up in here?” On those rare occasions when she has reached her limit she alters one word of that request: “Can you take your baby while I finish up in here?”
I will text Kelly from work: “How is the baby this morning?” I’ll write. This seems strange to me. We don’t refer to our son as “the boy” or our older daughter as “the girl.” We don’t go around saying, “Can you pick up the boy from science seed today?” But it would be perfectly acceptable to say, “Can you pick up the baby from daycare?”
By constantly referring to “the baby” it is as we are reminding ourselves, again and again, that we do, in fact, have a baby in the house. I don’t see how we could forget this, given how much noise the baby is able to produce with such tiny lungs. And yet, she is still the baby.
We don’t have a dog, but I suspect that if we did, we’d refer to the dog as “the dog.” Kelly would ask, “Did you walk the dog tonight?” or “Did you feed the dog?” Why we refer to dogs and babies without using their names as frequently as we do other family members is puzzling and odd. It borders on the ridiculous.
I can’t remember when we stopped referring to our son as “the baby.” At some point we just stopped, and he was no longer the baby. He was promoted, perhaps around the time our older daughter was born. Even our older daughter stopped being the baby years ago.
This is made all the more confusing by the fact that the baby has about ten nicknames, and I use all of them frequently when not referring to her as “the baby.”
At some point I will notice that we are no longer referring to her as the baby, and if I think of it, I’ll write it down. I’ll allow a week to pass to be sure, and then I’ll turn to Kelly and with a wistful look in my eyes, I’ll say, “Remember when she was just the baby?”
I asked myself a similar question with our son. I remember reading about the phases they go through from baby to toddler to whatever comes next. I think the border between baby and toddler is roughly when they go upright and start walking. At any rate, I vaguely remember reaching a point where it didn’t feel right to call our son the “baby” anymore and we just switched to referring to him by name. Similar thing with our daughter.
We knew we’d used ‘the baby’ too much with our youngest when she started talking and referring to herself as ‘baby’. I even remember introducing her to someone using her name, and she yelled, “No! I baby!” We have two daughters, and do sometimes lump them together as “the girls” for shorthand. Maybe we shouldn’t do that either. . .