The Artist and the Baby

baby & adult handsA young couple brought their new baby, a boy, home from the hospital. He was their second child; the other was a 4-year-old girl. After the new baby had been home for a couple of weeks, the 4-year-old told her parents that she wanted to see the baby alone.

“Okay,” said the mother, “I’ll take you to see him.”

“No,” said the little girl. “I want to see him alone.”

The parents looked at one another. They had been warned of this. The older child gets jealous of the attention being paid to the baby and finds a way to strike back.

“I’ll take you in to see him,” said the father.

“Nooo. I want to see him alone!”

“Well, maybe later,” the mother said.

The next day, the mother started to take her daughter to see the baby, but the child pulled back, refusing, saying she would only see the baby alone. This went on for two weeks. Finally one evening, the parents made the momentous decision. They did not tell their daughter, but they would listen closely on the intercom while she was in the room with the baby, and they would be ready to act immediately if necessary.

“Promise you won’t come in,” the daughter said.

“We promise,” said the parents.

The little girl stepped cautiously into the baby’s room, looking back at her parents, who watched attentively from the hall. They quietly shut the door and quickly retreated to their bedroom, where they fixed their ears on the intercom. They heard nothing for a few seconds. Then there was the soft noise of their daughter making her way toward the baby in the crib. Then silence. There was a small chair in the baby’s room, and the parents heard what they took to be the sound of their daughter moving the chair to the side of the crib. And then silence.

The parents didn’t see their daughter sit down in that chair next to the crib. But they did hear her say to the baby, “Tell me about God. I’m forgetting.”

The artist is like the baby.

(I heard Sean Penn tell this story to Charlie Rose on the “The Charlie Rose Show,” PBS-TV.)

Image permission via Creative Commons.

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