Laine is good at many things. Drooling, for one. Throwing pacifiers out through the slats of her crib, for another. But if I had to name one I'd say that her greatest skill is making friends. Waiting in line at the grocery store (or Target, her fave), she'll tilt her head to the side so far it is almost resting on the handlebar of the cart and offer up her sweetest, two-toothed smile to the little old lady behind us. Or at a restaurant, she'll wave her slobbery-Puff covered fist in the air and coo at the couple dining near us until they have no choice but to engage her in conversation. My favorite (and a surefire winner) is when we're talking to someone unfamiliar while I'm holding her and she'll drop her head onto my shoulder and look up, batting her baby blues from under long eyelashes, pretending to the delight of the onlooker that she is meek and shy. She's got mad skills.
She was on her A-game the other afternoon when we visited the children's section of the Athens public library. As soon as I put her down, she crawled her way over to a group of kids sitting on a bench, sat back on her little padded behind, and grinned up at them charmingly. Fortunately for her, they were more than receptive. The coo-ed and aww-ed at her, showering her with chewed up baby books and worn out stuffed animals. She had them wrapped around her finger... especially the oldest girl, a self-proclaimed "expert at babies".
"You know what I love about babies? How they grab onto your shirt when you hold them. I bet she does that, doesn't she? They all do, you know," she said, holding her youngest sister on her lap and trying to pry a board book out of Laine's mouth. "And they like to chew on things. But this is a library book, so I won't let her."
Laine was amazed at this smaller-than-normal human. She gazed up at her, turning on the charm full force. Baby Expert scooped her up onto her lap and tried to read to her, fighting to keep the book out of Laine's fists and mouth.
"You should take her over to the doll house. Babies love dolls houses. Actually, I'll take her. Cause she might try to put stuff in her mouth again, right?
"OK, well I'll keep an eye on her. You should look at the parenting books. They have a lot. And some of the books you can listen to in the car, which she might like. Especially fairy tales. Babies like fairy tales."
I was still stuck on the suggestion that I check out some parenting books. Clearly I was not yet to "expert" level and could use the guidance.
"They have board games too," she informed me while Laine gnawed on the dollhouse roof like a baby beaver. "Does she play board games? You could probably help her. There's one about Goodnight Moon, which you've probably heard of. She would like that. Babies like Goodnight Moon."
"Yes, we've read that one quite a few times."
"Well, you should get the game then. Babies like games."
I scooped Laine up, juggling our library books in the other arm, coaxing her to tell her new friend "bye-bye" ("Babies like to wave bye-bye, don't they?") and making for the exit, Baby Expert tagging along behind us.
"You should come back more," she said behind me. "This is a good place for babies to make friends. I've made lots of friends here when I come."
I think Laine has met her match.