BL&T No. 029: Learning from Sofia, My Newborn Niece

Borrowed, Learned, & Thought (or BL&T) is a weekly newsletter sent on Mondays. In every edition, I share a borrowed idea (quote, excerpt), a lesson learned from the previous week, and a thought starter heading into the new week. Learn more and subscribe here.

Borrowed

"One of the great gifts of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood is that we can learn through almost passive experience. We don't have to focus that hard to learn new things. In fact, children go from being able to speak no language whatsoever to being able to speak many, many words in comprised sentences. ... What this tell us is that the young brain is a plasticity machine and then right at about age 25, plus or minus a year or two, everything changes. After 25 or so, in order to get changes in our nervous system, we have to engage in a completely different set of processes in order to get those changes to occur and more importantly, for them to stick around."

From Huberman Lab: How to Focus to Change Your Brain | Ep. 6 [Podcast]

Learned

It's Sunday evening, and I'm writing this from the guest room of my brother's home in Virginia. Dana and I made the trip here this weekend to meet my niece, Sofia. By the time you read this tomorrow, she'll be 29 days old. I'd also add that this is the 29th edition of my newsletter on March 29th!

I planned to write about another topic this week. I had a draft on Friday, ready to dig into this evening, but after these last two and a half days, I find myself drawn to the weekend's happenings. It's only a couple of days, but in many ways, it feels as though time stopped for a while.

Sofia

Sofia is my first niece on the Ballasy side of the family. In London, Dana and I have a lovely niece, Olivia, who we have only met a handful of times (beyond Facebook portal), and a baby nephew, Owen, that we haven't met yet. With Sofia's birth, my parents are now grandparents, and my grandmothers are now great-grandmothers. It's all very exciting.

Like most younger brothers with older, married siblings, I was anxiously awaiting Sofia's arrival long before my sister-in-law was even pregnant. I don't need to explain how much it meant to visit this weekend and hold Sofia in my arms.

Eager to maximize our time with her, Dana and I left Brooklyn midday on Friday. Within minutes of beginning the trip, we became trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Heavy winds led to the closure of the Verrazzano Bridge's upper level. Our four-hour trip quickly turned into a six-hour adventure. Kudos to my brother and sister-in-law for keeping Sofia awake until we arrived. As we walked through the door and saw her looking back at us, any stress from the ride dissipated.

Here I am holding Sofia for the first time then her rocking a cozy look the next day.

As you might assume, the weekend is slow when you hang with a newborn. While we did get out for lunch each day, we had limited options between the pandemic and naptime. Truthfully, it felt good to slow down in contrast with the hustle and bustle we've become so accustomed to at home.

Throughout our time with Sofia, I found myself continually captivated by her little face. Dana and I joked that we could stare at her for hours, but we were both serious. It didn't matter what we did or where we went; watching paint dry with Sofia would be just fine.

Wonder

I cannot imagine what it's like for a new parent looking at their newborn child because, as an uncle, it was surreal. The wonder in her wide, almond-shaped eyes sparked wonder in my mind. I daydreamed about her future. Will she be artistic like her mom? Love to talk like her dad? Will she find passion in the arts? Sports? Music?

I imagined the memories we'll make someday, taking her to a concert, exposing her to new foods. As I thought, I watched Sofia's face cycle through an array of emotions. When she smiles, is she happy, or is she just exploring how it feels? She peered around the room. What was she thinking? What did she see?

Possibility

In every one of these moments, there's an innocence that I can't describe. Sofia knows nothing more than her experience over the last 29 days. Every day is rich with new possibilities. Every hour, every minute, every second, she is growing. When she learns to communicate, her curiosity will appear new. It will have been there all along, but for the first time, we'll understand it.

As an adult, it's easy to lose touch with this sense of wonder. We forget what it feels like to question, thinking we know everything we need to know. If this was true, why would tomorrow be any better than today? There's so much more to discover.

Our life appears to be more complicated than Sofia's. We have bills to pay, work to do, meetings to coordinate. She only has to sleep, eat, poop, and repeat the cycle. Yet, she cries to let us know she's struggling. She tries to lift her head but doesn't have the strength. She drinks faster than she should and then can't get comfortable because she has hiccups.

For Sofia, every day is a new challenge. If she could talk, I think she'd tell us that her life isn't any less complicated than ours.

Lesson? When I look at Sofia, it's humbling. She is a living reminder to stay curious, to take nothing for granted. That life is precious, and we have to savor every moment. She inspires me to continue growing, to uncover new possibilities every day. Sofia's future is not written, and neither is mine.

Thought Starter

Have I lost my sense of wonder? What possibilities can I create for tomorrow?