The Face Game

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(Guest post by my sweet wife, Christi, originally posted on Meleea.com on June 19, 2013)

By Christi Straub:

My little family consists of me, my husband and partner-in-crime, Josh, and my adorably sweet and feisty baby boy, Landon. I love those two boys with the passion and ferocity of a momma tiger.

Josh and I are borderline obsessed with our little boy. We are textbook first time parents and relatively unashamed of it. We converse using baby talk most of the time and rarely refer to one another by our first names. “Mummy” and “Daddy” are our new identities. We take photos of every “first” milestone – and most of the moments in between. Today was the first time eating Cheerios. A-DOR-able.

I think the absolute miracle of babies is something worth obsessing over. They are AWE-some.

Lately, we’ve been playing the “Face Game” with Landon. Babies love to stare at faces. When Mum and Dad make exaggerated faces, they watch intently and learn to respond with the same emotion. Silly faces make for joy-filled smiles and squeals. Serious faces make for frowns.

But today, by accident, Daddy dropped a pot in the kitchen. Landon jumped. As his bottom lip started to quiver, he looked at me – and I smiled.

My smile told Landon, “Baby boy, there is nothing to fear”.

Landon smiled back. Peace was restored.

In my recent barrage of parental reading, I have learned that our fun little “Face Game” with Landon goes far beyond the sweet squeals and giggly memories. The Face Game is literally changing Landon’s brain. When Landon looks at my face, and reflects my emotions, it changes the way his brain fires and wires.

It’s like brain surgery for dummies. (We, his parents, being the dummies.)

When Landon experiences something that is startling – and potentially scary – his amygdala starts firing. He looks to me to see how to respond.  When I respond with a smile – his brain translates: “Baby boy, there is nothing to fear” – there is an instant calming as his cerebral cortex tells his nervous system, “you can calm down, baby”.

It’s called “neural integration”. But, I call it AWE-some.

I couldn’t help but be overcome by the evident parallels with my Heavenly Father, who gave the Israelites this blessing and this promise:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace  1

When we gaze upon our Heavenly Father’s face – He turns His face toward us, and gives us peace. True peace. Peace is just one intentional look away. He’s waiting. I just have to turn toward it, rather than away from it.

And just because God is AWE-some, He allows us, as parents, to share in a little bit of His joy. We give our babies peace when they gaze at our face. Just as our Heavenly Father does for us. How neat is that?

When things are startling and stressful in my life, instead of reacting with anxiety or panic, what if I gazed into my Father’s face? I know I would see His smile. His smile would tell me…

“Baby girl, there is nothing to fear.”

Now that is AWE-some.

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Christi Straub, M.A., M.B.A. is a wife, newly-minted momma, writer and speaker who runs her blog Meleea.com. With a background in kinesiology, cognitive-behavioral therapy and marriage & family counseling, Christi is convinced that living a balanced life physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually is essential to living life to the fullest. Her daily journey to find balance and live life to the fullest has motivated her to invite other women on the same journey. Passionate about her generation, Christi desires to see young women rise beyond the mundane to live lives of impact. Her honesty, wittiness and transparency are contagious. Christi is the typical first-born: type-A and slightly bossy (according to Momma, Lora Lee and younger sister, Lindsay). Christi is “Mummy” to Landon, and married to her best buddy and better half, Josh.

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1 Numbers 6:24-26