From the mouths of babes

I had never paid much attention to my mouth before. It was simply a passageway where food went in and syllables came out. In fact, I thought my oral cavity was rather pedestrian - nothing like the signature chops of Jagger, Leno and Jolie.

Not until the recent birth of my baby daughter, Neah, did I fully comprehend my mouth's distinctiveness. Everyone, and I mean everyone - from the nurse who helped with delivery, to friends and family, to strangers on the street - has commented on the fact that Neah's mouth looks just like Daddy's.

Undeniably, she has an unusual mouth: her razor-thin lower lip framed by a full upper lip and a sunken chin. And it's precious. Never more so than when she protrudes her lower lip from her overbite in a signal of poutiness. But this gift, which was bequeathed by me, wasn't even on my radar.

Sure, I was aware of my thin lower lip and indented chin, but as far as identifiable body parts go, I'd place my mouth down there with my knees and elbows.

It was always my hair and eyes that drew comments - the former, jet black and thick; the latter, big and brown. These were two characteristics I was sure would be passed down the family tree.

Everyone wonders what their first child will look like. Always an effort in futility, the guessing game is made even more difficult when the parents are polar opposites physically. I'm tall with dark skin and dark features; she's compact, fair skinned, blue-eyed and blond.

With locks of golden brown and blue eyes speckled with brown, the top of Neah's face is a mixture of her parents' features. It is my mouth that serves as the tiebreaker.

I guess you could say I never forged much of a relationship with my mouth. True, we shared some indelible moments. Some good, like my first brush with chocolate or my maiden kiss, and some bad, like the invasion of metal attempting to correct my overbite or the extraction of my wisdom teeth.

But it was a platonic affair. For example, I never made an effort to make my mouth look good for pictures. Until recently, I didn't really pay much attention to what it consumed.

Now my perspective has changed. I take great pride in my mouth. I watch what goes through it because I want to be there for my children's children. I watch what comes out of it because I want to serve as a good role model. I use it to brag about my daughter and to encourage her in overcoming her baby obstacles.

So far, all that's come out of my daughter's mouth are coos, babbles, smiles and the occasional spit-up. I'm looking forward to her first words, her first real foods and her first conversations - all of which will emanate from her mouth. It serves as a bond between my infant daughter and me. And it is something we will always share.

Seattle resident Chelan David can be reached at

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