my 5-month-old reminds me: try not to ignore people, okay?

a very clear thing has been happening with our baby recently: she is asserting her place in conversations, even though she’s miles away from talking. she stares, absolutely rapt, observing the conversational flow. her eyes bounce from one speaker to the next and back again. and if we go too long without acknowledging her presence in the discussion, she raises a small fuss to let us know we’re leaving her out. if we then make some eye contact, leave her some space to “say” what’s on her mind, and direct some of our words her way, she’s part of things again. and one of her big, open-mouthed grins gets added to the conversational mix.

this is remarkable to me because she’s so young, but why shouldn't she be included? after all: she’s a person. she’s in the room. she wants to participate.

it strikes me that we do this to people (and not just tiny people who haven’t learned our vocabulary yet) more than we’d like to admit. clearly, it happens in the larger ways like in policy-making and community-building. but, even as adults, doesn’t it happen in small, daily ways, too? in party conversations, at meetings, and at family dinners, in the moments when we unconsciously, subtly, and even accidentally leave people out?

yes, it can be inconvenient to be inclusive. but, on balance, maybe it’s worth it. i’m excited for the next time i realize i’m doing this to someone, and my daughter’s reminder taps at me, saying:

she’s a person. she’s in the room. she wants to participate.