I have the day ‘off’ so had a chance to reflect on my past couple days of following around a 14 month old and that got me to some deeper mediations on his early days and his continuing transformations, and humanity’s long chain of generations.
I distinctly remember watching my daughter’s birth and that horrifying spit second when the skull plates scrunch together, overlapping edges in order to allow all that bone to fit through that amazing mother. Only once the bones are through, does the brain follow and force itself through the canal, then into that scrunched up skull, which suddenly bulges into full blossom as the brain takes up full residence. Quite the shock to behold unprepared.
That’s why humans are born functionally premature. This is also why humans are so malleable, they have entered the world before being fully formed, so they adapt to immediate situations, rather than being forced to live within evolutionary constraints like creatures who must be born ready to run and survive on their own.
Back to the brain forcing it’s way into the skull, seems to me that’s when a fetus takes on the mantle of personhood. Awakening to the world, partially formed and ever changing (evolving ;-). Tiny changes, hourly, daily, nonstop discovery, absorbing, experiencing, remembering, learning, growing.
For immediate caregivers those first months are among the profoundest experiences in their lives. In the moment, seemingly endless, yet within a few beats it belongs to memory.
Within the infant’s mind vague shadings resolve into shapes, noise resolves itself into voices, then other stuff, which in turn triggers concepts and thoughts within that tiny brain. All the while that little body is flaying around as ever more neural connections learn to resolve sensations into recognition: Oh wow!, that thing belongs to me, Oh wow!, fingers, oh wow, I can control them. Learning to use them together with legs and body to master crawling, the constructive cascading consequences never end, until we die. But never as exuberantly, or beautifully, as during those first months, years.
The last time I was here it had previously been about 6weeks since last seeing him, this time thanks to COVID it’s been 6 months, now he’s 14 months and walking around. Hasn’t quite soloed yet, though just might happen during my next week here.
Last time when I arrived, he just started crawling, he saw the stranger come in, I said hello but kept a respectful distance as I greeted parents. He kept crawling closer, eye darting all over my face, I mean I could see him calculating, then with the sweetest little nose scrunch he cracked the puzzle, connected with a memory and broke into a huge grin. I know you, I love you, as he dove in for a big hug.
This time it wasn’t like that. I missed him the evening I arrived, so walked into the breakfast scene with him in his highchair. He just looks at me, the new guy, studying me, but I’d been away too long for him to connect with a memory.
He kept watching me as I chatted with parents and when breakfast was done and I asked if I could help him out of his chair, he reached up to me, letting me know, yeah we’re good, I think. When it was time for parents to disappear into offices and work, he objected, but they were gone and he settle down right away and as the morning progressed the distance melted away. Now we were forging new memories within the framework of an inner trust.
Later at one point we were near his mom’s office with her on the phone and voice ringing through the door. Hearing her voice he beelined to her door and let out a howl. Maaa. I swooped in and carried him off to the living room explaining, sorry but she’s working, and he settled right in. Mind you he’s had a chance to get used to that routine, but most the time it’s the maternal grandma who had to go somewhere. Thus I’m here.
Way easier load than last time, when one parent, or both were gone and there was much more caring and nurturing and night time vigils - now he pretty much sleeps through so parents got it and it’s basically two four hour shifts. No play pen, it’s his world and we are here to serve and protect and watch the show. So it’s four hours* of undivided attention he receives and me of course, I do all I can to keep him going and to feed his curiosity. *okay, he does take one nap during the day.
The whole point and what I recognized this morning during my day “off” was that though I think he couldn’t actually connect with an “real” memories of me, he did recognize me on a deeper of level of smell, sound, feel, ‘aura’ if you like. I’m part of his select group, first foremost mom & dad, then three grandparents. There are other people in his life, but we are the caregivers, everyone else is in the bleacher section.
It’s nice to be a part of that and back to building fresh memories and enjoying each other’s company.
But wait there’s more: