Today, I spent over 12 hours with a one and a half year old boy. At the end, we did not hate each other. I particularly appreciated that he did not mention the US government shut-down, the debt ceiling, Benghazi, or Al Qaeda.
We spent a lot of time watching construction. Which explains the lack of written posts...
I had the opportunity to observe a set of twins, 11 months old.
This fact is surely obvious to anyone that spends time noticing child behavior, but I was surprised. Because a spend considerable time with a growing infant, it was interesting to note that babies all seem to make same sounds as made.
This led me to have a thought: like religion, all language is learned from parents. Just as no child is born with a particular religion, which must be learned, none is born with a particular language. A child born in one country and transported at birth to another will learn the language of the new home, as well as whatever the parents cram down his or her throat.
That tells me that there is no natural language. And, this explains why children can easily learn more than one...if offered the privilege.
*From a conversation I had recently with a one-year old.
I am not a scientist or a scholar. Mostly, I am a cynic, who calls ‘em as he sees ‘em. I observe and reach conclusions, if inclined to think. Here is one example.
I have been watching a child grow and often try to figure out what might be happening inside the small, but growing brain. Some things are easy to figure out by watching similar behavior day after day or seeing the child repeat an action learned the day before. I can deduce from a choice of direction, after a pause, what he had remembered and what he will do.
Despite being aware of growing memories/intelligence, I was surprised yesterday by repetition of an action that has not been done or observed for six months. That proves that the brain was collecting memories at an age of eight months, which were called up many months later...all without outside help or impulse.
While watching an infant at work, one can have the strangest thoughts…
I have already mentioned that children must think from an early age. One can determine this from things they do. Like a grown-up pondering a buffet, an infant ponders the choice of toys, before selecting one. Infants learn to mimic, but what does that infant think, when it picks up a remote and waves it in the direction of a television?
This raises another question: in what language do infants think? One might assume that they think in the language of the parents. That might be the case in a single-language family. But, what about a child that grows up in the house of Babel, where more than one language is spoken?
Infants collect and store memories, but what language is the on-board computer using? A child enters a room, in which it has been earlier, and crawls to a place it knows and touches things it has touched before. Different rooms have different features, which become familiar. Before choosing a direction, some thought must prepare the way.
One thing is certain: infants do not think about religion, Santa Claus, Satan, Jesus, self-actualization, winning the lottery, or the after-life.
At some point, children learn language. Unfortunately, none has revealed the secret of the language of early thought.
For anyone that has never experienced such or does not know: one does not babysit a one year old child, one watches him or her do or prevent from doing whatever he or she wants to do each minute. And, short of tying the child to a tree--or similar immovable object--leaving one alone is not a good idea. Offering the child distraction works only for so long and must be interesting...to the child. There is no way of knowing this before trial and error...which changes by the minute, hour, and day.
Although many might deny such a fact, these tiny creatures have minds of their own. One has no idea what an infant might be thinking, but something is definitely going on in that brain. Despite minimal tools, communication of their feelings, desires, and dislikes is possible. The best example is screaming, but there are other means.
Another key learning, unwelcome to the toy industry, is that “things” are interesting: to contemplate, to feel, and to taste. I conclude, as I am sure many have before me, that putting things in the mouth is the child’s main learning organ.
Who knows what goes on in an infant’s brain?
Obviously, they cry when hungry or uncomfortable, but other emotions must be guessed. Do they hear and record words spoken to them? Are impressions on their surroundings stored and called up in later life? At what point do humans start to react to comments about them, either positive or negative?
One can bring a smile to an infant’s face or laugh, but not understand what motivated that reaction. Was it your face or your words or your movements or something else? At what point does an infant recognize family--even parents--as opposed someone satisfying basic needs. An infant will accept food from anyone and will cease screaming.
I wonder if humans will understand the workings of the brain, to saw nothing of the brain of an infant. Still, it’s fun to watch and guess and attempt to stimulate a young ‘un and influence maturing.
News Flash: newborn babies are not beautiful (female variety) or handsome (the other kind). Sorry, but that's a fact of life.
Why have I been moved to reveal such fundamental truth? I am tired of being asked if my daughter's kid is beautiful (or the German equivalent that works for both genders: schoen--it should be an o with two little dots of top, but this ethnocentric computer won't do that). It takes time for a child to grow recognizable features (ie. a chin, final skull shape, open eyes, etc.) At that point, one can make an impartial judgement on physical beauty.
Ask me in a year...
_ One does not come in contact much with 10-hour old babies. At least, I do not.
I experienced my two children at that age, and now I have had a look at my first grandchild. Just like his mother at that age, he refuses to open his eyes. I’m not sure if that is a characteristic of the age or a defense mechanism. His mother turned out alright and still speaks with me, so I can hope for the best with Number One Grandson.
The first thing that I noticed...and informed his mother to do something about it...was that his finger nails needed cutting. Obviously, this is not a service provided in the womb. Other than his head (with tightly shut eyes) nothing else was visible, because of swaddling (that’s a word that I do not recall ever using, am not sure if it’s a word, but am too lazy to look up, and, if it is a word, am not sure if I am using it correctly now, ie. it might be an adjective needing a noun, such as clothes)
I was a bit disturbed that the kid does not have chin, but I checked photos of his mother at that age. She did not have one, so I guess it grows later...along with the brain. It would be unfortunate for the poor kid to have a weak chin, which explains why a weak chin is often called an unfortunate chin.
For the first time ever, I have been able to remember something about our children, which my wife got wrong. (She always gets vacation facts wrong). She totally missed on recalling their birth weights, which is surprising since she had to lug them around until I was able to pitch in. I guessed correctly. After ultrasound measurements, my daughter complained that her baby would be so large. He came out weighing in only 200 grams (that’s two chocolate bars) more than she had and the exact same length (height?).
These days, hospitals offer something called rooming-in. The father is allowed to stay in the room with mother and child. This means that he gets a head start on having sleepless night. When my children were born, they slept in an infant nursery and I slept at home. We all got together soon enough and (enjoyed) sleepless nights as a family. I did not need or miss the head start provided to new fathers.
It will be interesting to see when the kid eats his first chocolate (if his mother will share)...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.