October 28, 2003

Food As A Motor Control Incentive

I have been watching Sebastian, our seven month old, closely for the past six weeks or so, and have been amazed by how fast he is changing.

It was only six weeks ago that he could hardly lift his head off the ground when we placed him on his stomach; and yet last night he pulled himself upright on the side of the bath. When and how did that happen?

The crawling stages will be familiar to any of you with children. First there’s the pulling the knees sideways, followed by pulling them underneath. Then there’s the rocking back and forth on the knees, followed by reaching for things while on the knees and face-planting in the process. Next there’s the crawling backwards, which is particularly frustrating. Then it’s sitting upright, down to crawling position, then back to sitting upright. Then crawling forward for one or two crawls, and back to sitting upright. And finally, six weeks later, nowhere in the house is safe, because not only can he crawl anywhere, but he can pull himself up on most things as well.

This all started about four months ago when we borrowed Elana’s bouncey-chair. The bouncey-chair is a contraption that hangs over the doorsill, with a seat attached to a spring, in which he stands and bounces up and down. He loved it right away, particularly the ability to be upright rather than on his back. He loved it so much in fact that when you’d take him out and stand him on your lap he’d bounce up and down as though he were still attached to the spring.

At the same time that he’s been learning to crawl, he’s been learning to feed himself. Apparently the body learns to control its muscles inwards out, which means that first his shoulders learn to move, then his arms, his hands, and finally his fingers. This has interesting repercussions for self-feeding. At the early stages we would place some food in his fist, and laugh helplessly as we watched him try to get the food anywhere near his mouth. Needless to say, once we’d gotten to this stage the amount of laundry we had to do shot up astronomically.

But the best part of watching him learn to feed himself with things like Cheerios and cheese and apples, is seeing his coordination improve. You can almost see the neural impulses making their way down his arm, as first his shoulder moves, then his elbow bends, his hand turns, and finally each little finger makes its way towards the Cheerio. Complete concentration. And complete joy when the food makes its way in, or at least near, his mouth.

As I write this I am reminded that what we are trying to do, i.e. to make a new life, requires much the same stages that Sebastian is going through, and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to shortcut them. Because unlike Sebastian who has his older brother to learn from, we are here on our own, forging these new pathways by ourselves.

And just as Sebastian whines and gets frustrated when he can’t do something, I’m afraid I’ve been doing a little of that too. Which makes it that much less fun for all of us, but mostly for Rachel. Sorry Rach, I’ll try and do better.

Now if only I knew what to do next.

Posted by: Frank @ 9:43 am — Filed under:

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