16 January 2006

baby's first thesis review

milestones for last week:
cosmo is getting better at holding his head up, and he has been practicing his "baby push-ups."

he attended his first thesis review at the rice school of architecture, and even got a sort of champagne toast from Lars, the dean. his robot shoes were a big hit with the fashionistas.

the next night Cosmo attended his first art opening at CSAW (commerce street artists warehouse). it was a great show, and he got to meet some talented artists and friends. we enjoyed a small birthday celebration for vicki in her studio.

my favorite of all Cosmo's recent milestones however, is the cultivation of the full body smile. nowadays, when he is gazing up at his mobile, or even looking at me, or one of his friends, he begins to giggle, coo, and wiggle his whole body in a pure expression of delight and joy. it is a marvelous thing to witness.

warm house

I spend a lot of time contemplating the kind of environment i create for Cosmo. I think less about how "stimulating" it is--i feel confident that there will be enough stimulation in everyday life, and in everyday objects. he has plenty of those brightly colored, busy-patterned toys, and i am sure he will receive more of them as gifts. i've noticed that babies and children enjoy ordinary tools like measuring cups and keys as much as the well designed "infantstim" toys.
what i think about more than stimulation is something i will call "object memory." i have very distinct memories about the things that were in our home growing up. familiar sights, textures, sounds...the quality of the objects remain very vivid in my mind. when i look at photographs from my childhood, i search the context--the furnishings, clothes, rugs and wall paper-- and i recall the feeling of the place and the events that happened there.
so i wonder about the environment that i create, and what elements of it will Cosmo hold in his memory? what kinds of associations will he make with the objects he is surrounded by? i consider the texture of the rug in the living room...the scratches on the arm of the futon frame, and the stories behind them (fire and palm tree construction...)
will he remember pepe, the fiesta sign parrot on the wall in the dining room? of course, everything he takes in now will not remain in his conscious memory...but it will exist in his implicit memory...and which is more important?

hot house

last week i watched two DVDs about intelligence. one was about a practice called "hothousing," where parents become obsessed with their child's early development and learning. these parents push their children to learn math and reading skills very early, and also get them to memorize all kinds of facts and details, building an impressive encyclopedic knowledge about specific things...like how to recognize and name all the varieties of roses, or different kinds of military aircraft. the kids can do this stuff fairly easily...their minds are capable of it, and they even seem to enjoy the intensive learning sessions. but the film exposed the kinds of myths that proponents of hothousing operate under, and basically de-bunked all of them. one of the myths is a "use it or lose it" concept where if child is not exposed to certain kinds of stimulus at an early age, that those particular synapses won't get developed, and there will never be a chance to learn those things again. and there is a general myth about the importance of the first 3 years. another one is about the importance of offering a stimulating environment for babies and toddlers, to enhance their intelligence. the film argues that the current science on the brain and intelligence doesn't really support these myths. there is no link between the NUMBER of synaptic connections and intelligence, for instance, so encouraging more connections is not necessarily helpful. in fact, the goal may be the establishment of fewer connections, for a more efficient, streamlined kind of brain activity. also, it has not been proven that children who learn things way earlier than other kids are at any advantage academically or otherwise, especially as kids get older. the ones who learn later, catch up rather quickly, and one has to ask, what did the kids who spent their toddler years performing drills and quizzes miss out on.
i personally feel like the development of encyclopedic knowledge is much less important than the development of the imagination, or sensitivity to others, for instance. and this brings us to the development of Emotional Intelligence...the topic of the second DVD. Emotional intelligence is often neglected in academic settings, especially with the increased focus on standardized testing. Yet these kinds of skills are far more important for a person's success, and i would argue--happiness, than the types of skills which can be measured in test scores. i think it is pretty obvious too that the pressure to perform can be very damaging. most of us have known people who are highly intelligent, yet lack useful social skills, and suffer tremendously for this.
the good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned and improved at any stage in life. it is never to late.
however, it is also never to early to begin teaching such skills, and i hope to be able to share this kind of learning with Cosmo right away. of course, one of the problems is that so many of us adults are lacking in these crucial skills.
good thing it is never too late to learn.
i highly recommend the book A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amni, and Richard Lannon.

09 January 2006

Today i went for my 6 weeks check up with the midwives. it has been almost 7 weeks since Cosmo's birth. i didn't really prepare for how emotional it would be to return to the midwives' office. all 5 of them were there, and they each got to meet Cosmo. I shared the pictures with Titi, and we hugged and talked about how great the birth was. Everyone remarked on how cute he is, and how big. Theadorah could not believe he was only having breast milk.

When we went into the examination room, i looked at the wall of photographs, and it all came flooding back over me. I had been in the room several times before, and each time i stared at those pictures and tried to imagine the day of our birth, and who Cosmo might be. Back then he was just an idea. a wish. i saw the gel used for the doptone device, the one we listened to his little heartbeat with, before we could ever look into his eyes. He was only a dream to me then. now, he is a live, real person, with features and traits. i am getting to know him, as he becomes who he is. while he is a full, real human being, so much is undefined. i am so significant to him that i will have an effect on who he becomes. this is the scary part.
when i remembered back to the last time i was there, i started to cry. so much has happened since then. again, this is all so hard to fathom.

the weather was beautiful. partly cloudy around 70-75 degrees. i felt so good, walking around by the museums today, boarding the train, being a pedestrian with Cosmo in the medical center. i feel so proud of him, and he seemed to enjoy the trip. strangers will strike up conversations with you when you have a small baby--even more so than when you are pregnant. i mostly like it.

on new year's eve i noticed cosmo holding his head up high, and for a much longer time than ever before. i decided that this must be the day for the milestone "holding his own head up"

in the airport, i put him down on a blanket on the floor, on his tummy, and he lifted his little head, and tried a few baby push-ups before he got all tuckered out. Cosmo tries.

he took a bottle for the first time on the trip too. twice. he took to it well. i found myself feeling nostalgic and wanting him to always only nurse at my breast. It reminds me of that Low song, "In Metal." of course i want him to grow and change, and it is so exciting to witness, but i can't help but feel sentimental about the whole thing. it is ridiculous, i know.

He is downright ecstatic about his mobile over the changing table. catching sight of it will pull him straight out of the grumpiest of moods. he is able to fix his gaze on objects now, and trace them with coordinated eye movement. Little genius!
he seems to get stronger everyday, and (and i don't know HOW he does this...) but also more cute.

ok. i've got to stop now. it's getting pretty thick.