Thursday, March 13, 2008

Schrödinger's Baby

One of the more frequent conversations Kara and I have revolve around what the baby can’t do, and what she can do.

I’ll give you an example:

About a week ago, Kara was upstairs playing with Mihret in Mihret’s room. Since Mihret became a full-on walker, we’ve spent more and more time there, as it provides the most stuff for the baby to do, play-wise, with fewer opportunities to break stuff or otherwise injure herself.

Not that we didn’t baby-proof the house. We did. It’s just that the baby doesn’t seem to realize this, and is possibly getting up in the night, escaping from her crib using a grappling hook she hid under her mattress, and then setting up bear traps downstairs. It’s the only plausible explanation.

Getting back to my point.

Kara was playing with the baby, and I was running up and down the stairs, taking the various loads of clean and dirty laundry to where they needed to go.

Once everything was separated and getting laundered, I went to check up on my wife and child.

Kara looked at me with excited eyes. “We just read some books together, and she said the word book! A bunch of times!”

If you’re a parent, you already know where this story is going.

Kara: “Say book, honey. Book. Book. What’s that over there? Is that your BOOK? That’s your BOOK!”

Mihret: “…”

Kara: “Book? Boook? Book?”

Mihret: “…”

Me: “Sure, Kara. I’m sure she said it.”

Kara: “She did! Say book, Mihret. Book! Is that your BOOK?”

There’s some scientific hoo-ha pulled together by a dude named Schrödinger that states, roughly, that a cat in a box is both dead and alive at the same time, right up until you open the box, and establish the current state of the cat.

I would offer something of a corollary to that – if a child can’t replicate a task, can they really perform it?

There are other examples of this phenomenon that I think are worth mentioning.

My own mother observed our daughter saying “Nana,” which was, in context, supposed to be a shortened version of “banana.” Despite our best efforts, the baby wouldn’t replicate this.

And then, one day, she said “Nana,” while looking at her sippy cup, and Kara and I determined that she wasn’t saying “Banana,” she was saying, “Want that!” In other words, not “Nah-nuh,” but “Nah-nah!”

When I told this to my mother, she insisted that her granddaughter had used the first pronunciation, and very clearly meant banana. It doesn’t much matter now, as Mihret doesn’t say either one of them anymore.

If I had to guess, I suppose the problem isn’t so much that the baby can’t or won’t do something, as it is that a baby’s memory is somewhat mercurial.

When you’re teaching a baby to sit up, you set them up again and again and again and again and once you think they’ve got it, you still stick a pillow behind them in case they topple over.

But we view words as things that the big people use, and we figure, once you’ve got one (particularly when that’s 1/10 of your vocabulary) you should be able to hold onto it.

Perhaps that’s not the case.

Or maybe Kara and my mother just hear what they want to hear.

Or, if you’re me, you state that the baby can ONLY do something when submitted to multiple tests in varying situations. Which makes Mihret sound like some sort of science experiment, but, well, you know. That’s parenting in a nutshell.

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