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Where Is Pointer? Here I Am!

Babies grow and advance at such an alarming rate their first year of life; I’ve always heard people speak in clichés about their kids growing up so fast and smiled politely, but it’s really true.  What’s more, I never thought about how much of what we do has to be learned – so much of the motor skills we take for granted have to be developed and nurtured.
My girlfriend Sandra told me that during Stephen’s first year of life, she tried to read “ahead” one month about his upcoming development so she’d know what to expect.  I loved this idea; since I had no clue what to expect with the whole baby thing, it was like using the Cliff Notes before a major exam.  Perfect!

I’ve been using Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book; he’s got an excellent month-by-month breakdown of what’s going on with baby developmentally.  And he has a very calming way about him; he never implies, “Your baby should definitely be doing this by now, and if he’s not, you’re a bad mommy and he’s a backwards baby.”  I find that when I read ahead about what to expect, I see so much more of what’s going on with her.  Dr. Sears mentions, for example, that babies learn “binocular vision” at a certain point; they learn to use their eyes as a team rather than independently.  I thought she was just naturally growing out of a newborn cross-eyed thing.
Or take a simple wrist movement – we have to actually learn how to turn our hand over!  I didn’t notice until the book pointed it out, but there comes a time in baby’s development when she learns to turn her wrist, like turning a key in a lock.  I read it in the book and tucked it away in the back of my brain somewhere with “do your taxes” and “don’t forget to floss”.  But two days later, there was Maddie, staring at her hand as she turned it back and forth.  She was mesmerized, and clearly practicing, getting it into her body.  After a week of solid study, she had it down and now she doesn’t think twice about it.  If I hadn’t read about it, I wouldn’t have noticed.
Right now she’s working on the whole pincer grasp thing.  She’s gone from a gross hand movement – pawing something clumsily towards her – to a finer grabbing with the whole hand: she can wrap all her fingers around a rattle and deliberately lift it.  She can pass it back and forth from hand to hand – another trick she learned a couple months ago.  But she’s just now starting to understand the idea of using her thumb and pointer finger exclusively.  She concentrates diligently, working one hand at a time, bringing her thumb and finger towards each other carefully, only to have the other fingers follow behind as the whole hand closes.  She doesn’t get frustrated – it’s not a test to her, just something cool to practice, say, while Mommy’s getting her avocado and peaches.  But I can see her desire to isolate one finger from the others, which will eventually lead to picking up cheerios and feeding herself, which will lead to controlling a fork, and so on.  So she opens and closes, opens and closes, delighted and determined at the same time.  I love seeing her grow even as it takes her further away from me.
If I weren’t aware of these little milestones, would she progress any slower?  Without me to applaud and encourage her, would her finger meet her thumb later?  Nope.  But knowing these things, learning to recognize them, is teaching me to read her much more easily.  As I see the subtle differences, my “reading” skills increase exponentially and she becomes much more communicative to me – all without saying a word.
I guess we’re both developing new skills.


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