b Papa Dog's Blog: Dispatches from the Road, Part III

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Dispatches from the Road, Part III

Baby and Doggy Dog and I were on our own for a few hours yesterday whilst Gran took Mama Dog to visit Lotusland, a local attraction that stirred a lukewarm response in ol’ Papa Dog…maybe (just a guess) because said visit entailed wandering around endlessly under the blazing sun and staring at vegetation. I suppose if the vegetation did something, I might be interested but no, no triffids are included in the exhibit, so there’s not much marauding or mayhem to be observed in this particular garden.

We did all right by ourselves, though. Doggy Dog had settled down from his wayward behaviour of the day before, and Baby Dog had a bit of a breakthrough - she took formula from the bottle with no complaint. In what's apparently a common scenario, we tried her out on formula fairly early on and found she took it with no difficulty. Then we didn't try again for several weeks, and when we did, she gave the classic "what the hell is this crap?" response. Since Mama Dog wants to be able to leave the house occasionally, it became a matter of some consequence that we get Baby Dog used to the bottle again. I found yesterday that it's really just a matter of timing; get her sucking before she starts screaming. Worked just fine. Other than that, she spent most of the time either asleep or bobbing in the
Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium Bouncer that we got as a local replacement for the Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium Swing, which was too big to bring along this trip. The bouncer has proved a big success, every bit as comforting and captivating to the bairn’s attention as the swing. I think Fisher-Price and Pixar are really on to something with this fish thing. I don’t really know what the attraction is, but babies love fish – even babies way too small to have any idea what a fish is.

Which is a good enough segue to the “Baby Human” video, which we’ve watched over the last few days. Gran foisted this upon us shortly after arrival. I’m not generally much on video foisting, preferring to either be in on the selection myself or have an established selection-sharing system worked out, as is the case with Mama Dog and self. Still, the stated premise – what the beginning of life is like from the baby’s point of view – ties into current avenues of interest, and it seemed just the sort of thing to watch while Mama Dog was nursing. The video is actually a collection of three episodes from a series called The Human Baby, which was produced by the Discovery Channel Canada. Each episode concerns the development of particular characteristics over the first couple years of life. On Thursday we watched “To Walk” and “To Think,” and yesterday we watched “To Talk.” The latter, an overview of the development of linguistic skills, was the most interesting to me. Babies, it turns out, develop language skills in utero, to the extent that they’re born able to distinguish their native language from unfamiliar languages, simply by the differences in rhythm and cadence. For the first eight months or so, babies are able to clearly differentiate distinct phonemes from any spoken language, even a language they’ve never heard before. After eight months, they’ve done the work of assessing which sounds are relevant to the language they’re going to spend their lives speaking, and lose the ability to distinguish less relevant sounds. The example shown in experiment in “The Human Baby” had infants raised in English-speaking households listening to a tape of sounds unique to Hindi. Before eight months, they demonstrate an ability to distinguish two Hindi syllables that sound identical to a grown English speaker; after eight months, they lose the ability. I suppose another example would be the difficulty a Japanese speaker has in distinguishing between “l” and “r.”

By the end of the video, all the kids are speaking short sentences, which made us aware all over again of the long road ahead of Baby Dog. It’s easy to lose sight of the forest in favour of the trees when tending to an infant. I keep realising that I’m labouring under the obviously false impression that she’s always going to be this tiny, that she’s always going to need swaddling, that she’s always going to be pre-vocal. Well, we’re already taken aback by her remarkable growth rate these first two months, and are looking eagerly forward to the time when she’s able to communicate her needs to us by means other than the basic cry.

Bonus freaky trivia: According to a trivia page in the disc’s extras, the record for most babies born to one woman was set over a 40 year span (1725-1765) by some unnamed Russian peasant, who gave birth to 16 sets of twins, 7 sets of triplets, and 4 sets of quadruplets. Jesus! She must have started really young and kept going very late, like, say 12 to 52. Doesn’t say how many of the children survived to adulthood, but I’d guess a large percentage didn’t.

Oh yeah: newspaper/reading update: Haven't done this in a while. If memory serves, I bogged down in the newspapers around August 1, so I'm going to be thoroughly screwed by the time we get home. Haven't looked at the news at all since we left Oaktown, so I have no clue what's going on in the world. If Dumbya has conceded the election, I trust someone would let me know. Doing better in the book-readin'. Got a whole bunch of Fifth Business read while minding the Li'l Puppy yesterday. Well into Part 3 now.


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