Friday, November 26, 2010

This story would make Freud happy.

One of the remarkable things about watching a baby develop is seeing their preferences take shape. I think we adults take it for granted that we know what we like. Take myself. I like coffee, Harry Potter, and snowstorms. Where do these preferences come from? Deep down, it's probably some complicated, baggage-ridden story of who I am. I could spend years in psychotherapy learning why I turtlenecks bug the hell out of me. But I don't think about it. I just take my preference as they are. Jack, on the other hand, is new, and fresh, and it is really fun to think about why he might like what he likes.

Of course some baby preferences are universal, since they serve a biological purpose (it's not surprising that all babies love nursing), but others take a more individual flair. One of Jack's strongest preferences is to be up as high as possible on our shoulders. If one of us is holding Jack and he started fussing, Greg or I will say "not sitting high enough...". Sure enough, a little boost up higher, and Jack will instantly stop crying. Another one of Jack's preferences is to be as physically free as possible. He's a sweet baby in his own way, but he's never been huge on cuddling. He likes seeing our faces and to be interacting with toys on the mat more than being held tightly.

Where do these early preferences come from? I can't help but wonder how many of Jack's preferences will be molded by how I take care of him in these early days. For example, we've been singing to him quite a bit, lately, and our go-to song is Baby Beluga, by Rafi. I'm sure you've heard it: "Baby beluga in the deep blue sea, you swim so wild and you swim so free..." Well, Jack's heard it, too. A lot. The other day, when Jack was upset because of his high fever, I started singing "Baby Beluga" to him. He calmed down. After 5 repetitions, I switched songs, to "Robin in the Rain" -- and Jack immediately started crying. I switched back, and he calmed down again. So, at 4 months and 1 week old, Jack has a distinct musical preference. He prefers Baby Beluga over Robin in the Rain*. Cute, no?

Jack has toy preferences, too. Some of them are typical of babies his age: he likes colors, and contrast, and faces. I love putting him in his high chair and watching him pick out different toys from in front of him. I keep hoping he might like some simple food items, like an apple or an avocado, yet when given the choice between kitchen fruit and Jacque, the brightly colored peacock always wins.

Then something happened. A few days ago, I put a butternut squash on the tray. Jack loved it, really, really loved it. That kid just could not stop reaching for the squash. Huzzah, I cheered! We finally got him interested in the mundane! Jack actually preferred the details of a natural piece of food to gawdy colors and crinkly fabric!

Then I picked up the squash and looked at the squash from HIS perspective:

I suppose I should be flattered!

*Jack has good taste. Beluga is clearly the superior tune.

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