May 26, 2005

the progress of a 4 month old

It's very interesting for me to watch my daughter progress as she grows older. She's 4 months old now. Every few weeks you see something different. Don't worry I'm not about to get mushy. In fact reading through my post makes me come off as the analytical person I am.

I try to figure out where her brain is at any given point. It seems like right now all the wiring that's going on upstairs has to do with physical things. How to move her muscles and respond to stimuli. When I try to stand her up she locks her legs to facilitate standing. She smiles when she sees me. I suspect these aren't done on a conscious level yet. They seem more programmed. I could see the smiling being effective in helping me bond with her if I were a caveman and had now clue where this little person was from or what she was doing here. But ultimately I'm not sure there is thought behind the smiling or the standing she does. It seems more programmed at this stage.

She doesn't seem to have any real cognition skills yet. Although I think she's on the cusp of figuring things out. She does recognize certain things. Her toys, her bottle, my wife's boob, and our faces. That's about it. She is interested in anything I put in front of her. She can grip things and will move them about almost as if she is both testing her dexterity and also understanding common heuristics to objects in general. Like when you rotate things the same perspective will come around again if you rotate 360 degrees.

I'm starting to think about what I will do when I see true cognition. When she's able to actually understand causality. I remember a fascinating interview with Richard Feynman when I was young. He talked about how his father would play games with him that effectively were games that made him use his mind. For example he talked about how his dad would describe a scene and he would have to figure out where he was. The catch was his dad would describe something from an unusual perspective. In the example he gave his dad described a big forest with tall blue trees with no branches or leaves. He was describing the carpet and what it would look like if little Richard was very tiny. I'm convinced this is what gave Feynman his unusual perspective on physics. So I'm trying hard to think of things I can do that are similar to this. I certainly want to ask her questions and see if she is interested. 'Why do you think the sky is blue?' 'How come when you throw that ball up it comes back down?'

I'm also reminded of my childhood and how I was one of those stereotypical kids who always asked, 'why?'. It drove my mom crazy. My dad was a little better as he's the more erudite parent. I distinctly remember thinking, 'when I get older I'm going to answer all those questions or at least help my children figure out the answer.' Now that I have a child I'm actually going to be heartbroken if she doesn't ask, 'why?'. I think I just have to make sure that I don't do everything for her and instead prod her along to the answer.

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