Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Daughter Nora's Mammalian Baby

The mammalian baby is a wonder! Take my new grandson, for example, Rafael Boaz Brus, born July 2 and now 4 1/2 weeks old. All he and every other human baby at this age do is eat (suck), burp, poop/pee, and sleep. This stage of his life is really an extension of his gestation, his life in the womb, in terms of his physical development. But his unconscious is also forming through his interactions with his caregivers, namely his mom and dad, and all the rest of their support group. If he's picked up whenever he cries, he will come to believe that the world is a good place, one that can respond to his needs, and in which he can navigate his life, take risks and excel. If he's not, he's likely to be more fearful and insecure, the way people were for millennia. This is a basic tenet of the History of Childhood, rather simplified, of course. I like to think that it was easier to raise armies when people, notably young men, had large stores of fear and resentment built deep into their psyches. As Lloyd deMaus, the main theoretician of the History of Childhood pointed out, as parents put out more energy into child rearing becoming less neglectful, punitive and restrictive, their human communities became more benevolent, egalitarian and in a [loaded] word, civilized. This was the thesis of the classic on child rearing, A. S. Neill's Summerhill, as well.

Of course, babies come out at an earlier stage of development in humans because we walk upright, and the human pelvis is narrower than the pithecine (ape) one. But human mothers have their hands free from locomotion to be able to cradle their babies. The "infantalized ape" theory, as elaborated in Weston LaBarre's The Human Animal, stipulates that by coming out of the womb at an earlier stage of development, the human animal can adapt to a wider range of conditions than apes—or any other animal on earth—can.

So thank you Rafa for demonstrating so clearly how exceptional we mammals are—and show us how much work and collaboration is necessary to fully realize the potential we have.
Yours truly and grandson, on day 1.

 Daddy Michael kisses Rafa at his bris.
Mamma Nora and son, the day after he arrived.