Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Social Animal

Lindsay was right, it really does all happen at once!  Hot on the heals of looking at people and smiling, Alex has started to "talk".  Baby talk, obviously.  He's not that much of a child prodigy!  Still, he has suddenly become a social animal.  From having only had one method of communication (the wail), he's now able to express a range of emotions.  It's all quite overwhelming.

Perhaps the loveliest, at least from a parents point of view, is that he can now tell us when he's happy.  Not just a smile, but a coo-gurgle-mehch (that's the nearest approximation I can manage) and a smile. If he wants more attention, he looks at you and eh-ohs.  Often, just looking back at him and repeating "hello" after each "eh-oh" is enough to send him into fits of delight.  His eyes twinkle, he grins like a madman and he wriggles about in a coquettish fashion.  It's almost as if he's having too much fun, and has to break off eye contact to calm down.  Seconds later though you'll hear another "eh-oh" and the whole process starts over again.

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Alex is very definite about when he wants to look at you.  If he wants to play, he'll let you know.  If he doesn't, nothing will make him make eye contact.  Often he'll want to be held up by the armpits and helped to "stand".  You can either hold him facing you, or away from you.  If he's in a non-communicative mood and you hold him facing you, he'll twist his head through 90 degrees to avoid looking at your face.  At times, it gets a little Excorsist-like.  We've taken to holding him facing outwards when he's in that sort of mood.  It's less fun for us, but looks a lot less sore for him.

It's curious how expressive a baby can be, given the limited range that gurgle/flail/scream has.  The difference between a happy flail and a bored flail is as clear as night and day, yet there's nothing specific I could point to that distinguishes the two.  Similarly, the "I'm having a great time" squeak and the "I'm about to turn bright red and puncture your eardrums" squeak sound utterly similar but are totally different.  It must be a mixture of body language and familiarity, but it seems like magic right now.

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One thing that has surprised me is just how uninterested in toys Alex has been so far.  If he's in the right mood, at the right time and there's nothing more interesting around (like an adult that will fawn over his every wish) then he might deign to stare at a plastic monkey for a couple of minutes.  That's about it though.  Rattles aren't as fun as raspberries.  Bouncy chairs aren't as good as bouncy knees.  A stuffed cat isn't as much fun as a live one.  (Although it's pretty close.  Alex couldn't really care less about either one.)  Maybe it's because he's more focused on interaction rather than solitary play.  Maybe we've just not shoved sufficient toys in front of him yet.  Whichever it is, I'm sure it's just a matter of time until he's refusing to be parted from Mr Elephant.

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