Saturday, February 21, 2015

Magic Words

How do you explain love to an infant?

At eleven months, little Ruby Marie discovered how to cover her eyes with her little hands and then emerge excitedly with a big smile and giggle.  Her mom laughs and applauds, "peek-a-boo!"  They both giggle and laugh and clap their hands, and then do it again.  And again and again.

Conversation with a preverbal infant ranks up among the most enjoyable of activities available.

There is an element of learning by mimicry, of course.  Children learn by doing with their parents.  From reading National Geographic and tieing shoes to cooking meals and car repairs, children learn by observation and participation alongside their mentors.

Beyond the manual skills arena, children learn the elements of interpersonal relationship and communication in precisely the same manner.  How to get along, how to discuss, how to negotiate, how to compromise, how to make rational decisions, ... all are initially learned by observation and participation.

Only 7% of what we communicate is in the words.  True? 
 True enough.
See Content and Context

It's worth remembering, there's much more than just the words.  What a child receives and gives in these entertaining exchanges is largely nonverbal, but it is hugely meaningful and richly complex.
Little Ruby may be pre-verbal, yet with no words at all, both mom and baby can express ...
  • interest in the other, 
  • enjoyment of their company, 
  • pleasure in engagement, 
  • happiness in being able to amuse each other, 
  • affection, appreciation, affirmation,
  • focused encouragement, directed interest,
  • preferential differentiation (i.e., I like your company, this book, that window), 
  • and an encompassing love.
Plowing through our adult lives with words and intellectual labors, struggling to explain or describe or quantify ... it's worth remembering that the difference between us and a server farm full of information machines is precisely illustrated by the smallest folks among us.

Conversation with a preverbal infant ranks up among the most instructive activities available.