And then there was my daughter's voice coming from the other side of the world, telling me Daddy we have a little boy. His name is Noah. He is so beautiful. So we talked and there were photos texted bearing witness to the extraordinary miracle of the growth of this new, perfectly functioning human being out of next to nothing in the space of just nine months. He looks a bit like his Uncle Nick did at the same age, and something like his first cousin once removed Nathan, but mostly he looks like his Dad
It has been a very long day for both of them
How all those intricate organs form in just the right places and at just the right times and connect themselves to each other in just the right ways is one of those brain numbing conundrums like trying to imagine what might have been before the beginning of everything or what might lie at its end. It's babies' hands that astonish me most: tiny and perfect in every detail, with all those intricate folds and the minuscule fingerprints all there and the tiny pink nails; but I suppose that's only because I can see them. There are other, more extraordinary parts in that new body and there are many unseen things even more miraculous.
I am thinking about our other grandchild, Naomi who less than two years ago was as helplessly new as Noah. Now, in what seems to me only a heartbeat later,she speaks in short sentences, counts, knows her shapes and colours and is beginning to play imaginative games. She handles objects with dexterity and grace. She is beginning to grasp the basic intricacies of social relationships. Language, number, speech, the ability to maneuver her own body and a million other things besides... how does a human being learn so much in less than two years?
Naomi in her PJs helping out in the garden
It is this knowledge acquisition that astounds me. I remember when Bridget, Noah's mother was about three. She came to me one day and asked to have her photograph taken but she wanted it done secretly. She took me outside and then arranged her doll in a bush and stood beside it while I took the photo. The doll was a not terribly convincing rag mannequin called Mother Doll (I think there was also a Baby Doll) and Bridget wanted people to think that Mother Doll was a real person. They would, obviously, be convinced if they saw her standing unaided, and to make sure they got the point Bridget folded her arms to demonstrate that Mother Doll wasn't being held in any way. She was doing this as an act of kindness to the doll. Over the years I have thought often of the sophistication of the thinking she was displaying. Developing a Theory of Mind is developing the ability to know what someone else is thinking. Theory of mind continues to develop through life and to increase in sophistication, but think of what was happening in this three year old head:
- The ability to project personality onto this toy.
- The ability to know that it was merely a toy and that the projection was made up but nevertheless...
- The ability to empathise with the projection and to wish to do it a kindness.
- The knowledge of how a viewer would see and interpret the photograph as distinct from what the photograph actually contained.
- The desire to manipulate what the viewer would see and interpret.
- The knowledge of what other members of the family might think, and therefore the desire to restrict their knowledge of events.
- Her recruiting of me showed an understanding of how I might perceive her scheme and react to it
Oh, and finally I include a photo of Bridget at a young age. She is standing in our yard with a friend. The friend is not a doll, for, as you can clearly see, she is standing unaided while Bridget nonchalantly folds her arms.