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04/23/2005

A raisin and the son

Today Charlie had the last of his visits from the home health nurse, who's been coming monthly to give him his Synagis injections. In addition to stabbing his small but meaty thigh with a needle so fearsome it looks like she's going for a core sample, each time the nurse has weighed him; listened to his heart, lungs, and gut; and given him a brief once-over to make sure he's hitting his developmental milestones.

The chart that's used to track his accomplishments is called the Denver II. It consists of a rough timeline of expected behaviors in several different areas: gross motor, language, fine motor, and personal/social. You find your child's age on the chart, then draw a line down through the activities he's expected to have mastered. Then you examine each intersection to determine which percentile your kid occupies. Based on this in-depth assessment, you settle back in your chair feeling the smug satisfaction of being the fine overachieving parent of a fine overachieving baby.

Or, if you are me, you freak out just a little.

The chart is simply fascinating. Some of the listed activities aren't things you'd necessarily notice your child doing if you weren't looking for them — bringing both hands together at midline, for example, or following an object with his eyes first to midline, then, at a later stage of development, beyond. Others are things you'd notice — smile spontaneously, smile responsively, laugh, and squeal, and in that order, please.

And then there are the raisins. Apparently my child is due any day now to manifest an enduring interest in raisins, or so Denver II insists. First, he will regard raisin. Next, he will rake raisin. Later, he will become disaffected, and will dump raisin. Yes, he will divest himself of raisins in a single shocking act of scorn. Oh, he is impetuous! But do not worry. Should he subsequently find himself in need of more — perhaps for feeding himself or baking me a cake as fast as he can, as Denver II promises he will around 9 months of age, when he is expected to be pat-a-caking up a motherfucking storm — the nice people at Denver Developmental Materials, Inc. will kindly furnish replacement raisins for only a nominal fee.

And one day he will look for yarn! (Denver sells that, too.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself with the raisin. Before he can regard raisin, Charlie must regard own hand, and he has not done that yet.

At 11 weeks, he's neatly meeting the milestones for his adjusted age, with the exception of discovering his own hands. The visiting nurse was very surprised by this and kept saying so, suggesting that maybe he'd been doing it without my noticing. Little does she know that not a single cell of Charlie's divides without my taking careful note. No, not yet. Yes, I'm sure. He doesn't know he has hands.

He uses them, and to great effect; he bats at toys hanging off to his side, kneads my hands absently as I feed him, clutches the edge of his blanket to feel its fuzzy chenille, repeatedly brings his fist to his face in a hilariously ill-aimed attempt to suck his thumb. But he doesn't hold his hands in front of his face to inspect them. He's not entranced, as I'm told babies are, by the sight of his own fingers. He hasn't made that connection.

Of course I am concerned. I spent some time this afternoon making a formal introduction. (Poor boy is so acutely shy, he wet his pants upon being presented.) Tomorrow I will make up some labels, and perhaps a set of helper mittens. I will work with him on this.

After all, how can he hope to become a fighter pilot, razing entire buildings full of impoverished and defenseless Middle Easterners, unless he begins to develop hand-eye coordination at the very earliest stages? How in good conscience can I indenture him to a nefarious weaver of fine silk rugs if I can't promise that his eyes are sharp and his fingers nimble? You tell me, effendi.

More to the point, how the hell is he going to dump raisin if he can't even find his hands? I'd better get cracking. There is much to be done. That yarn isn't gonna look for itself, you know.

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