The Mouth

November 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

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I often wonder what it would be like to be a dog. I look at my dogs and wonder how my life would be different if I lacked hands. I wonder if I would be content to understand the world around me primarily through taking things into my mouth. They eat things, smell things, pick things up, pull things, move things, and break things almost solely with their mouths. What must that be like?

Finn, I believe, has taken it upon himself to put it to the test. Though his goal hasn’t been stated clearly, based on my observation of his experimentation Finn’s hypothesis is something along the lines of this: the world can best be understood—if not solely understood— through the manipulation of said world by the mouth.

The kid puts everything in his mouth. It started when he was little; unable to find his thumb, he’d stick his whole hand in his mouth. There were a couple times I had to pull it back out for him when it got stuck. Now, it’s multiple fingers, a fist, or sometimes even multiple fists. On the list of other things he has tried either successfully or unsuccessfully to put into his mouth: everything that can be listed.

And here’s the thing, he’s not even good at it. He rarely has the coordination to hold onto anything, much less draw it to his mouth. That sure doesn’t stop him from trying. He spends the vast majority of his time in a supine position, attempting a half sit-up, his mouth open and his hands reached in the general vicinity of whichever object he intends to become his latest victim. Lately, as we change him, he grasps onto our sleeves or our fingers as they whisk by his face again and again. He latches on with an iron grip, but from there his coordination isn’t quite good enough to get things moving in the direction he’d like.

And no one needs to tell me that it’s going to get worse; I can see it coming. Suddenly he’ll have coordination, and his batting average will increase exponentially. Add to that his impending ability to crawl and eventually walk, and he’ll have nearly instantaneous access to all the things he’s ever had his eye on.

This year the Christmas tree is safe. Next year is another story.

What a joy to watch him develop. Four months ago, it took all his efforts of coordination to squeeze your finger. Now, he’s grabbing that finger out of midair, and pulling it towards his open mouth with astonishing vigor.

He’s so in tune to what’s happening around him, too. Sometimes I’ll watch him observe a conversation between two people, and his head is turning from side to side like a spectator at a tennis match. He’s watching so closely, listening, the gears of his mind turning and processing, and then all of a sudden he’ll blurt out some nonsense, and I’m convinced he has something useful to add to the discussion.

He talks gibberish all day, and he watches the dogs dash around the room. From my lap he’ll look up at me when I’m talking—his eyes wide and his mouth open, and I swear I’ve never seen anyone so interested in what I have to say.

Every moment is a milestone. Every day a collection of firsts.

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