A one month old looks passively around the exam room and finally meets my eyes. He stops and stares with wonder. He found something he enjoys looking at – an oval face.
A two month old takes a shorter time to search the room and find my face. He doesn’t just stare, he smiles and coos – as if he has things in his head to say but doesn’t know how to get the words out.
A four month old looks right at me and smiles and coos. Sometimes he screeches out loud to get my attention. He doesn’t want me to talk to his mother he wants my total attention.
At six months of age, a baby looks at me with a frown at first. He tries to judge my emotion. If I turn to him and frown, I could make him cry. But I never do that. I know what he is looking for. As I go over to the exam table I smile widely. My little friend responds with a beaming smile and a gurgle.
It gets harder at nine months because at that age they don’t like any smiling faces, they prefer the faces they know and love – mom and dads. But that’s okay with me because as they cry in response to me in the office at nine months of age, I take comfort in knowing they are developing well.
I am so lucky to have a job where every week I get to experience babies. I love to see the changes in their responses to me as they develop.
Watching children develop is such a joy. I never tire of seeing it happen. It is something we should all enjoy and take interest in.
The development in children in the first five years is absolutely fascinating. They start with responding to faces with smiles and coos. They progress to knowing their parent’s faces and preferring those faces to others. They start learning words in order to interact better. They fear strangers yet act like the world is theirs to explore When not getting their way with the world, they start having temper fits. But as language and understanding improve the fits go away and sharing begins. Through sharing and interaction more words and language come. And when learning more about that language a fascinating world of the alphabet, letters and labels becomes awakened. Before we know it, our child is ready for kindergarten.
The first years of our children’s lives are precious because of this amazing development that occurs. Ninety percent of their brain development occurs in those first five years. But they cannot develop alone. This is why we need to pay attention to our children. They need us because they can only develop in these vital years through interaction with us. We need to remember to turn off the distractions – the TV’s, the movies, the computers – and stay in our babies’ faces. By being “in their faces” they develop the skills they need to interact. And by being in our children’s faces we get to witness it all unfold. Parents shouldn’t forget this lesson just because our kids get older. Almost at any age our children can learn from us. In order to do that they need to interact with us. This is what family time should be all about – interacting and watching them grow before our eyes.