Posted by: dave | July 21, 2014

These 10 things Otis does at 10 months will restore your faith in humanity


This blog is, as much as anything else, a diary for Kate and I to remember the cute stuff our kids did as they grew up. And I haven’t posted properly for a while, even as Otis has been changing so fast. So, with a nod to viral online media writing style, here is my top 10 facts about the boy.

1. He talks a lot but his conversation is mostly mute:
Alone in his cot, and when he’s preoccupied by working something out, he often babbles long sequences of consonant drills: “bababababa-jabjabjabjab-blahblahblah”. But if he really wants to converse, to communicate, he looks up, sticks out his tongue a bit, and turns on a massive shining smile.

2. He definitely knows “mama”, not sure about “dada”:
I know that he knows what he’s talking about with “mama”, because he mostly says it when he’s missing Kate. If I’m trying to bottle-feed him when he wants a breastfeed (though we’ve more or less stopped those now), it’s “mamamama”. If I’m changing him and he thinks someone else would do it better, “mamamama”. When she’s around, this doesn’t need to be said, except perhaps when he’s first cuddling her. It’s really his first verbal request. He says “dadada” too, but I suspect just because he likes how the consonants feel in his mouth.

3. He is an incorrigible wriggler:
I never knew changing a nappy could be such a big deal! You wouldn’t know it to look at her spinning round like a top now, but Anya was a bit late to crawl and distinctly late to roll over. Otis was early to do both and is trying to make the most of his new skills.
This tendency really makes itself felt when you’re trying to remove and clean up a nappy full of stink while simultaneously keeping his feet out of it and stopping him crawling away. He cranes to look back behind his head and then twists and wriggles to try to get himself on all fours and heading off on a mission, all before I’ve even wiped him off. Less traumatically, he’ll often get bored on a lap and twist his way off to go exploring. He’s a Baby Houdini and he doesn’t like to be constrained.

4. Crawling is my life:
He’s been doing this for several months now, I think, heading everywhere at high speed with a strange vigorous gait which involves propellering his arms and slapping them to the floor like he’s some sort of clockwork toy. The house is baby-gated now, which is a good thing as he can cover great distances at high speed. Stairs are fine going up but he is yet to work out how to go down. As with Anya, the holdup there is cognitive, not physical: he is still hardwired to move towards what’s in front of him. If you turn him round so he can crawl down backwards, he doesn’t engage reverse gear; instead, he just heads back up to look at this new thing you’ve put in front of him.

5. Stand! There’s a midget standing tall:
Standing is hard but he’s been working on it since he was almost newborn. He loves nothing more than to slap-crawl over to a baby gate, pull himself up it, and shake it like a prisoner. In his bedroom, he grabs his fireplace grate and stands in a sort of motorbike-rider’s squat, rocking like he’s trying to pull it out of the wall. He’s very confident standing with one hand for support, and Kate has seen him totter unsupported for a few seconds. Getting to actual standing will take a bit longer.

6. Rummaging gives meaning to the world:
Put Otis down on the carpet and within a few moments he will have crawled his way over to the nearest Thing Containing Things. It can be a wardrobe, a cupboard, a toybox. He will then proceed to remove everything inside and strew it everywhere. He gets quite determined about this and often finds it far more interesting than sitting on a lap being cooed at — which, let’s face it, he’s had to endure more or less non-stop for 10 months. Put him down in his bedroom and he’ll be going through the toys in the box bit at the bottom of his bookshelf, like a particularly enthusiastic discount shopper at the bargain bin. Then he heads to his wardrobe, pulls all his bedtime onesies off the lower shelf, and starts slamming the bottom drawer open and closed.

7. Strong flavours
Anya is in the process of refining and defining her eating habits in the same slightly fussy way I did when I was a kid. She digs fresh, vibrant flavours: raw capsicums, tomatoes, carrots, fruit, sharp yoghurt, chicken and beef.
Otis couldn’t be more different: the coq au vin that I had to serve to Anya as cut up chicken breasts (the cooked veges replaced with her usual crudites), he just wolfed down ground up as mush. And we’ve had to buy a different, more mellow yoghurt to suit him.
Where Anya seems to take her gustatory aesthetic from Japanese dishes — a few ingredients, artfully arranged — his style is more like the sort of Indian cooking that has 15 ingredients in the curry paste.
I don’t know if this will last, or if it’s simply an infant-food thing. I seem to remember Anya was OK with mixed-up flavours at that age. But I’m already racking my brain thinking of meals that can appeal to both palates, just in case.

8. Baths are for splashing:
He loves them. Anya, again like me, was never a big fan of the water. We’ve worked out a way to wash her hair now without getting water in her ears and eyes, but it’s still a bit of a struggle at bathtime. For Otis, on the other hand, it’s a party.
Sit him in a bath and he’ll splash-splash away quite happily, crawl a bit, and even tolerate you playing the game that’s meant to acclimatise kids to water: counting “One, Two, Three, Whee!” and squeezing a flannel on his forehead so the water runs down his face.
This makes him laugh. It made poor Anya cry.

9. Books
Like his sister, he’s already a lover of books. This is most useful at bedtime, when he’s generally getting a bit tetchy. Putting on a night nappy is a struggle, he grumbles as you button on his onesie, and crawls disconsolate about the floor as you get his bed ready; but stick him on your lap and pull out a book and the roiling tension in him smooths to silence; a smile spreads across his face as he tries to touch the picture or turn the pages.
His favourite books are board books, which are the only ones that can survive their encounter with him. “That’s Not My Puppy” has pictures of dogs with coats, ears and paws in textured PVC and fake fur; “Baby Boo”, a hand-me-down from cousin Jonathan and Tina, with pictures of friendly baby faces; a Slinky Malinki book where the titular cat awakes the family for his own nefarious reasons. They make him blissfully happy.

10. Laughter
Anya is a laugher; Otis is a smiler. Her laugh comes quickly, and forcefully, for the least reason; his only comes when he’s reached the very peak of amusement. There’s a tummy-tickling-and-swinging-in-the-air move I have that invariably produces a laugh; Anya made him crack up repeatedly today by shuffling towards him with a funny expression on her face. But it’s not easy to raise a laugh out of him.
That’s not to say he’s somber. Quite the opposite. He’s always looking at things, catching people’s eyes and giving them the most engaging, sparkling smiles; often opening his mouth and letting the tip of his tongue hang a little over his teeth as he does so. If you’re in a room with ceiling lights, tip him back and he will beam right back at them, for some reason delighted to be living in a world that has electric lighting.
I don’t know if this reflects different approaches to the world. Is Anya’s laughter an expression of an ironic outlook on life, an amusement at follies and a delight in the comedy of existence? Does Otis’s open, placid smiling show a more straightforward embrace of the beauty and delights around him? Parents who try to “work out” their kids will almost always get it wrong. But it’s hard not to think so.


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