A Visit with My Granddaughter, Some Thoughts on Infancy

A Visit with My Granddaughter, 
Some Thoughts on Infancy


My wife and I just concluded an incredibly wonderful and moving visit with our son, daughter-in-law, and 8 month old grand-daughter, all visiting from Hong Kong!

As nearly everyone would agree, children are astounding.   They bring such amazing powers of optimism, youth, newness into our world, and much. much more.    I have been incredibly blessed to live in the midst of childhood all my life.   Our work grants us the incredible gift each of you grant us, the gift of trusting us with helping you care for your child.

The experience of grandparenting introduces a new perspective, an additional level of amazement with childhood, in addition to that we relish from parenting and being a pediatrician.

As a friend who recently became a grandparent observed, when you are a parent, you are very excited about the next step your child is about to take, their is a bit of urgency in wondering how they will turn out.   But as a grandparent, you are less concerned about next steps, and you take a special pleasure in simply immersing yourself in the moment.

And so it is with this in mind that my wife and I immersed ourselves in Evie's later infancy.  We have an incredible set of days together, and we both truly got to feel the power of this stage of life.  Together with the richness of sharing this stage of later infancy with many of you, these experiences inspired some thoughts about infancy.

The main thing that impressed me about infancy this time was its mystery.  No newborn speaks in words.  Emotions that seem very familiar to us- happiness, sadness, rage, frustration- are clearly in evidence from day one, but the actual nature of the thoughts behind the feelings is mysterious, since no young infant speaks.  Further, it seems that if they could, we would likely be very surprised at how different their thoughts are from ours.  Again, since no one that age has spoken, we don't know how their thinking would be different, but it certainly appears to be different.

The very word infant emphasizes the non-verbal nature of their world.  Infant literally means, cannot speak (in- Latin for not, and -fant comes from a Latin word meaning speak).

So this is a world of non-verbal connections and communications.

The other aspect of infancy that is so distinctive and powerful is that many infants, though not all, love to be held, cuddled, to be close physically with those they care for and love.  It is nearly impossible to feed an infant (by breast or bottle) without holding them.   Most love to be rocked to sleep, or held during the day.  We don't really have this sort of contact with older children.  Having that much contact with an older child is even called "babying" them.   So being a baby means lots of contact, which is a unique hallmark of this stage of life, but one that endures in tender moments all our lives.

One more thought to share has to do with personality.  I find personality profoundly interesting.  We all know that each person we know has a particular way about them, a flavor, a style, a personality, that endures across a lifetime.  We can see it emerge soon after birth, and we see it stay steady over many years and decades.  Even after not seeing someone for many, many years, it is always remarkable how very much the person remains the same person no matter what troubles and time have occurred.

We see the power of personality, really of being human, in infancy, in full force.  Those of us with several children always remark on the power of how each child's personality is very different, and how those differences are evident at birth.

Our time with our granddaughter brought the power of personality to our attention in full force.  As our granddaughter and given the extensive time we had together, we had the great pleasure of truly connecting to this young 8 month old girl.  She turns out to be a very happy baby, beaming a smile and curiosity nearly all day long, in a very individual way.   What came to mind in enjoying our time together is what it takes for someone to sustain a positive outlook.  This infant gets hungry, she gets dirty diapers, during this trip she was exposed to a huge number of new people, she experienced jet lag, her routines were disrupted, and yet she time and again found a way to return to her style, a happy outlook.    We were able to directly observe stresses occurring, and her mind and system's work to maintain her stance.  

And what we saw is present in all infants, but our close look with our granddaughter made this aspect of being human so powerful and dramatic.   It is truly remarkable that each of us walk around, with all that happens to us at any moment, in any day, across time, and maintain our equilibrium, remain who we are.  And in the moments of infancy, before speech can cover our tracks at all, this power of steadying, of creating a stance, of being who we are is truly spectacular.   What an accomplishment our mind achieves all the time!

Bottom Line
This may turn out to be simply another gush from a proud grandparent, and in many ways it is.  But also I hoped to share some observations, some experiences that are so moving when spending time with our infant granddaughter.  They include:

  • The wonder of personality, how the mind creates it and sustains it no matter what happens over such long times
  • The centrality of touch in infancy, an age of being held
  • The non-verbal nature of infancy, a stage of life that literally means cannot speak
  • And, ultimately, the wonderful mystery of infancy.
And no discussion of infancy would be complete without mentioning how powerful love is.  How we all yearn to connect and how having a baby in the family brings everyone together. 

We are very grateful for being in the world of children and families, including ours!

To your health,
Dr. Lavin

*Disclaimer* The comments contained in this electronic source of information do not constitute and are not designed to imply that they constitute any form of individual medical advice. The information provided is purely for informational purposes only and not relevant to any person's particular medical condition or situation. If you have any medical concerns about yourself or your family please contact your physician immediately. In order to provide our patients the best uninfluenced information that science has to offer,we do not accept samples of drugs, advertising tchotchkes, money, food, or any item from outside vendors.

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