Monday, October 25, 2010

Boneless Baby

We’ve all seen the phenomenon: A perfectly healthy, normal baby is picked up by a parent or other adult and suddenly, without warning, the child’s bones seem to, well, evaporate. The child’s body melts and slips through the parent’s hands like unset jello. There are no longer shoulders to hook one’s hands under. There is no ribcage to be clasped. There are no hipbones to grab onto, no tailbone to tuck an arm underneath. The child’s entire body becomes structureless and slides effortlessly to the floor, which is where the child prefers to be. Every child seems to discover this miraculous ability in his first year or two of life. And he learns very quickly to use it to his advantage.

Ryan is no exception. He has mastered the art of dissolving his own skeleton instantaneously in order to avoid being picked up or put down. It’s like his own little superpower. And he has even learned to improve upon it by adding his own twist: the back arch. He goes from being a melted puddle to hurling his head backwards, arching his back, and locking his legs. The combination of the two moves makes it nearly impossible to move him from where he is to somewhere he doesn’t want to be. There’s not much of a choice other than to wait him out. He’s heavy enough that lifting the puddle of dead weight is nearly impossible, and he’s strong enough that sudden arch can rocket him out of my arms. Plus, the unexpected transition from molten lump to heavy, stiff board is enough to lose any tenuous grip I might have had.

So far I’ve managed to avoid dropping him on his head when he pulls this maneuver, at least from any significant height. The trickiest variation is when he pulls it off while I’m carrying him up or down stairs. I’ve honed my reflexes to the point that I can kneel on the stairs and catch him in my lap (barely) before he hits the ground, but one of these days I’m sure I won’t be quite quick enough. Fortunately, he’s getting to the point now where he’s beginning to recognize that when he does certain things, he hurts himself and probably shouldn’t do that again. So I’m hoping that one (gentle) fall on his head will cure him of pulling this stunt, at least in dangerous places like on the stairs.

Of course, by then he’ll probably have discovered something else dangerous but entertaining. And I have no doubt that this is just the beginning. When he’s a teenager, I’ll probably look back fondly on the toddler years and wish all I had to deal with was the possibility of him cracking his head open falling down the stairs, and not the possibility of him cracking his head open while riding a skateboard, or a motorcycle, or whatever other crazy and dangerous motorized vehicle has been invented by then. It’s a good thing I already color my hair – I don’t think I want to know how much more grey he’ll be causing me over the years.

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