A Father’s Wisdom: How Performing For My Baby Accelerated His Development — and Taught Him About Resilience Too

Photo credit: Mitchell Trinka

When my son was born last July, I doted on him like most first-time parents. He could do no wrong – well, he couldn’t do much except eat and sleep, to be honest. But as he became more aware of the world, my love for him was quickly overshadowed by my desire to see him hit developmental milestones.

When would he laugh? When would he move an object from one hand to the other?

I decided the only way for him to learn what he was capable of was to teach him through performance. By acting out the motions in front of him, he’d surely pick up the skill quicker — and it proved to work. As I shook a small rattle and moved it from hand to hand, he’d watch my every move. Then, I handed off the rattle and he was on his way trying to make it jangle.

Months later, Christmas rolled around. It was cacophonous — a sensory overload of lights and sounds coming from piles of pristine toys.

When we got around to opening a new toy, he’d look it all over, trying to quickly take in all the subtle curves and colors. But his excitement would quickly fade as he struggled to understand how to play with it. That is, until I began toying around.

I slowly pushed buttons and cranked levers, talking through what I was doing until I got the plaything to work. Then his entire demeanor would change — what was passing fancy grew into engrossed scrutiny. He wanted to do whatever he could to get the same result as me and would tinker around until it happened.

He now looks to me whenever I start playing, quietly watching my hands as I explain what I’m doing. When he’s ready, I pass off whatever I’ve got and he picks up where I left off.

Seeing his passion to work hard, I’ve worked with him on new skills until he can do them deftly — from the simple opening and closing of books and boxes, or using a switch to turn on a toy, to modeling American Sign Language phrases that help him communicate with his mother and me.

Image courtesy Dr. Michael Fetters

After each plateau, we’re on to the next thing. We’re never not learning, and it’s amazing.

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