Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Living Hand to Mouth

In the last week, Henry has gone from this:

to this:

Either he's an octopus or his hands move so fast that I can't see them. These are the only two reasonable explanations I can come up with. I grab one thing away from him and there is something else in his mouth in a flash. I hold both his hands down and I swear there is a third hand grabbing a plastic bag and shoving it into his face.

On the plane ride home from Oregon, I needed to somehow hold him securely on my lap, keep the seat buckle away from his mouth and prevent him from gumming the guy in the aisle seat. (Yes sir, today is your lucky day!) Rayne tried to help but we were confined to such a small space that Henry won; he had the most maneuverability. He giggled as we struggled to pin him down.

Feeding has become a game of Operation in which I try to get the spoon in and out of his mouth as quickly as possible without letting anything touch his hands. If he gets a hold of the spoon, the buzzer goes off and I lose: food is everywhere. He grabs the handle of the spoon, shoving it to the back of his throat with a death grip that Darth Vader would envy. He chokes and food spurts out of his mouth.

Or, he grabs the spoon part (the part with the food), which is a more direct route to victory. I try to dodge him. If I fail, his left hand is in the food on the spoon. If I succeed in bypassing his talons, his right hand goes into his food-filled mouth. I take his right hand out of his mouth. He laughs and puts the first hand in back in. I take that one out, too. Now I'm holding the spoon in one hand and both his hands in my other. I quickly shovel a spoonful in and his face plunges toward my hand, filling the crevices of my wedding ring with a mouthful of sweet potato-corn-apple puree.

Henry thinks this is all a fabulous game designed to entertain him. He laughs mischievously whenever he manages to get his hand in a mouth full of food. No wait, I say, tugging at his hand, but I'm laughing too, because he's so damn cute and I can't believe that I can't manage to control this little 16-pound octopus. Then he laughs more, because I'm laughing. Then he puts his hand in his mouth again, because it makes me laugh. Moo Cow, I imagine him saying, this is a fun game, let's play again!

Now I need to change him. He grabs the new diaper with one hand. I take it away while trying to prevent him from rolling over. He goes for the Purell. I move it away and pull off his dirty diaper with one hand. I hold his feet up in the air and he grabs his naked little crotch (seriously? already?) while I'm wiping his bum. I let go of his feet to grab his hand but then he puts his feet in the dirty diaper. I let go of his hand to grab his feet and he stuffs the new diaper in his mouth.

How is this behavior adaptive? How did humans survive the test of time putting everything into their mouths? I know, let's take the youngest, smallest, weakest, most immune-deficient member of our species, and have them shove everything in sight right into their mouths. It just doesn't seem evolutionarily appropriate.

But isn't it? my friend responded this morning as I pried Henry's mouth off the front of the baby swing in a public playground. (Gross.) Mouthing probably weeded out the weakest links, she reasoned; only the strongest survived to pass down their genes.

That makes sense, I suppose. In any case, I'm now covered in sweet potatoes, oatmeal from this morning and half a glass of orange juice that Henry knocked over at breakfast. Thanks a lot, evolution.