Touch quality – learning

I haven’t written much about my daughter, or anything at all here, of late. I went back to work half-time, changed schools, and put Johanna in daycare first part-time for the summer so I could finish my course work for the Master’s (among my work for it, the four entries below) and now full-time.

I thought I’d be so thrilled about Johanna’s first discoveries–the way she watched things, the way she grabbed onto stuff. In retrospect, it does stay with me, I do have vivid memories of it. But what’s been positively riveting, has been the diversity of touch quality she’s recently discovered. Last night she systematically popped each of the silicone popsicle wells down (as they are intended to do, when the popsicle is removed) with a spoon. It is not an easy task! You have to put pressure on this bulbous shape at just the right angle. Video here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jayatoronto/15592325545/

Then this morning she revisited the task she tried in the night, between first and second sleep. Plugging the lightning cord into the iPhone. Again, you think it’s simple, it ain’t. You can’t just ram it in there. You have to line up the cord. It can’t be aimed at cross-ways. And holding it midway on the cord won’t work–you have to hold it near the plug to have enough control and pressure. Of course, I said these things, like a fool, but she had to do her own finding. And she did. Yes, I moved her hand to the firm part of the cord a few times, but she found it her own way too. The repetition of tasks is what amazes me. As interesting for her the twentieth time as the first. It may look like repetition to you or I, but she is learning something new each time. Affirming the knowledge, testing it. Failing in new ways–getting better at each turn.

So when I saw this video of cutting a pomegranate to serve, I especially noticed the quality of touch. Slicing only the leathery surface, then dividing the fruit into perfect sections, lining up the cut with the inner segments. Then delicately removing the papery dividers. One has to know a pomegranate well to attempt such a thing. I want these tasks for Johanna. I want her to have many kinaesthetic experiences, to explore with touch and find value in doing so. To know the feeling of a thing is to know it on your skin. Not words, not even sounds (though that plays in it too), but the ability to find it in the dark, to know it inside out, to test it, to bring it to its limit.

The opening scene of “Babies” has an under-two mashing up powder. Slamming a rock into another rock. A precise movement to be sure. Modelled by older sibling. No longer monitored by parent. Safe, because it is so intricately known by the child. I wanted Johanna to have real functional tasks. I do not pound my flour, but we ground up eggshells for the garden in a molcajete. At first she was much more interested in the eggshells themselves, tasted them (they were dried out) and crushed them into the carpet. It will take more repetition to make it automatic, known in that deep way of our everyday gestures. But I don’t want those just to be opening-iPhone, turning-on-laptop, volume-control, fridge. I want them to be old. The gestures that have made sense for more than a hundred years.

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