What do I know about the thoughts of a baby?
Apparently I think I know a lot, because I catch my self acting as our son’s spokesperson all the time.
My dad caught me the first time about three weeks ago, as I was describing the symptoms of the little one’s illness.
“He has a stuffy nose, and a sore throat.”
“How do you know he has a sore throat?” my dad asked.
“Well, his throat sounds scratchy and irritated when he cries…”
I guess I didn’t really know if his throat was sore, I just assumed it was because of the way it sounded. Yet, I have done this numerous times over: he’s hungry, his stomach hurts, he has gas, he enjoys company…
A few days ago, in an effort to stop our son from crying, I cranked up some Michael Jackson music, and started dancing around the living room with him in my arms. It worked! In my moment of triumph, I declared that our son loves Michael Jackson, and being held while one dances around to the Beat It, was his new favorite pastime.
After thinking about it a bit, I realized that we could have played type of music, while dancing, and he would have been fine. This was best exemplified by playing the theme song to The Hawaii 5-O, and moving enthusiastically to the beat as our son stared blankly at my hair. In all likelihood, I probably could have looped some flatulence noises for ten minutes while bouncing up and down and he probably would have been satisfied.
This desire to know what my son is thinking has me yearning for cartoon technology.
I remember there was a Simpsons episode in which Homer’s estranged brother, Herb, invented a baby translator, which, of course, translated a baby’s various sounds into plain english (voiced by Herb, who was played by Danny DeVito). The first test on Maggie goes like this (quote from http://www.snpp.com/episodes/8F23.html):
Lisa: Maggie? Maggie? [covers her eyes]
Translator: [monotone] Where did you go?
Lisa: Peekaboo! [uncovers eyes]
Translator: [monotone] Oh, there you are. Very amusing.
Surprisingly, the cries of our child are becoming somewhat translatable; we can sort-of differentiate between the I’m hungry-cry, and the I’ve got gas-cry (So we presume).
This, of course brings me back to, wondering what is going through my child’s head during his silent moments, and his inconsolable moments. In Pixar’s Up, collars are attached to the dogs of Charles Muntz, which translate the thoughts of all dogs into a variety of languages (with one’s choice of accents, too!).
The translations would be very literal and elaborate, as in the case of Dug, the golden retriever, who explains during his introduction, “My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may speak. Squirrel! [looks to distance for a few seconds]”
A collar like that would be awesome! However, while I may be underestimating our son, I don’t think he would be thinking anything so complex. The monkey in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, with a similar thought translating headband, probably had thoughts that were more in line with my son’s thoughts. The monkey’s translator would mainly articulate singular thoughts that were most central to its focus. Thoughts like: “Yellow!” or, “Gummi bears!” or, my personal favorite, “Muuuuuustaaaaache?”
Maybe babies think about very complex things. Maybe their thoughts are very primal and elementary.
Recently, my partner and I were watching our child staring around at the room quietly; throwing his limbs around every so often. She posed the question to me–the question that I have been ruminating upon for a while–“What do you think he is thinking?”
“Honestly,” I replied, “I think he is shifting his eyes from shape to shape, object to object, face to face, and thinking, ‘What the eff is that? Wait… what the eff is that? Hold on… what the eff is that?!'”
Again, I may be projecting, especially with the choice of language, but it certainly is fun to think about it.