As I ate a banana one day, Zane looked at it intently, tensed his arms and made a panicky groaning noise, actions we’ve come to associate with Zane wanting something (mostly food). We hadn’t given him any banana before so I gave him a nibble to see if he liked it. He more than liked it: I never actually got to have any more of that banana! He never relinquished it, and he hungrily devoured it as though he had never tasted anything so marvellous before and that it was the last one he would ever have. I fetched myself another, took a bite, and again Zane looked as though he might explode. I gave him more, which resulted in him simply eating the rest. This was repeated yet again, after which I gave up. From three bananas, I had managed four bites; Zane had eaten the rest.
Since then he has been nuts about bananas, often impatiently gulping two in one sitting. We timed him once: he ate a banana in four minutes. I must check the Babies Banana Consumption section of Guinness Book of Records to see how he compares. And not only does he like to eat the bendy yellow fruit, he loves playing with the remnants. He’ll attempt rudimentary flight with the floppy banana skins, holding one in each hand and wildly flapping them up and down, looking at us joyfully, on a banana high, as though he fully expects lift-off at any moment.
Zane’s banana-eating ability captures attention. The sight of a baby ably holding a banana and consuming it at speed surprises strangers who – I guess – expect someone his age being spoon-fed baby puree. We were on a busy ferry and Zane entertained an amazed audience of fellow passengers who simply could not take their eyes of him as he systematically demolished the fruit. People craned their necks to see the little man in action, and then nudged their friends to take a look. The eyebrows of our captive audience raised further when I took out a second banana, peeled it (perhaps a little theatrically) and gave it to Zane.
Talented and nosey
Zane is getting clever. Handling food is becoming easy for him, so much so that he can multi-task. For example, he can hold food in each hand with his left steadily pushing it into his mouth, while the right gently rotates back and forth as he studies the food item from all angles. At one point he exceeded himself and managed to do three things at once as Jas held him: while he was (1) eating a grape, he had the additional coordination capacity to (2) give her a hug, pulling her face close to his. Unfortunately for Jas, whilst hugging and munching on a grape, he (3) sneezed heavily in Jas’ face. I wish I had videoed the spectacle – it would have provided me with hours of entertainment. Jas didn’t quite agree.
Our boy has a strong need to know what is going on about him. During his morning breastfeed I really have to sit down and do absolutely nothing. If I am busying about doing anything vaguely interesting like putting the kettle on, putting some dishes away or – most importantly of all – preparing his next breakfast course, he’ll de-latch from the boob and watch me. And he won’t bother sitting up to review my actions: he’ll simply stop feeding, throw his head back so his body is arched and he is looking at me upside-down, with one hand on the breast to prevent it from going anywhere. He’ll stay in that position until he is happy with what I am doing, or until I look at him to acknowledge that my every move is being studied. Then he’ll pull himself up and resume his feed.
We try to get out and about with Zane as much as we can: he loves seeing new scenes and new people. In much the same way as a dog might get madly excited at the sound of its leash being taken off the hook by the door in readiness for a walk in the park, Zane literally vibrates with excitement when he sees me donning the baby carrier, and he makes it difficult to secure him in it as his legs thrash about like a fish out of water. Once he is installed in the carrier (facing outwards), and once we are outside, his eyes hungrily take in everything about him as though he’ll be given an observation test upon our return. And the legs keep kicking.
Any outdoor sojourn longer than a five minutes, however, requires extensive planning and packing. Preparing for an afternoon hike is equivalent to embarking on an ascent on Everest, packing enough supplies and equipment that will meet every potential eventuality, every change in weather, every pang of hunger, and requiring a Sherpa and a couple of mules to lug our luggage for us. One day we went out for an afternoon hike, and our packed food consisted of two sandwiches, two bananas, an apple, a bunch of grapes, an egg, some chicken, some cheese and a few rusks. The sandwiches were for Jas and I; the rest was for Zane.
As Zane cannot communicate with words, it is interesting to see how he gets his message across, or expresses his emotions, using his body.
Ever since he was tiny Zane rotated his feet, occasionally rolling his ankles in a relaxed fashion to – I guess – exercise the lower extremities of his body. He now does it when he gets excited about something (normally the prospect of a meal being served) and his hands also join in. When he spies the approach of a plate of food his body tenses, the eyes bulge, his arms and legs extend out straight in front of him and his hands and feet spin at high speed; it’s as though each of his limbs turned into a propeller and the motor has fired into life creating a whirling blur.
As much as Zane likes to eat, we know when he has enough. Most humans merely stop eating when they are done. If Zane were to simply cease imitating a front-end loader when he has a bowl of food in front of him, it would be enough to indicate to us that he is full. But no: he likes to pick up his bowl (normally still containing food remnants), hold it aloft like a champion’s trophy and then turn it upside down, emptying it of all its contents. If he is sitting on a table-top, the scattering of food on the table all around him prompts him to kick his legs about like a pair of possessed windscreen wipers. Unlike windscreen wipers, however, he makes the situation worse and he squashes and spreads the food around even more, creating angel-wing shapes with it. Most of his actions are learned from copying me or Jas, but these dinner distribution actions must have come to him in some food-filled dream.
When adults tire they generally slow down, their energy depleting until it is time to recharge and go to sleep. Why do little ones go crazy and act drunk when they are exhausted? If Zane could walk he would be dangerous when he is fatigued. As Zane becomes overtired he becomes hyperactive and starts flapping his arms and legs frantically as though he is trying to propel himself along the bed on his back. The kicking and flapping speeds up until his limbs become a blur; any toy that is in his hand at the time shakes so much that it starts to fall apart. Faster and faster he’ll flap, his bed shaking and the walls vibrating, and just at the point where the sheets start to smoke from the friction, he’ll suddenly stop, as if he’d just blown a fuse, and he’ll be instantly and peacefully asleep.
The Invisible Parent
Zane is incredibly popular. Wherever we go, people stop and smile and say how cute he is, and maybe tickle his feet. Strangers even ask to take photos of him! Many have the interesting habit of talking to him without even acknowledging Jas or I - the parent who happens to be attached to him at the time of the meeting. They’ll smile at Zane as though he is the only person within eyesight and the first question is nearly always “How old are you, then?” to which Jas or I will say “Seven months”. Still they ogle at our boy: to them, Zane is a skilled ventriloquist operating a large and uninteresting puppet (Jas/me), as they continue to ask Zane his name, where he is from and where he has been.