Monday, March 23, 2009
"Finding Our Tongues" by Dean Falk
I've been reading "Finding our Tongues: Mothers, Infants & The Origins of Language" by Dean Falk. I've encountered the "putting the baby down" theory a few other times. In summary, our ancestors lost the ability to grasp and hang on to their mothers as mothers swung from trees and gathered food in the forest. Primates rarely vocalize to infants because the infant is usually attached. However, if the infant is dislodged or left then the infant cries and the mother returns to pick the infant up. Anthropologists' studies of hunter and gatherer societies (what few there are left), found mothers used slings to keep infants attached and that when they had to "put the baby down" they would have to reassure the baby and how was this done? That's right, singing, vocal soothing melodies that say, "I'm here and you are OK." Falk believes that these melodic vocalizations led to the first baby talk. And that first baby talk/sing played a crucial prehistoric role in "kindling the first sparks of language." Motherese or these melodic vocalizations are found across all cultures and are the first steps in language acquisition.
There's more, but why am I writing this here?
1. I miss singing to Caitlin, holding her and singing. It didn't matter if she was sleeping or awake, I sang whenever I could. I left a digital recording of her songs so she would know I was there when I wasn't. I sang her to heaven when she passed, I didn't sing for a very long time after she died. I sing at her grave sometimes or play her songs and think, "Do you hear me? Do you know that even in death I am here with you?" I guess most view the dead singing/saying to those left behind, "I am here with you, I'll never leave." But, I'm more worried about Caitlin knowing that I am with HER.
2. It breaks my heart that some adults view "baby talk' and "singing lullabies" as not needed, or they are embarrassed or believe they are "tone-deaf," or they just don't know that that fabulous CD by the latest children's star is not what your baby needs. Your baby needs YOUR voice, your love, and your interaction. Please, sing. Our children need to know that we are here and they are OK. Your voice performs the amazing feat of taking the intangible (love) and making it tangible (real physical vibrations that move through air).