The moment I walked into the hospital to meet my new grandson my daughter-in-law generously asked,
"Would you like to hold him?"
"Oh my, YES!"
I marveled at her generosity, and spent the next 11 days of "Grandma Leave" just staring and cuddling and singing to this beautiful 7 pound 6 ounce bundle-of-wonder who mostly slept, ate, peed & pooped. The world's smartest, best baby, ever!
Yes, it's really possible to spend an entire day doing nothing more than staring at a newborn baby. And shopping and cooking for the new mom & dad.
Who knew that all of this behavior was genetically programmed--part of our evolutionary inheritance? Grandparents are programmed to be nearby new grandchildren--which explains why it is now so difficult to be 500 miles away.
All of this crazy behavior was made perfectly understandable to me when I read: Cute, Cooing Babies: The Key to Understanding Social Behavior? by Natalie Angier, in the New York Times, March 4, 2009.
It's a fascinating synopsis of Dr. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's new book, "Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding". Babies are at the heart of what it means to be human!
"Through its ability to solicit and secure the attentive care not just of its mother but of many others in its sensory purview, a baby promotes many of the behaviors and emotions that we prize in ourselves and that often distinguish us from other animals, including a willingness to share, to cooperate with strangers, to relax one's guard, uncurl one's lip and widen one's pronoun circle beyond the stifling confines of me, myself and mine."
"Human beings evolved as cooperative breeders, says Hrdy, a reproductive strategy in which mothers are assisted by as-if mothers, or "allomothers," individuals of either sex who help care for and feed the young."
"Our capacity to cooperate in groups, to empathize with others and to wonder what others are thinking and feeling - all these traits, Hrdy argues, probably arose in response to the selective pressures of being in a cooperatively breeding social group, and the need to trust and rely on others and be deemed trustworthy and reliable in turn."
"Babies became adorable and keen to make connections with every passing adult gaze. Mothers became willing to play pass the baby."
"By contrast, (to apes or chimpanzees) human mothers in virtually every culture studied allow others to hold their babies from birth onward, to a greater or lesser extent depending on tradition."
"New studies have also shown the importance of postmenopausal women to gathering roots and tubers, the sort of unsexy foods that just may help feed the kids in hard times." (That would be me, gathering "tubers" at Trader Joe's, Costco & the A & P, and cooking them up over the "campfire" in the Bronx.)
"Other anthropologists have made the startling discovery that children have entertainment value, and that among traditional cultures without television or Internet access, a bobble-headed baby is the best show in town." (Which is exactly what we did. Who needs internet, newspapers or TV when there's a baby in the house?)
And "it takes a village to raise a grandma"! Huge thanks and hugs and kisses to my wonderful NY friends (B & B) who went above & beyond with their gracious hospitality--providing room & board & directions & support & shuttle service; to my husband, my son(s), my daughter-in-law, my sis, my sis-in-law, the in-law-grandparents, my friends, my co-workers, my relatives, my kids' friends, their colleagues & their community, and Katie for her amazing Friday night dinner. Thanks for sharing the joy!