Sunday, June 22, 2008

An infant's surrender

When Sonny slips into really deep sleep, we can always tell: Both arms swivel upwards, so that he looks like a soldier surrendering to an enemy. The limbs then lock into position so that, if we pick him up, his arms jut skywards as though flash-frozen.

At first, we figured this was a characteristic unique to Sonny (we're always deluding ourselves this way, as reported in an earlier post). But his grandmother soon set us to rights: "Most small babies sleep this way," she revealed.

And there's rather a pleasant bit of symbolism to that fact. It may be true that just about every human is born with the potential to be a fully-contributing member of society. Nevertheless, for at least the first few years of his life, he is completely helpless. The infant literally surrenders or hands over control of every facet of his life to someone else - the parent or some other caregiver. Sonny's deep-in-sleep 'Kamarad!' enacts his continuing abandonment of any vestige of self-determination, even though we now think of the child as still retaining certain rights - such as the right not to be abused, deprived of education and so forth.

And there's the twist, of course. For once you remember that the baby is still considered 'protected property', it become less clear who is surrendering to whom. For we parents do a heck of a lot of surrendering too, once a child is visited upon us. Our freedom of action, planning requirements and long-term perspectives are all subjugated to the need to care for the little one. His welfare and happiness are taken as prior to our own. Admittedly, there's no reason why such 'giving up' shouldn't be a joyful affair.

But 'giving up' it still is.


Mumsgather said...

My babies used to sleep in this pose too. We call it the "surrender sleep". Now, they sleep in frog pose and like a frog they are all over the bed too!

Cloudsters said...

Frog? Wow, having some trouble visualising your children hoppin' about in their sleep...

Sydney said...

my little guy slept like this until his arms got long enough to tuck behind his head. then he just looked like he was really relaxed.
The frog pose is now his favorite too. Legs tucked underneath, butt in the air, head off to one side.
Thanks for stopping by my blog! I hope you'll come back!

Cloudsters said...

Thanks for dropping by, Sydney - and explaining what the frog pose is. Think our Sonny has adopted it a time or two already.