Growth

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My husband grew up in northern Missouri farm country. I’ve been. There’s no stoplight in his hometown and more churches than restaurants, shops and gas stations combined. The one grocery store sells as many feet and hooves as it does chips and soda.

But, that’s not what you take with you. Along with the kindness of folks, you remember the rolling pastures as far as the eye can see, where the sun seems to always be setting or rising just over there. And as it does, it casts sweeping shadows on the community’s most pampered citizens – its livestock.

Which brings me to this: a calf, foal, chick, piglet and lamb can, generally speaking, walk within minutes of their births. Out she pops and up she goes, a little wobbly sure, but on the move. And, there stands Mom, grazing and looking on, as if the whole affair was… meh.

Then there’s us. Forrest is five months old now and we’re celebrating that he can grab his toys, sit up and roll over. We’re feeding him real food and half of it ends up down his front. He “holds” his bottle but if unattended for a minute, it falls.

If plopped in the woods and left… let’s just say I don’t think there’s any predator who can be “rolled over” to death.

So how is it that humans survived those early days, when bipedalism distinguished us from the apes, but all of us had predators? Why is it that the most evolutionarily sophisticated species takes longer than any other to mature?

This past week, we vacationed with my parents and when my genius scientist father posed this question, my suggestion was that humans are more emotionally evolved, so our instincts to nurture and protect our babies allow for slower physical growth and development. In other words, we have their backs so they don’t have to fend for themselves. Sweet Dad. His mouth said, “Interesting theory,” but his eyes said, “college shmollege.”

Turns out, researches have only just begun to prove the most accepted theory, and it’s pretty straightforward. That or I’m completely misinterpreting it. But anyway, here goes…

The human brain is so hungry, active and complex that all of the glucose we produce is gobbled up by its development. In these formative years, the brain dominates our metabolism, so the rest of our body is left hungry and can’t develop as quickly. In fact, when we’re four years old and brain growth is at its peak, “…the brain burns through resources at a rate equivalent to 66 percent of what the entire body uses at rest.” Whoa. No wonder 4- year-olds are crazy town; their brains are on fire!

In other animals, glucose is used more proportionately, so the body physically evolves more swiftly.

Pretty awesome, right? And, it helps me understand my wee son a little better. The knowledge buffet is plentiful and open 24 hours, and his brain just keeps returning for more. It’s gotta be overwhelming.

But, it’s probably also why he laughs now when we sing the “OdeyodeyOh” song or when the dogs wrestle. He sees it, hears it, gets it and that sh*t cracks him up.

So, piglets, I guess you can have walking because I wouldn’t trade that laugh for anything.

If you could tweak evolution so that our babies could do one thing immediately after birth, what would it be?  (Sleep does not count because obvs.)

Source: The uber-minds at Northwestern University. Read more here.

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