Crawling and Calling

Mayuki has started crawling. Her first definite crawl was the day before yesterday, so she’s still not very quick, but she can definitely move in a clear direction, to get to the phone so that she can play with it. She really likes our phone. It beeps when you press the buttons, and if you press the right buttons, it talks to you. Yesterday, she managed to call the automated weather forecast. Not quite sure how she managed that, but it was her first phone call.

Talking of calling, she called me yesterday as well. She was playing in the living room, while I was working in my office. The office door wasn’t quite closed all the way, and Mayuki crawled to a point where she could see me.

She then called out “Dada”, two or three times, and crawled towards the door, trying to push it open when she got there.

She only says “mamamama” when she’s crying and wants something.

Of course, before I get too confident that she likes me better, we have to consider bedtime. Last night, as soon as I picked her up, wearing my pyjamas, she started screaming and crying, and strying to push herself away from me, with her arms and legs both pushing hard against my chest. When I put her sitting on the bed, she started trying to crawl off it, but didn’t stop crying. In the end, I had to take her to Yuriko, whereupon she promptly went quiet, and then fell asleep while being fed.

We can only conclude that Mayuki prefers Mummy and Daddy at different times.

The Mirror Neuron Trick

As usual on Mondays, I was looking after Mayuki today while Yuriko went to her kimono class. We went for a walk in the morning to look at the Hydrangea Temple (very pretty), and then played a bit and looked at books. Around 3:30, Mayuki got sleepy, so I got her off to sleep and put her in her bouncer. From that point, I wanted her to sleep for as long as possible, so that I could read. Er, and because it’s good for her.

To do this, I used the mirror neuron trick. Every time she started to wake up, opening her eyes and starting to complain, I looked towards her, and closed my eyes and dropped my head, as if I were falling asleep. Occasionally I needed to do this a couple of times, but it kept her asleep for two hours.

Human brains contain mirror neurons, which are active in babies from a very early age. They dispose you towards imitating actions you see, priming the muscles to act in the same way. (Recent research suggests it may be a bit more complex than that, but in most cases that’s what they seem to do.) Thus, when Mayuki sees me close my eyes and my head droop, her brain is primed to close her own eyes and relax her own neck.

A second well-established neurological effect is that if you do the actions associated with an emotion, it biases you towards that emotion. Smiling makes you more likely to be happy, for example. Thus, closing your eyes and nodding off makes you sleepy.

Now, these are only biases, not compulsions; the trick doesn’t work when Mayuki isn’t really tired anymore, or if she’s woken up all the way. However, if I’m sitting with line of sight to her, and paying attention, I can catch her early enough, and push her brain into the “go back to sleep” state, rather than the “wake up and pester Daddy” state.

Does it actually work? Well, I kept her asleep for two hours today, and I’ve done it before, the same way. If she’s out of my line of sight so I can’t do it, she rarely sleeps that long during the day these days. The experimental data suggest that it should work. However, real situations are complex. Maybe it’s something else. Waking up and seeing Daddy ought to make her feel secure, and thus more likely to sleep. Logically, however, seeing Daddy apparently fall asleep should make her nervous; no-one’s keeping watch.

So, does ruthlessly manipulating her neurophysiology make me a bad parent?


On Monday evening, I went with Yuriko and Mayuki to see the fireflies.

Fireflies are fairly common in Japan, and children going to watch them over a river on a summer evening is a standard image of childhood. It’s probably something like the eating ice cream and drinking ginger beer image of British childhood, in that the number of children who’ve done it in the last fifty years is probably quite limited. Nevertheless, there is a little river within easy walking distance of our home where we can see fireflies.

Admittedly, we saw a grand total of three. We may have been a little bit too late, or possibly being in the middle of the Tokyo sprawl limits them. Still, it was the first time I’d seen them. They were a lot brighter, and a lot bluer, than I’d expected. I’d expected a greenish light, but they looked more bluish, and they were really bright and noticeable as they flashed. We pointed them out to Mayuki, but I’m not sure whether she really noticed them. I did, though, and I hope we can be organised enough to go back next year.

Fathers’ Day

Yesterday was Fathers’ Day, and the first one since I became a father. So I received a big “card” in a frame; essentially a single scrapbooked page with pictures of me and Mayuki on. It’s very nice, although I gather that Mayuki herself did not have much to do with the construction. Maybe next year.

In the afternoon I went to the Kawasaki Representative Assembly for Foreign Residents to observe, but left early so that I could get back to go out for dinner in the evening. We went to the tonkatsu restaurant near our flat, and it was very nice. What’s more, Mayuki was a very good girl, playing quietly all through the meal, so that we could both eat and enjoy it.

Family life is great, isn’t it.

All Fine Here

There’s been another big earthquake in Japan, but it was a long way from here. We think it did have an effect here, though; it made our living room light swing a bit. So we’re fine, but there is likely to be quite a bit of damage in Tohoku, as the quake is estimated to have been magnitude seven. (This is why it made our light swing despite being a long way away.)

Since I’m writing, a quick update on Mayuki. She’s fine, and still lively and happy. She now likes standing up in her bath and banging on the sides of the bathtub, and really doesn’t like me washing her face. That’s odd, because a couple of months ago she really liked it. She likes playing with her picture books, and turns the pages all by herself. Of course, she also holds the book upside-down and turns the pages the wrong way, but you can’t have everything. Bringing her up with books is a good way to start.

She’s also mimicking our actions more obviously. She’s started waving goodbye from time to time, and when we put our hands together to say “itadakimasu” before eating, she does, too. With a bit of clapping added, but she is quite clearly imitating us.

She’s still not crawling, but she’s very close, and can actually move herself around a bit. She’s getting quite good at pulling herself up to a standing position, and walks if you hold her hands and guide her.

In short, everything seems to be well within the normal range.

Well, apart from the fact that she is far and away the cutest and cleverest baby the world has ever seen, of course.

Passport Photos

We’re going to the UK this summer, so we need to sort out passports. I renewed mine back in February, because it expired in May, and at that point picked up the forms and instructions to get Mayuki’s UK passport. Most of it was easy, relying on documents we already had around. We just had to get the photos.

Now, Mayuki is actually comparatively easy to photograph. She likes cameras, and looks at them quite a bit. Doing it in a booth would be difficult, but getting them taken at a studio should be straightforward.

The first time Yuriko went, she just got them taken according to Japanese rules. With a blue background. Fine in Japan, but no good for the UK.

The second time, she looked at the UK rules, but didn’t take them with her, and so missed the fact that there must be nothing printed on the back of the photos, not even the name of the photo paper manufacturer. Another useless set.

The third time, she took the rules with her, went over them carefully with the photographer, and got a set that looked fine. I had my university professor student endorse the back, and, this morning, went to the British Embassy website to check on the current yen price for a passport.

They’ve changed the rules for photographs. White backgrounds are now unacceptable. We have to get another set taken.

At this rate, she’ll be going to the UK on her Japanese passport (which was no problem, incidentally, and is just waiting to be picked up).

We’re Back

We’re back. You may not have noticed that we were away…

One of Yuriko’s friends was getting married in a nice area of Japan (Yamanashi/Nagano, the mountains west of Tokyo), so we took the opportunity to stay a bit longer and have a short holiday. Overall, it was a big success, but I don’t have time to write a diary entry about it right now. I’ll do one in a few days, though.