If my daughter is indecisive, she can blame it on me. Unless she considers blaming it on someone else.

While my difficulties run from choosing a sandwich from the menu (what if I get the reuben then wish I’d gotten the falafel?) to what to read all the way up to bigger decisions, babies, it seems, have it easy: what is there to decide? They don’t dress themselves, they don’t choose what they get to eat, they don’t really get to direct their activities, either. And so, it seems, babies have few decisions to make. They go with the flow (or stop the flow of food by closing a mouth or turning a head, resulting in pureed peas or bits of fragrant, ripe pear being smeared on odd parts of the head, like above her ear – how does she have that kind of timing?). And yet…

She has a little hammer set. If you sit in front of her and hand her a “nail” – a colorful cylinder of wood in red, yellow, green, or blue – she holds it. Hand her another, she takes it but drops the first. Hand her the first, she drops the second. Which does she want? I don’t think she knows, herself. With so many color options, how could you be sure which is best? You can’t.

She’s much the same with cheese. At nearly eleven months old, her eating repertoire has widened; pizza and strawberries produced more vomit, but peas, pureed or whole without skins, now pass, and she has enjoyed both curry and tandoori chicken. Just think what culinary delights her second year will bring! In addition to the rotating food items, many foods are staples, including cheese, of which my husband whole-heartedly approves. He’d live on cheese if he could. Really, he almost does, and, in keeping with her looks, her cheese habit is trying to live up to her father’s.

She sits in her highchair. When her tray is empty, the cheese calls to her. “Bah!” she exclaims earnestly, pointing. I love the newfound language skills, the many ways she can intone “bah” with meaning – the single “bah,” the double “bah-bah,” the searching, the questioning, the excited, the curt, the drawn-out; actors could learn much from these small creatures on a big stage. As if she’s saying “cheese,” she leans into it this time, trying to ensure that I don’t misunderstand: not the garbanzo beans, but the cheese.

A small pile of shredded cheddar mounds in the middle of her tray. Shred by shred, she lifts the cheese to her mouth, often smacking her lips and slurping in satisfaction. Then, it’s like she’s looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. She lifts one shred, discards it, chooses another, and steers the appointed bit to her mouth. Maybe it makes it; maybe it doesn’t. Two fingers follow the cheese in, sometimes more, as if auditing the work, yet often the cheese sneaks out, escaping its fate and falling to the floor. Sometimes she chews anyhow – the actor, going on with the show. Other times, she looks around. If it merely tumbled to her lap, she’ll sometimes rescue the cheese in distress. Then she returns to the cheese haystack, sorting, discarding, eating, until even the out-of-favor cheese becomes the in-favor cheese.

In baby decision making, a no can become a yes – unless the “no” is mashed potatoes; throwing up was no act.

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