Dear Darwin; Or how humans learned to cheat evolution despite the crazy things our babies do

A couple months ago my friend (a stay at home Dad of a lovely toddler) wrote a status update on Facebook about his son getting up way too early and toddling over to his room to wake him up. Here it is:

“What could be the evolutionary advantage of children waking up before their parents… wouldn’t this just increase their chance of wandering out of the cave and being eaten by a sabertooth tiger?

Which had me laughing so hard I could not breath. Now, every time my little monkey does something really ridiculously annoying I tend to contemplate what the heck is the evolutionary advantage of this behavour. If you don’t believe in evolution, that is fine, just replace the thought of ‘how did we survive evolution’ with ‘why would God be so cruel to parents’ and you will still get a laugh out of this line of thought.

Let’s contemplate.

1) Babies wake up a lot, especially in the early months. So in cave times, wouldn’t waking up every 2 hours until parents are at the point of exhaustion and can’t see straight cause some serious laps of judgment? Wouldn’t that judgment be dearly needed to ensure the family doesn’t get eaten by a bear or something? Let alone having enough energy to gather enough berries and roots to feed the family.

When my daughter was about 2 months old I almost burnt down the house when I forgot about the bottles I had sterilizing in a pot of water on the stove. Thank goodness for fire alarms.

So wouldn’t the family whose baby didn’t wake up every 2 hours have a better chance at survival then the family whose baby wouldn’t let them get more then 2 hours of sleep at time for the better part of 3-6 (or 12) months?

2) On that note- what is the evolutionary advantage of infants needing a ridiculous amount of time an energy to get them to sleep. Rocking, taking them for a drive, bouncing in a baby carrier, singing, ect. Only to put their sweet little heads down in their crib and have them wake up 2.3 seconds later. Again, wouldn’t this impeded ‘Cave’ Mom and Dad from having enough time and energy to keep the family fed, clothed, sheltered and safe? Also, if babies need so much sleep why don’t they just put their little heads down and close their eyes? Seriously, I don’t get it.

3) Rejecting food lovelingly prepared by parent, only to be happy chewing on a leaf found on the floor. First of all, could you imagine ‘cave Mom’ who spent hours gathering roots, scraping the peel off with a rock, constructing a bowl, and boiling the heck out of the root, then waiting for it to cool before bashing it against a rock, then passing ‘cave baby’ a lovely morsel only to have it thrown on the cave floor. Baby then toddles over to a leaf, picks it up and starts chewing away.

First of all, how would the baby get enough nutrition to survive when ‘Cave’ Mom doesn’t have that box of cheerios we all use to get calories in our babies when they won’t eat? Second of all, if you are frustrated that your baby threw something you took 10 minutes to prepare imagine, how frustrated ‘Cave Mom’ would be when she spent the better part of a day preparing it! Do you think she would be much inclined to try the 10 times over it seems is necessary to get a baby to realize you are not trying to give them poison and just eat the darn root?

4) Putting everything they see in their mouths with no understanding of the possible danger. Could you imagine trying to remove all the small objects which pose a choking hazard from your cave so ‘cave baby’ did not try to swallow every stone he/she sees? On that note, how would you keep your baby from toddling off a cliff without baby gates? Anyone with a 10 month old knows that babies have an amazing talent for finding dangerous objects, or making objects dangerous you thought were safe. (My friend warned me about this… now I understand.) If that isn’t a one way street to extinction of a species I don’t know what is.

5) I really don’t know how to tie this into human surviving evolution, but since I am on a roll with my rant about crazy things that babies do…. Why is it that the little monkey’s whine and tug at your leg to be picked up, only to wiggle and fuss to be put back down? Or, worse, proceed to hit, bit, scratch, head butt and hair pull you, their loving parent, until you can’t take it anymore and you return your little joy to the floor. I just don’t get it. It is an incredibly not fun game we play alllllll day.

Okay, I’m out, your turn. I am sure you have some more examples. And…… go.

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2 responses to “Dear Darwin; Or how humans learned to cheat evolution despite the crazy things our babies do

  1. Bree February 6, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    1&2: it’s because babies didn’t sleep on their own. When snuggled with mom, even my problem sleeper son didn’t wake much. The problem isn’t sleeping so much as sleeping alone!

    Re: food, I doubt as much care was taken. Cavemams probably offered bits of pre-chewed food (whatever she ate) and laughed if baby spat it out. Babies would almost certainly have been breastfed longer, and ‘real’ food optional until toddlerdom.

    And waking up early … I think we only care because we stay up late (past sunset) thanks to the luxury of artificial light. We’re the wonky ones!

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