Posted by: shineonali | December 20, 2010

I See Harper, and Christopher, and I see you, too!

So I’m getting ready to go back to Canada for the holidays.  The plan is that my sister-in-law will pick me up at the airport, along with my almost-one-year-old niece.  I’m so excited to see her again that I can’t think about anything else today.

Harper was born January 5th, the day I flew back to Thailand after the holidays.  I didn’t meet her in person until she met me at the airport in June (I have a fabulous sister-in-law).  I remember being a little nervous, worried she’d be afraid of this stranger squealing with delight over her, but it was like we’d known each other all our lives.

I left Canada, and little Harper, at the end of July, when she was nearly 7 months old.  We’ve Skyped fairly regularly since then.  I think we expected it to be more about me being able to see her, and talking to her parents, because she wouldn’t know what was going on…but even from the first few times, there was a definite reaction to this person talking at her from the computer.  We’ve been wondering if she recognizes me as the person she hung out with all summer, or even if she realizes it’s the same person every time.  And you know, we think she does know who she’s talking to!  The minute she’s put in front of the laptop, she grins broadly and waves (although to be fair, I hear she’s pretty friendly in general)  She certainly seems to understand that I’m talking to her.  I even get applause from time to time.

I guess we’ll know for sure if I’ve become a stranger to her when I arrive in Toronto.  It’s possible she’ll be surprised to see I’ve grown a body again…

This situation makes me wonder if babies and toddlers today, the ones who are exposed to things like Skype from a very young age, learn a different kind of visual literacy than previous generations.  At what age do little children typically recognize that what’s happening on a television screen is not just flashes of colour and light accompanied by sounds?  Once they realize that there are people in there, do they know that those people can’t see and hear them?  I can still remember the lady on Romper Room closing the show with her psychedelic “magic mirror”, saying goodbye to her viewers by name…and I have seen my friend’s little boy replying enthusiastically to Dora the Explorer.

Can Harper tell the difference between watching the Wiggles and talking to me on Skype?  I’d like to think so!


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