The Ancient Sport of Body Rocking

February 7, 2017
The Ancient Sport of Body Rocking

My toddler has made boredom a sport. Or, rather, what he does when he seems to be bored has the learned implications of practicing until perfection. He is an athlete in a strange sort of way.

Whenever Jrue gets comfortable on a sofa, any sofa at any house, he rocks his body. It is this repetitive, energetic, upper torso movement, often determined as subconscious, that I believe requires as much physical strength as preparing to compete in an Olympic event. His rocking is as persistent as an hourly cuckoo chime in a clock. It is as reliable as a snow forecast in a New England winter. He does it in time to time itself, throwing his back into the cushions over and over with the force of a newly-walking toddler suddenly plopping to the floor. It is intriguing to watch his motion because he does not know he is doing it until we gently encourage him to stop. He snaps to attention, as if from a quick trance.

Almost as soon as he was able to lift it, Jrue banged his head to get to sleep. I recall witnessing him do it for the first time and alerted his pediatrician the next morning, who assured me that it was a normal soothing technique. I was unsure because his little baby head, the head that contained a precious brain not yet even under the realization that he survived birth, would bounce off the firm mattress, and he was completing the gesture willingly and incessantly, as if drugged. He wasn’t old enough to comprehend how crazy he looked, but the doctor assured me that, if it hurt enough, he’d quit. Once it got relatively expected over the months, Jrue introduced body rocking into the equation.

For a short time, he would alternate rocking himself to sleep while sitting up and slapping the back of his head against the buffer behind him. Watching it was like walking upon a lake in a forest. I’m confused–how did we get here?

Apparently, his style of motion indicates neither a sign of a mental disorder in his case, specifically autism, nor self-soothing. He only does rocks when the television is on or the music is playing, on the couch only, and he appears to only have to propel to encourage himself to get to the end of the show or to the end of a song. He rocks to accompany theme music. He rocks to have something in addition to his current activity, a backup employment already queued up, much like when he wants to play a game on my phone and watch “Daniel Tiger” simultaneously. It’s as if he is attempting to cope with the dissatisfaction he is viewing or hearing. He is…bored.

Here is what may also be an inspiration. As previously unveiled in the another post, Jrue loves music and has quite an affinity for singing, especially the songs from his music class. According to Beth Morrisey of the website Kids’ Behaviour, “. . .Other children body rock when they are humming or singing softly (or in their head!), which a simple discussion will help uncover.” Namely, my son could just hear music playing most of the time, even in his head, something that I would have to take half-credit for, with the way genetics and such are set up.

We see his brand of sport as something “of the moment” and, because the drill is more of a habit now than anything else, we look to the next big shift that will become characteristic of the childhood my son enthusiastically (actively) rocks.

Work Cited

Morrisey, Beth. “Children and Body Rocking.” Kids’ Behaviour, 31 Jan. 2017, Accessed 7 Feb. 2017.

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