Baby Brain

Ana Zaldarriaga
Ana Zaldarriaga

My daughter recently received her very own piece of toddler furniture from her grandmother – a HOT PINK chair.  I have been watching her try to learn how to properly sit in it, often climbing into it facing the wrong way or getting both her legs stuck in the gaps on the side. It seems as if she has decided that however she lands in the chair is in fact the way it is supposed to be used, whether it be a stepping stool or a throne. When she physically gets stuck, she just wrestles with the chair until she is free or simply tips over and falls to her escape. I have been fascinated observing her trying to understand the function of the CHAIR because it is simply the beginning of life’s gauntlet of obstacles. At 13 months old, she is already figuring out how to overcome adversity. And although she is sometimes physically stuck, she doesn’t get mentally stuck… yet.

As she deals more with having curiosities, desires, and needs, she will also meet frustration, disappointment, and fear. It will start with toys, food, remote controls, bedtime, snack and eventually evolve to friends, relationships, finance, health, careers, etc. When I look around at all the people I know, I see such a spectrum on the way they deal with life’s challenges. Some people pray, meditate, or deliberate their many choices. Others align life’s events to some greater power to make sense of it and create rituals for fortuitous outcomes or to gain favor from the gods.

Whether you believe in the good fortune of the Chinese Year of the Horse, rub a rabbit’s foot, or carry a lucky coin, these are all part of a system of coping mechanisms. We all have personal narratives that root and legitimize these beliefs, but at this point they are not only emotional patterns but neural imprints in our brain. Through a pattern of repetition, the brain creates a synaptic pathway and automates responses developing reflex reactions, subconscious actions, and habits. It takes anywhere from 18 to 258 days to form a habit and much longer to break one. Yet when I look at my child, she is not only tabula rasa but animus aperi. She is a blank slate and open heart. As she tackles her chair and every new obstacle that comes with each day, she is just learning new patterns and habits. And with every one she learns, she is teaching me how to let go of my old ones. Maybe one day we will catch up somewhere in the middle.

To learn more about the brain’s role in resiliency, I URGE you to look at or Brain Gym at

To try your luck with the Year of the Horse  or

To feel the power of ritual in love


Ana Zaldarriaga

Ana Zaldarriaga

By Ana Zaldarriaga

Ana Zaldarriaga Pronouns: she/her/hers Sr. Dir. of Employee Development The Leadership Program 535 8th Avenue, Floor 16 New York City, NY 10018 Phone: 212.625.8001 Fax: 212.625.8020 “…building strong leaders in classrooms and communities."