I post a lot here about disasters or challenges of various kinds (poop! advisors! deadlines! nausea! childbirth! crazy neighbors’ cats!) and my intense emotional response to said disasters and/or challenges. Maybe this is because I find it easier to make things funny that are innately horrible or hard. Maybe this is kind of sick, or maybe it is a healthy coping mechanism. I don’t know, but today I’m going to veer away from my usual route and wax slightly poetic about something sweet. So y’all out there who are used to comedic irony from this here blog, might want to look away.
My little baby is growing up. It’s really rather astonishing how quickly it has happened. I mean, shit, what have I done with myself in the last 11 months? Comparatively little, I tell you. While the Gadlet has been developing at the normal rate (rolling over, crawling, etc.) it seems that in the last week or so, she’s kind of woken up to the world and her place within it. It is remarkable and beautiful and one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
One of the ways this newness has manifested itself is in her rapid exploration of her physical world. She is always busy. She crawls from thing to thing, checking them out, and then dismantling them. She’s particularly interested in what we laughingly call “organizing” things. One of her favorite toys right now is a shoebox full of old computer discs — she takes them out, makes a pile on one side of the box, picks them up, makes another pile on the other side of the box, and then crawls away.
But even better than the shoebox of outdated computer crap are the bookshelves, and as one might expect in a houseful of academics, there are plenty. She loves to pull books off of the shelf. Which is cute, but what is so sweet is how absolutely PROUD she looks when she’s cleared a whole shelf. It’s like she’s just won four Olympic gold medals in Library Dismantling or something. This book thing, though, does tend to create a bit of a mess since she’s not nearly as interested in returning books to the shelves as she is in extracting them. But a few days ago after pulling all of the books off of my fiction bookshelf (apparently she didn’t like how I had categorized my mysteries), she sat on the pile for a few minutes, and started to crawl away. Figuring she was done, I walked over and started to put the books back on the shelf. The Gadlet crawled over to an outlying book, picked it up, and handed it to me to put back on the shelf. I thanked her, and so she looked around for more. She spent a good few minutes crawling to books, picking them up and then handing them to me, while I put them back on the shelf. This was pretty great — I don’t know many 11 month old kids who are interested in helping. But what was funnier, Spousal Unit came into the room just as she was about to hand me a book, and I tried to take it from her, but she pulled it away. I tried again. Nope. And a third time. She didn’t want to give it up. I thought she must have decided to read “The Last Camel Died at Noon,” but no. She held it out again, and then I figured it out — she was giving it to Spousal Unit. He took it, put it on the shelf, and thanked her. Then the game became alternating giving the books to me and to Spousal Unit.
To the untrained eye, this kind of game is silly — a little moment in the everyday life of a parent. But to me, it was miraculous. Here was this little person — who only months ago was so embryonic her eyes crossed when she tried to focus and her limbs flailed because she couldn’t control them and now, here she is, helping us pick up and determining without doubt WHO she wanted to help. It was just such a clear sign of her increasing awareness of her environment and of her own determination to be a participant in her own little life.
Another indication of her increasing person-ness is her language acquisition. I swear, she understands just about everything I tell her. Today, I was talking to Darby, her daycare/nanny, and I said something about how I was done with something, and The Gadlet made the sign for all-done (which she does by sweeping her arm in front of herself vigorously.) She’s got four or five signs she knows and uses regularly — more, all-done, nurse, dance, and the greeting sign (hello, bye-bye, and night-night are all a wave of her hand). This is pretty cool, and she’s been signing more for a while, but in the last week she’s started applying all-done to things other than eating. Like the other morning when I went in to pick her up after she woke up and finished her charming little chorus of OOOOHs. (She sound just like someone discovering something each time she says it — intonation starts high and ends low –OOOooohh. It is so cute.) As I walked over to her bed, she grinned, got all excited and then gave me the all-done sign. I asked her if she was done sleeping and she gave me the sign again. Then Darby said the other day that The Gadlet kept doing the all-done sign all day and she couldn’t figure out why. Then she realized that every time a song ended on the radio The Gadlet was announcing it was finished. Yep, the kid is a genius.
But the other thing that has happened is that she’s gotten really sweet and affectionate. She hugs us at will, offers kisses upon request, and loves “noses” game where we rub noses together. All of this is pretty standard, but she’s also invented her own way of telling us she loves us. In one of her books Mommy Hugs, the Mama Monkey hugs her baby with a pat. Since reading that, The Gadlet one day just started patting me when I picked her up. Now pats me all of the time — she puts her little hand on my shoulder and pat-pat-pat. She does it when she nurses, when she’s particularly happy to see me or Spousal Unit, and when she’s falling asleep at night. It is so precious.
All of these things are inherently wonderful, but I think what makes them so miraculous is that she’s communicating. She’s telling us what she needs, what she wants, who she loves, when she’s happy, when she’s sad. All of which are basic human skills, I know, but a month or so ago she didn’t have them. She couldn’t tell us what was in her head or what her ideas were or who she wanted to help or pat or love. Now she can. And you know, I can’t even wait to hear what she’s going to say next.
So there it is. An irony-free Stewgad post. Sorry for those of you looking for the usual invective. I’ll get back to the normal state of things soon enough — especially since the semester is starting in A COUPLE OF WEEKS. (SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT. Bugger.)