Monday, September 25, 2006

What I Can Tell You

Sometimes, especially as a parent, you run across things that are so horrible that you wish you could scrub them out of your brain. These are the things that linger and come back to haunt you in the minutes before you fall asleep, while your child lays innocently dozing, perfectly unaware of the nightmare visions running through your head. There are stories you hear accidentally that lock inside your brain, that you can't even tell your spouse about because to say them out loud gives them more power over you. So you lock them inside, and they grow and manifest and sink roots into your subconscious.

You know what I'm talking about. I can't tell you what triggered it this time - I literally cannot bring myself to tell you - but you already know where these things come from. Local news stories. Needlessly disturbing horror movies. Child endangerment. Consumer warnings about unsafe toys. Stupid (or neglectful, or plain evil) parents. Or grandparents. Or teachers. Or guardians. Or strangers. Or babysitters. Or...

Anyway, I can't talk about it. So let me tell you what's going on with the boy.

He'll be sixteen months old shortly. He's walking now. And when I say "walking," I mean "restlessly pacing around the house and wreaking havoc."

When they start walking, it's cute to see them put three or four steps together for the first time. "Aw, look, he almost made it to the couch! Just a little closer, honey. One more step! One more step!"

And then they get to one more step.

And then they can walk across the room.

And then they can walk anywhere under their own power.

And then you realize how small your apartment is.

We have taken down the gates that used to restrict him in our living room. He just needs more room to roam. So now, all day when he's home, he wanders from the living room into one bedroom, into the other, back into the hallway, maybe into the bathroom for a change of pace, into the living room. Constantly in motion.

He has toys everywhere. I do not exaggerate. There are toys in the hallway. Under his crib. In the bathroom. He flings toys into the kitchen (the only part of the house still gated off) to get our attention, and just generally for the sake of flinging toys. He owns the apartment now.

Chloe (the cat - remember how I used to have a cat?) is under constant fear. She hops on the bed and he's right after her, reaching up to "pet" her. (Thump thump thump. It's a miracle he hasn't gotten clawed yet.) She jumps on the couch, and he's right behind her. He grabs for her tail - of course, because it's the most fun part of her body. He chucks toys at her sometimes, and when she flinches, he giggles because he's gotten the kitty to respond to him. So he chucks another toy. And another, until we finally realize why he's giggling in the other room.

I'm thrilled that he's walking, folks. Don't get me wrong. But it's infinitely more work keeping up with him, and childproofing has become something like defense. Trying to catch the problems before they become disasters. Suddenly, new things are dangers and easily within reach - the ironing board, the cords for the blinds, the phone charger cords.

He's also verbalizing more. He only had a couple of words at his most recent ped appointment, so we were just a bit worried about his verbal development. Here's one thing you learn as a parent - "words" are not the same as words. If he says "dat" every time he points at something, that's his word. "Dat." If he says "dob" when he points to a dog, or a cat, or a chicken, or a hippopotamus, that's his word for "animal." Whatever it is that he says repeatedly with some meaning, that's a word.

He suddenly has mastered the concept of "up" and "down." Concurrently, he loves sitting in chairs. So he points to the chair - "ub."

We sit him on top of his tiny tiny baby chairs. He plays for a minute, then gets restless.

"Dah." Down.

Again. "Ub." "Dah." "Ub." "Dah." This can go on for days.

Sometimes he fires off entire streams of words, the meaning of which is lost to us. It seems like sometimes I amuse him, and he's responding to me by saying dad over and over again. "Dah dad dad dad dad," in funny little intonations. Sometimes he just repeats the same sound in a blurt - "nuh. Nuh nuh neh neh nuh." Sometimes it's gutteral. Sometimes he surprises us with high-pitched variations. But he seems to be experimenting more with words, which has to be good. I expect that soon, he'll just have a burst of progress, and he'll just overflow with a big stream of new words. That seems to be his pattern of learning things - a little bit of progress, maybe a bit of a regression, and then suddenly full-steam ahead.

We are fortunate to have days off with him during the week. Every Friday with him is a joy. He surprises me so much, how much he progresses, how much he grows in just a few short days. He is the light of my life, that boy. He glows incandescently with happiness and curiosity. May it always be so.

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