Imitation and Recognition

Once again I waited probably too long between blog posts. It's been about five months since the last one, which is like three thousand years in baby time. I don't know why I didn't write. Baby G has changed in so many ways since then, there's an endless catalog of things to write about. Not that it wasn't all along, but it's been such a joy to spend time with him. He's clearly not a "baby" anymore. He's basically a little boy now. He acts like a person trying to figure out how the world works. It's fascinating and delightful to witness.

Talk the Walk

Let's talk about walking first. When I last left off, he was standing for brief periods and walking along walls and furniture with support. He would walk indoors while holding our hands, but wouldn't let go. Hoo boy did that ever change. At some point he figured out that he was actually capable of taking a step, so he started crossing gaps between furniture. Then something else clicked, and within the span of one weekend he started tottering around everywhere unassisted! The change was so rapid, it really surprised me. I think he had been capable, balance-wise, of doing it for a while, but hadn't worked up the self-confidence yet.

Once he was walking indoors we started putting shoes on him and holding his hand outside. We started taking him into the back yard more to play. For a while, he was nervous about the lumpy, uneven ground, so he got mad if we let go of his hand. Once he got more confident walking while holding my hand, I let him go more and let him figure out the inevitable trips, stumbles, and falls.

By now he plays independently (though supervised out of the corner of my eye) in the back yard and has a great time. When we go out in public, we have him walk as much as possible (it's good for him to practice, and it's easier for us, too!). However, his ever-growing independence has started making him want to wander off and touch cars or investigate trash on the ground or whatever, so we have to be vigilant when holding his hand, lest he wriggle away.

We got two chickens and a turkey (!), who now live in our back yard, which means Baby G is getting lots of practice chasing them around. They don't love that, but he sure does. He can't really catch the turkey yet, but he likes to pet the chickens. Don't worry, we wash his hands well. Oh man, that first weekend when we got them, he was absolutely enthralled. His little fingers kept pinching nonstop in the "bird" sign language we taught him.

I've learned that kids fall a lot. They just wipe out all the time while cruising around. It was alarming at first, to see him plow face-first into the ground, but he didn't really seem to notice. Kids are small and a bit bouncy, not heavy and brittle like us old people, so I guess it's not that big of a deal. We also learned that they take their cues from us a lot, so the less we react to it, the less he'll react. If we get freaked out, he thinks he should be too. Of course, sometimes he bonks himself pretty good and cries. Then he can come get a hug.

Though he often walks, sometimes he gets tired or it's more convenient for me to carry him on my shoulers. I've always wanted to do that, and I like it, but dude, he's gotta learn to lean forwards better. He slouches and leans way back, sometimes flipping upside down completely. Really wish he'd learn to lean forward and grab my head for support!

Talk the Talk

This may be slightly apocryphal, but I don't care. I'm going to say that Baby G's first word was... wait for it... "cooking." Wow, what? I was making some food one night and he came over to see what I was doing. I said, "I'm cooking!" and he promptly responded: "cooooo-KING?" And wow, it stuck. There you go. Not "mommy" or "daddy", but "cooking." I say apocryphal because maybe he was saying "up" (as in, "pick me up now!") before that, but his enunciation on cooking blew that away.

He has a pretty clear idea of what cooking is, too. It's when you stand in the kitchen and use kitchen utensils to do basically anything. We got a cheap fake kitchen set and put it out on the patio. He loves to put fake little eggs on the fake stovetop in a fake frying pan and press the buttons on the fake microwave and store anything possible in the fake oven. All the while, of course, chanting "cooking! cooking!" It's adorable, you guys.

He still does the thing where he points at everything in sight and wants us to name them for him, but now he's started adding his own attempts to say the words. He can say all kinds of stuff, and he tries to imitate even more. Lately "mommy" has been a big hit. If he hears the slightest peep from where mommy is doing something, he starts going "mom-MY? mom-MY?" The way he says stuff is so cute. He draws out the first syllable, and the second syllable is higher pitched and emphasized.

Other Stuff

So all that was the "status update". To be honest, I've started getting tired of writing status updates for the baby. I think about him a lot, and I'd rather just share thoughts and observations, I think. Maybe I can find a way to make these blogs more free-form, that way.

I've been continually amazed with the way he's able to make connections between things. He's such a little guy that sometimes I forget that, like fully formed humans, he's basically built to make mental leaps. One of my favorites is when we taught him what a clock is (an analog clock), and that it goes "tick-tock" (accompanied by a metronomic finger waggle). Some days later I told him that a digital clock is also a clock, and he made the connection that it also goes "tick-tock". And then he saw a digital clock worn on a wrist, and recognized the watch as a same shape as a clock, so now he knows all three types of clocks. He also knows that a watch is both a clock and a watch.

He also notices way more stuff than I do (or most adults, for that matter). I guess little kids are seeing stuff that we've long since tuned out. Every single airplane that goes overhead gets a reaction. He'll hear a lawn mower halfway across the neighborhood and say "ma-NOHH?" (he can't make L sounds yet). He'll spot a tiny cat in the background of a page of a book and say "meow!" Then I'll look around and figure out that yes, there was indeed a cat there that I missed.

It's cool how he can already categorize things in different ways, and understand them at different levels of detail. He knows that a flamingo and an owl and a crow are birds (he'll make the bird sign language when he sees them), but also that an owl goes "hoo hoo" and a crow goes "caw caw" and that they all have different names.

What's the difference between a car and a truck and a tractor? Something about the shape, sometimes not very clear. We instinctively know how to tell them apart, and somehow so does he, just by seeing many examples. There's levels of subtlety there that, when you break it down to its basics, seem really complicated to grasp. Humans are good at these things, and he is in fact a human, but I'm still impressed.

More pattern matching stuff. Everything that's spherical is a ball ("BAWW"). Except if it's round and white and up in the sky, in which case it's the moon ("mooOO"). Or round with demarcations around the outside, in which case it's a clock (that means round thermometers and barometers and so on, of course). With basically any face on any animal, he'll point to where the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears ought to be (even if, in the case of the duck drawing we were looking at the other day) it didn't have any visible ears. Shoe-shaped things are shoes, but socks are socks... because they're soft and cloth? He knows the difference somehow.

I really like drawing for him, even though I'm just awful at it. It's fun to draw stuff that he knows and watch him suddenly call out what it is as it materializes on the paper. I imagine--I'm projecting, I'm sure--that the act of creating something recognizable out of thin air has to be fascinating to him. I'll hand the pen back to him and he'll scribble a bit, then firmly put it back in my hand, asking me to draw again.

"Oops" is another interesting case. I started saying "oops" deliberately when I dropped things or made some mistake, and now he does on his own, too. "Oot" (sic), he says, when he drops a toy he was playing with. I also say "oops" when I do other unintentional things. I'm waiting to see how soon before he makes the connection that you say "oops" whenever you mess up unintentionally. I just think it's so cool for his little brain to stretch in these different directions. I think about stuff like this a lot.

Family Reunion

We had a pretty large family reunion for my dad's side of the family a couple weeks ago. We all flew to Geneva and stayed with my uncle and aunt, who live there. The baby got to bond with 12 of my close family, including both his great grandparents. It was really a joy to watch them play with him. It took him a few days to warm up to them, and he was sadly never 100% comfortable with his great grandparents, even though he was saying all their names and holding their hands and stuff.

My dad, sister, aunt, and my cousins especially played with him a lot, in the form of giving him piggyback rides everywhere and goofing around with him. His aunt fed him a lot of his meals, and he just overall had a lot of people pampering him pretty thoroughly. It's funny--he'd wake up in the middle of the night and start reciting everyone's names randomly. Even now, a week after we're back home, he's still doing it just at random times of day. Like he was just thinking about them. Very cute. We need to keep Skyping regularly so he doesn't forget them.

Again along the lines of recognition, he was really good at differentiating between them all and picking them out of photos. My sister and my cousins look a bit similar if you squint, but he could easily tell them apart. Even in photos of people far away he could pick out all my individual family members--just like I can, but it's just another way his cognition is developed beyond what I would expect, just looking at him.

During this trip for some reason he got intensely attached to me, which was sweet in a way, but was also at times very inconvenient. If my wife so much as picked him up, he'd start hollering "daddy daddy daddy" until I took him back. It was an out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing, so if he wandered off to play with someone, then he tended to forget about it, but if he so much as caught a glimpse of me, he started shouting "daddy" and whining again. It was especially bad on the plane ride, where I really wanted to be able to trade off holding him with mommy. Luckily, now that we're back home, things have pretty much gone back to normal.

Part of the reason he's so fun right now is he wants to imitate and learn everything: the words we say, the actions we take, just everything. If I put my fingers in my ear, he'll immediately try it too. If I hand him something and say "hold this", he says "holdeeees". He is truly absorbing like a sponge. It's a really fun time in his life to be involved in.


mai said...

Fantastic! Really amazed at your insight and understanding of him.A very good father.

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