“I walked in the bedroom and she was climbing up the ladder to the top bunk,” my daughter’s shocked voice conveyed her disbelief at seeing her 13-month-old daughter joyfully grasping the ladder’s rung.
Such safety issues did not come into play with her son – he uses his time observing as he did when carpenters came to install energy efficient windows. Pulling out his tool box, he followed them around and copied them with his tools. He especially studied the hairy carpenter with a big handlebar mustache. The lad pointed him out to his mother, “That guy is not pretty. He is tough.”
That guy just smiled.
Another day a full white beard caught boy’s eye. He just had to go over and ask, “Are you Santa Claus?”
“You never know, so you better obey your mother,” the jolly old elf said.
This pre-schooler tries to obey. He also tries to help, but when he wanted to help fix supper and everything involved a hot stove, his mom reached into the cupboard and pulled out a hand crank mixer, a bit of flour, measuring spoons and cups. “You know what you can do? Take these, go in the bathroom and mix it up.”
Long after supper his daddy walked into the bathroom and saw the mixer, measuring cups, spoons and wet flour, “What were you making in here, Son?”
“Oh, a mess.”
That grandson calls’em as he sees’em, including gravity. His toy kept falling off its perch as they traveled in the car. Frustrated, he fiercely scolded, “Gravity! If you do that again, I will not let you come here anymore.”
He will learn — as will his sister. She likes the forbidden pieces of chalk on the easel. “She sticks one in her mouth, comes up next to me, looks at me with the chalk in her mouth, shaking her head “No, no, no,” my daughter said. Relieved of the chalk, the tiny toddler walks away only to return, shaking her head with another mouthful of chalk.
She began hearing and learning, “No!” when she discovered ground level snacks in the cat’s dish. Before the cat came to live with me, the dish moved out of her sneaky hand.
Little ones pick-up everything, including everything we say. The St. Louis mama said the words ‘monkey grass’ one day. Two weeks later her two-year-old suddenly began talking about ‘monkey grass’ as if she had just heard it.
That same child recently discovered glass, sliding doors. First, she bumped into the glass trying to walk through the door. After that, each time she approached the door, she reached out to feel the invisible glass and practiced sliding the door open and shut, open and shut. Her year older cousin held his own scientific study flicking switches on and off.
Visiting with little ones is always a mixed bag. My grandson frequently asks, “Can we go home now?” almost as soon as he walks in the door after eagerly anticipating the visit for days. A 5 year-old visitor did the same thing. The minute the friend arrived, he hid behind his mother and said very little the entire visit. But, “as soon as he got in the car he said, ‘hey! When can we go back?’” his mother later reported.
Visiting children bring their own personalities and interests. My son’s energetic family of four drove from Pennsylvania visiting folks in the Midwest. At our house these older grandchildren made a diving board out of the grilling table. They ran the short length and jumped feet first into the deep wading pool. One uncle they visited watched them explore his house, discover the shelves with a couple hundred books, pick some to read and plop down contentedly to read for hours. “All they did was read!” the uncle observed.
But then reading is our family shtick. Even before they can talk, children quickly find their favorite picture books. The Little Rock grandson wanted to hear David Shannon’s book, “No, David, No!” several times a day. His cousin discovered “Stomp, Stomp” by Bob Kolar. She “read” it aloud recently — with all her mother’s verbal inflections.
That’s the wonder of living with children, we never know how much they learn, nor what they will do to make life more interesting, exciting or even a bit dangerous.