Words mean things, I think

Kiddo’s turned into quite the chatterbox recently. One article I read a while back about speech milestones said that right around 2, they’ll start talking a lot and you’ll be convinced they’re speaking another language. I laughed at the time. Now I see what they meant.

He tells us his observations of everything: Mom’s coat is green, his own coat is blue and yellow, Dad’s car goes vroom vroom. He can usually articulate his needs and wants: more meat please, water please, Dad read book, light on. He’s started offering his opinions too: cheese mmm, no Mom no sing!

All of these, of course, in his own dialect of toddler-ese. I’m reasonably adept at translating it, my husband nearly as much, and I have to assume his daycare teachers are too. I think he meets the developmental milestone guideline that says by this age, strangers can understand about half of what Kiddo says. But even I have trouble parsing some of the garbled words and phrases. Our smattering of sign language helped for a while but we haven’t really kept it up, other than the basics.

When he says something that we can understand, we usually repeat it back to him so that he can hear (and hopefully pick up) the correct pronounciation. In the car this morning Kiddo said “Gar doh o-peh” and I said yep, I’m going to open the garage door. As we started down the driveway he cheerfully exclaimed “Doin don hih!” and I confirmed that’s right, we’re going down the hill! I can’t always do this–sometimes I’m occupied with things like driving or cooking, other times I simply can’t make it out.

This morning I wondered whether I was overdoing it. Imagine how you’d feel if someone was correcting ninety percent of what you said. Some might find it helpful, but I know if it were me, I might start to feel like I couldn’t do any darn thing right, and might even lose the confidence to keep trying at all. In my attempts to build up the correct use of language, am I actually tearing him down? Am I modeling, or just invalidating?

Then I said to myself, Self, you’ve been spending too much time in online parenting forums. Stop being a dork.



Back to geekland

On the last workday of April, I left my previous job. On the last workday of May, I was offered a new one. I’ve accepted it, and will start work next Monday, once again testing software, but at a different company than before.  I’m looking forward to getting back into the work world. Our house is in a wooded neighborhood a dozen miles from the nearest town, and can feel very isolated at times. On the other hand, there are a couple of things I think I’ll miss from this past month and a half.

Above all, I’ll miss being able to stay on top of the clutter. Before, when I was working, our evening routine went something like this: come home, make dinner, give Kiddo a bath if he needed it, put him to bed, and then collapse in front of the TV. It was hard to do a lot of cleaning up right after Kiddo’s gone to bed because his bedroom is close to the kitchen and living room, so loud noises like vacuuming or clattering pots being put away would keep him from falling asleep. Even harder was putting down the remote to do the chores once we’d been sucked into TV watching for the night. While at home these past weeks I’ve done what I could to get the house to a cleaner “base level” in the hopes it would make daily tidying less of a burden, but I don’t know how long we’ll be able to maintain it.

I’ll also miss having time to cook interesting dinners. We pick Kiddo up from daycare around 6:15 p.m. and our drive home from there usually takes half an hour or more. This means anything beyond quick-prep dinners pushed dinnertime (and consequently, bedtime) even later. It didn’t help that we often didn’t decide on that night’s dinner until right before leaving work. Whoever wasn’t on pickup duty was in charge of arranging for dinner, whether that meant shopping or just hitting the local Panera. But that also meant a delay in getting home and getting it started.

I’m a little bummed that I didn’t get to all the projects I wanted to do. I’ve found that I’m something of a structured procrastinator, so I have gotten a fair amount of other work done, but the basement is still a mess, the recipes never got organized, the software project I’d meant to work on with a friend hasn’t gotten further than the design stage. Writing a non-prioritized weekly to-do list helped a lot; the weekly deadline let me push things back a day without feeling like I’d failed to get everything done, and I could rearrange things as needed–for example, I couldn’t sweep the deck very well in the pouring rain, so that had to wait for a good-weather day.

So, I’ve been thinking a bit about how to keep some of my at-home work to continue into the summer and beyond. Planning meals and shopping on the weekends might save us a little time in the evenings, and perhaps we could do some prep for the next night’s dinner after the boy has gone to bed. Chopping onions isn’t as noisy as washing dishes, after all. We might also be able to streamline our getting-out-of-the-house routine in the morning, in the hopes that leaving for work earlier means coming home earlier as well.

Could we do some of the noisy chores like vacuuming right after getting home from work? Maybe, if Kiddo were a little older. Right now he loves being underfoot while we’re cooking, which often means whoever’s not cooking is on distraction detail. In the past, I’ve asked my husband to take care of the vacuuming before he left for work (he generally went in later than we did) but that would cut into his worktime, meaning he had to either stay later at the office, or bring work home. Maybe it’s time to dust off and empty out that Roomba — or just get a quieter vacuum cleaner.

Having the weekly list in a visible place could also be helpful. I’ve found that when I have a visual reminder of what needs to be done, it’s a little easier to find the time to do small chores, and I can budget time for big ones. And it will help my husband as well, who has reminded me countless times that his psychic powers are very weak. This way we’ll be in sync about what needs to get done that week.

I don’t know about those projects, though. The obvious time to do them would be on weekends, but during the summer we rarely have a weekend free. Perhaps they’ll just have to wait until this fall, when we might have to find a new way to fill Sunday afternoons.

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Making memories

Last Sunday, after spending most of the afternoon at Pike Place Market, we stopped at Marymoor Park on the way home. Pike Place Market is nifty for taller people, but not so exciting when you’re strapped into a stroller. Kiddo had been very patient though, and he deserved some fun time for himself.

The park was the emptiest I’ve ever seen it. The playground itself was deserted. Granted, it was a holiday weekend, it was close to dinner time, and there were ominous-looking rain clouds not far away. But none of that mattered to our boy. He was thrilled that he could play on all the slides and ride on the little rocking tractor to his heart’s content, without needing to take turns or watch out for bigger kids. He’d pause at the top of a slide and sign “More?” and we would tell him, of course you can slide some more! We let him lead, and just followed him from slide to rocker to bigger slide to swing, letting him choose what he wanted to do next.

When it was time to leave we borrowed a trick and pointed to the small berm surrounding the concert stage, about halfway between the playground and the parking lot.  “Look at that hill! Want to run up the hill?” I asked Kiddo, and of course he did.  Off he ran, glee bubbling out of him, with all the speed his little not-quite-two-year-old legs could produce.

As we followed, I asked my husband, “Do you remember anything from when you were two?”

“No,” he said.

“Neither do I,” I replied.

After some thought, he was able to remember a big event that happened shortly before his brother was born, which would have been a couple months before my husband’s second birthday. And I remember the house my family lived in, and meeting another child who turned out to be one of my longest friends. But neither of us could remember much beyond that of those early years. I’m certain that we had afternoons like this one, where there was so much joy in getting to do whatever he wanted, for a little while. We must have had those moments of awe, discovering the secrets of the world that would become everyday facts just a few years later. I’m sure we had many, many moments of delight in learning and repeating new words and phrases, or tasting fresh raspberries for the first time. But memories laid down at this age often don’t stick around into adulthood; it’s not until children develop the ability to put events in chronological order that long-term memories start forming, and most children don’t develop that ability until around age 3 or 4.

In a way, it makes sense. A toddler’s brain is still developing, soaking up all kinds of details and bits of trivia. Mom’s shoes go in the closet; Dad’s glasses go on his face. But the part of their brain that controls emotions (and emotional outbursts) is still very immature. Or to put it more simply: it’s hard being a toddler! Frustrations abound because you don’t understand why you can’t do something, because your limited language skills make it hard to explain what you want, or simply because you’re overwhelmed and stressed dealing with the influx of new data, and you don’t have the mental maturity to cope with it. Who would want to carry the memories of those chaotic times around for the rest of their life? Perhaps the delay in developing long-term memory is a blessing in disguise.

But as the memories of the difficult times fade, they take with them most of the memories of the joyful times too. I saw Kiddo beaming with delight that afternoon and got a lump in my throat thinking that he probably won’t remember these moments. Pictures and video capture the physical activities and the words that were spoken, but his feelings and emotions can only be reconstructed, not retained.

I didn’t take pictures on Sunday afternoon. I wanted to take in the full experience of the fun we were having, of him playing and us watching him play. The little boy grown big may not remember this one afternoon out of so many others–but his father and I will.