Friday, September 17, 2010

Growing, Learning, Testing

You know how everyone says that as kids get older, each stage is just so much more fun than the last? Well, until they become pre-teens, when they turn into miserable, rotten hormonal monsters and make life suck again?

They’re right.

Now let’s just tell it like it is and say the early days – oh, round about months one through three – largely blew. There were bright moments every now and again – a belly button that popped off, smiling, laughing – but most of it was a sleep deprived haze of it’s-sure-as-hell-gotta-get-better-than-this-or-everyone-would-be-an-only-child. So I expected the second half of the first year to be better than the first six months. And it was, infinitely. But then I didn’t think it could get much more fun than watching Shorty mimmick sounds and actions. And I knew watching him learn to crawl and start to take off all over the place was an apex. But then he became a boy’s boy and wanted to play with nothing but trucks, and that was tops. And then he started taking his first tentative steps and, wel, you get the picture.

And this boy just keeps on learning, keeps on impressing. Still no “official” first words, but his vocabulary and communication are growing exponentially. Da da is pretty clear for Pops (but Mama and Dada don’t count as first words). Blue Blankie “ba bas” can now be distinguished from boobie “bo bos” (which most times are accompanied by the most adorable jab at my chest with a pointer finger, to one side or the other, depending on where we are in a nursing session and whether or not he’s decided it’s time to change sides), and “ma” coordinated with a toss of the arm towards his sippy clearly means milk. We’ve also got “na na” (banana) “go go” (goldfish crackers) and “shesh” (cheese).

Kisses are now given on command almost all the time, instead of sporadically or as his mood inspired. And in the past week he’s learned a new trick d’amour: bear hugs. Daddy taught this one, and it was a lesson well learned, because I’ve never seen a better bear-hugger in my life. Arms thrown out wide, then wrapped tightly around the neck of his beloved target.

Someone at school must have taught him the concept of circle, because suddenly he started crawling or spinning in a circle when ever anyone says “circle”.

And he LOVES to play tag. Whether I’m chasing him or he’s chasing me, giggle fits ensue in abundance.

His fine motor skills are slowly but surely improving, too. Whereas a month ago he’d rather throw his stacking cups than sit with them, now he’s fascinated with how they fit together. Same with plastic containers with lids. He likes to open the containers, fill them with toys, then close them back up. Still not entirely keen on the shape sorting toys, but he’s made attempts a few times.

Oh, and lesson learned: you know those puzzles with multiple pieces of different shapes and animals – the ones that teach colors and have pictures of the puzzle pieces in the spots where the pieces fit? Yeah, they’re serious when they say those toys are intended for ages 2 and up. Hopefully our pieces won’t all be lost by the time he takes interest in our puzzles beyond chewing the pictures off the wood.

And although we haven’t had a weight check in some time (not since I went back to work full-time and stopped going to our Thursday group), we know this kid is growing. Over the past couple of weeks it became abundantly clear that it’s time to retire all the 18-month clothes (cute vanity tee-shirts suddenly creeped up and became belly shirts with indistinguishable messages), so thank goodness I stacked up on pants and long-sleeves in the 24-month range last spring at Just Like New Kids. Oh, and we also have our first pair of functional, fitting shoes! Grabbed a pair of Dawgs (think Crocs, but cheaper) on clearance this week for $2, and he loves them. A little tough at first to smoosh his fat foot in there, but the length of his 5/6 rubber clogs is perfect. And Grammy, who returned from a month at the lake earlier this week, says it’s clear how much taller Cayden has gotten. She says he’s getting a little leaner, but his cottage-cheese ass still belies any hope of slenderness.

Seriously, though, he better become a more confident walker soon. Because it’s torture to take him places where the walk is too short for the Ergo but just long enough to kill my back. Drop-off at daycare, for example, where I’m teetering on heels to balance a 30+ pound kid and diaper bag full of goodies across a parking lot, through the secure entry and down the hall to his room.

And with his growing and learning has come boundary testing. And tantrums. Which are sometimes annoying, but mostly just plain funny, because it’s true, unrivaled entertainment to see a watch a kid object to something with limited communications skills, yet limitless ambition and fervor.

But if limit testing in the form of nipple biting (he did it last night for the first time in forever) is any indication of how this kid will handle discipline, I’m hoping it won’t be too hard. A stern “no biting” and finger pointed for emphasis melted him into a puddle of tears a fraction of a second after he was detached. I think he’s got a bit of a sensitive side, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Oh, and speaking of biting, we haven’t seen anymore daycare bites since the third week of school. Knock on wood, problem seems to have been solved, although I’ve only left my sensitive boy one morning since that third week where he didn’t curl his lip and start crying as soon as I left his side. Tough to do that, but all his report cards indicate the rest of his day is “cheerful”, he “laughs like crazy” all the time and truly enjoys all the activities they have for the tots. Feeling pretty good about this school, despite the sad drop-offs.

Cayden is one year, one-and-a-half-months old, and this has got to be the best stage of baby/toddlerhood. Until tomorrow, that is.

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