Sunday, June 16, 2013

Year One, Month Four Musings

Words. Sixteen months after being born, we can finally confirm my child can comprehend the English language. For those keeping track at home, although Jackson has babbled a lot of words over the past few months (mostly in the “Dada” and “Mama” range), this month we’re marking his first official word as “ball”. Unlike his former words, this is a word that he began saying unprovoked, in relation to seeing or wanting a ball. It’s the first time we have identified his brain recognizing something and verbally identifying it, rather than just pointing and grunting. Exciting stuff.

I’ve read that once kids start talking, it quickly escalates into a LOT of talking – and since the first “ball”, Jackson has added “Dada”, “Mama” (officially this time), “buh bye”, “baball” (baseball… and sometimes basketball), and “more” (accompanied with the baby sign language for “more”, which is two hands coming together).

From Jackson’s perspective, he looks for any possible opportunity to use these words. He sees a ball on TV, he says “ball!” He sees a picture of me on the wall, he says “Dada”. His toy helicopter says “bye bye” when turning off, he replies “buh bye” in return. When you think about it, this makes sense. He’s effectively spent the past year and a half as a mute, but now he’s learned this fun new trick of putting noises together into sounds just like people around him use all the time.

From our perspective, we are also looking for any possible opportunity for him to use these words. I think I’ve probably said “who am I?” or “what’s that?” about a thousand times over the past month in order to elicit a response out of him that is an actual word rather than his typical gibberish. Like all greedy parents, now that we’ve got a taste for our child speaking, we want Jackson to be able to say everything. Our walks down the street have basically become a nonstop quiz for our child where we ask him “Jackson, where’s the …” with … representing every single object that we see. I have no idea who taught my child what everything in the world is called – because neither Kate nor I did – but he knows everything. Street, grass, sky, clouds, sign, car, tree, truck, fire hydrant… you name it, he knows it.

Although we’re anxiously awaiting him to start saying more words, I have to imagine that once he does,  these walks might start getting a little annoying as he points out every tree we pass, and reminds us that there is grass in every yard on our street – but still, I can’t wait. I’m one step closer to teaching him hilarious phrases that will embarrass his mother in public and make everyone else bust out laughing.

Out of all the things he can say, the only one that is more than a party favor is “more”. It serves a real function. While it pads my ego and makes me feel awesome for my child to point at me and say “Dada”, that doesn’t help me determine if he wants food / drink / entertainment / sleep. However, when he eats something that he likes, then turns to me and says “more”, I clearly understand what he’s after. I know realize how nice it’ll be when he’s able to verbalize more things. We’ll be able to take our communication to a whole new level! Beyond that, it’ll be super nice to know what’s going on when he’s not within eyesight. Right now, a scream from the other room could either mean “I just broke my arm” or “I’m pushing my lawnmower and this wall is in my way! Move it!”

Danger. Speaking of lawnmowers, KB and I have realized that our child’s favorite toys and activities are those that put his life in some type of danger – also known as those activities that when I tell my parents about it, they respond with “you’re not letting him do that, are you!? That’s not a good idea!” This started at an early age when on one fateful Saturday morning, while trying to find new things to play with, I let Jackson walk along the kitchen counter. He discovered our jar of wooden spoons, quickly followed by our toaster oven… and his favorite pastime was born. He’ll take a spoon out of the jar, open the toaster oven, put the spoon in the toaster oven, slam the door shut, play with the toaster oven nobs, and repeat until there are roughly 20 wooden cooking utensils jammed into it. Given that the only way he can play this game is when an adult is standing next to him (since it’s on the kitchen counter), I saw little danger in it – but apparently there’s some risk of breaking a heating element or starting a fire. Who knew?

If I had to pick his second favorite pastime, it would be playing in my car while parked in the driveway. Ironically, although he hates riding in the car seat more than most anything, playing in the front seat of the car is better anything this side of a toaster oven. There are countless nobs, buttons, and compartments full of fun things to play with like cell phone chargers and CDs. In my mind, the car is parked, so where’s the danger? But apparently this is going to teach him to steal my keys and go joyriding some day when my back is turned.

Which brings us back to the lawnmower. In general, Jackson’s favorite toys involve pushing things around. He’s got a toy lawnmower and toy grocery cart – but in a pinch, he’ll also push a wastebasket around our house or our recycling BIN up and down the street. One day, after I finished cutting the grass, the real lawnmower was sitting outside – so we spent the better part of the next hour pushing it around the yard. In my mind, the lawnmower was off, and this is a great way to start him down the path to eventually cutting the grass instead of me. But apparently the lawnmower is full of sharp blades and dangerous chemicals that he’s going to touch and ingest when we’re not looking (probably right before he steals my car – but after he starts a fire with my toaster).

The bad thing is that we never thought twice about any of these things being dangerous. They actually seemed like some of the safer activities he does on a daily basis (compared to wanting to jump off beds and couches head first, playing games on the steps, and running on concrete). The morale of the story? Probably a good idea we opted for a health care plan with a low deductible. As my mom said after spending a week with my child “you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the Emergency Room with him.”


Glutton for Punishment. Speaking of awesome, we’re just weeks away from taking our second long trip with Jackson to visit the in-laws. You would think that we would have learned our lessons from our cruise last year – but at some point, you have to get back on the horse and test if we have any chance of ever leaving the greater Cincinnati area with our child. Heading to rural Pennsylvania, there were numerous debates about the best way to travel with Jackson… or maybe I should say “least worst”. Given his hatred for the car seat, we pretty quickly ruled out the 8 hour car ride (also, this would break my own personal rule about being in a car for more than 5 hours – which is, unless it’s for a DMB concert or Bengals game, I’m not doing it). We then debated taking a flight with a layover that would get us closer to our final destination vs. taking a single flight and then driving a little while longer. In the end, we’re hoping against hope that by taking a late afternoon flight, we minimize the risks associated with airplane travel, and hope that by the time we start the 2 hour drive upon landing, it’ll be close enough to bed time that he might fall asleep in the car.

There’s a lot of hope in our plan.

There is some good news – unlike when he was a baby, if he’s screaming, we’re probably going to know why. He’s older now, more able to be entertained by things like food, and doesn’t need to be taking naps every three hours to prevent meltdowns. We know him pretty well, what he likes, and what he doesn’t like, which should arm us to make the trip as enjoyable as possible for him.

But then there’s the bad news – this trip is going to combine a lot of things he really really doesn’t like – being confined, not being able to walk around, and riding around in a car seat. Unlike most kids, something like an iPad only entertains him for about 30 seconds, at which point he loses interest and walks away to find something else to play with. I think that even if we brought every toy he owns, he’s going to lose interest on the hour and a half flight and we’re going to be wrestling him to keep him from running down the aisles and opening and closing the bathroom door for the duration of the flight.

Either way, it’ll be a fun adventure and give me plenty of good stuff for next month’s blog. Stay tuned!