Monday, August 22, 2005

Ben Makes Me Think

When I was playing with Ben in his room this weekend, I asked him if he could go get a car (which was in the living room). He said, "Yes," and then as he stood up he looked at me, held out his balled-up hand toward me and said, "Wye back." I could tell this meant, "I'll be right back," something we sometimes say to him when we're leaving a room. I repeated back to him, "Oh, you'll be right back? Okay."

He pumped his hand at me again, as if pointing, but without any fingers out, and repeated, "Wye back. Wye back." He walked toward the door, repeating that phrase over and over. As he reached to close the door behind him (not sure why he did that), he said it again. Just when the door touched the jam, he push it back open enough to look in and say, "Wye back." Then he added, "Say here," which I knew meant, "Stay here." I assured him I would do that, and he closed the door.

Upon his return, I could hear his hand fumbling at the doorknob. "Help," his muffled voice said through the door. "Daddy help." It was funny that after so proudly taking charge of the situation, he had to stop and ask for help. I got up and let him in. He walked in with a car and we played for a while. As I continued to ask him where a certain toy was, he would repeat "Wye back," and "Say here," before going to get it.

This is a moment I know I get more out of than I would with someone else's child. It is not just the cuteness of a two-year old reassuring an adult he would be right back, or even that he instructed said adult to stay where he was. Although, that was ridiculously cute. It's that our boy is learning. Not something we tried to teach him, but something he picked up just by observing us. He wants to be like us so strongly that he makes sure we acknowledge what he's doing.

That's when it hit me. Had we brought Ben up as something radically from our current lifestyle, whether something acceptable like the Amish or something hateful like white supremacists, Ben would be right there trying to be the same thing, with absolutely no standard by which to judge. That's how some children go for years being abused, yet still love their parents; they have no idea that their treatment is wrong. It's also why they usually go on to be abusers. That way of thinking and behaving is wired into their brains from such an early age that it's nearly impossible to clear from their minds. I'm not trying to excuse abhorrent behavior, but as a first-time father witnessing how impressionable children are, I'm taken aback by the joy and the concern. It's kind of scary, but it makes me glad that so far Ben watches nothing but commercial-free programs, and only about one or two hours per day.

I haven't written much about Ben in this blog until now. Maybe that's because I consciously was trying to avoid being the annoying guy who chatters incessantly about his kid. Other parents react in one of two ways to that kind of behavior; they either love it because it reminds them of when their child was that age, or they can't stand it because they're thinking, "So what, my kid did (or does) that, and I'm not writing about it." To the latter I say, you choose what you do or do not read, not me. I'm not even sure anybody's reading this thing, except Shannon, who is turning out to be my retroactive editor -- for better or worse. I try not to actively bore people.

Honestly, I could go on for quite a while about Ben. I wouldn't do it to brag, because I know the skills children exhibit at any given age vary for reasons doctors cannot name. At the same time, I worry whether he'll stop saying "coa" instead of "car."

Parents who work tirelessly to get their child to walk may get frustrated, while others who take a completely hands-off approach may see their child walk sooner than expected. We were a bit worried about Ben at one point, because we thought he "should" be crawling. He rolled to get around, and at first only in one direction. That meant that someone had to flip him around once he hit an obstacle. He used that method quite a while, and ended up crawling for a somewhat shorter period than many babies. Without any problems at all, though, he started walking right at about one year.

The same thing goes for talking. We don't know for certain whether our efforts are making a difference. We make sure that we repeat back correctly anything he mis-pronounces. I think that might have contributed to Ben's habit of repeating something until someone repeats it back, but I could be completely wrong.

Ben can't jump yet. I've seen kids 6 months younger jumping like jackrabbits, but at nearly 26 months, when he tries he still manages to get only his heels off the ground. Oh well, one of these days, little buddy.

This post has wandered all around. I guess that's why we have journals. We're not writing on assignment -- we're just putting down our thoughts. What will I post about next time, and when?

Wye back. Say here.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Hi Mark,

After three kids (all boys), I think I'm qualified to tell you: they are all different. You can't compare one with another, let alone compare them with other kids.

Of course you should do as much as possible to stimulate your kids to talk, walk, or whatever... but you can't rush them, and trying to make them do something before they are ready can be frustrating, both for the kid and the parents.

So don't worry about Ben's jumping ... before long you'll be wishing you had some way to tie him to the ground!