“Look Pooh!” said Piglet suddenly. “There’s something in one of the Pine Trees.”
“So there is!” said Pooh, looking up wonderingly. “There’s an Animal.” Piglet took Pooh’s arm, in case Pooh was frightened.
“Is it One of the Fiercer Animals?” he said, looking the other way. Pooh nodded.
“It’s a Jagular,” he said.
“What do Jagulars do?” asked Piglet, hoping that they wouldn’t.
“They hide in the branches of trees, and drop on you as you go underneath,” said Pooh. “Christopher Robin told me.”
Reading this question from Piglet in tonight’s Pooh story, Dom and I smiled at each other. It is such a Bella question right now. I hear it a dozen times a day: “What does x do?” In fact, I wonder if she didn’t get the phrasing from this story.
At first this new kick drove me batty: “What does water do? What does the chair do? What do flowers do?” There are other variations too she asks what things are for and she asks what do they say: “What is sugar for?” “What does the car say? What does the siren say?” It helped me be patient with her questions (mostly) when I finally realized that I didn’t have to answer the literal question. No longer satisfied with merely knowing what things are called, what she wants now are verbs not nouns. What she’s really looking for is an understanding of how things work, what their place is in the grand scheme of things. She’s trying to patch together a picture of the world, to make connections. She’s most satisfied with my answers when I fill in the picture and tell her a story, compose a narrative: “The ambulance takes people who are sick to the hospital where the doctors can help them to get better.”
Meanwhile if Bella is fascinated with verbs, Sophie is firmly entrenched in discovering the nouns. It makes an interesting counterpoint. She’s also begun asking questions, questions and more questions as she breaks into language, spouting full sentences to our astonished delight.
“Wha da?” she points and asks over and over again. It took us a while before we made the connection and understood it to be a question, much less what question. But now that we get it she’s on fire. “What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?” I hear and I answer accordingly: “A door, a window, a spoon, a dog, the wall, a flower.” And oh her smile beams, her whole being glows, when she is understood and receives an answer. And when she repeats a word and I confirm her repetition: real communication! Her joy is contagious and we both beam at each other. Sometimes we even laugh out loud.
Oh my days have their frustrations, no doubt about it. These are two very strong-willed girls and all of us get frustrated when we hit walls and are unable to communicate with each other. Such great frustrations! And I lose my patience with them both. I am no saint. But the rewards when I do slow down and try to understand are priceless: Two little girls exploring their world, making giant’s strides in understanding, in communicating. As we all journey on together day after day, each day an adventure into the unknown, their wonder makes me a child too, constantly learning how to see everything anew as I strive to explain and translate. They teach me their languages even as I teach them mine. Sometimes I think sadly about mothers who feel trapped at home with their little ones, who can’t wait to get back to work. I pity them because they are missing out on what I am finding to be the grandest adventure of my life.