Quick Takes—Childish Things

1. Anthony has gone through a language explosion this week. Suddenly the baby is really, really trying to communicate. In addition to saying Mama, Dadda, Bella, Ben, Tree, up, and ppppllbbtt (poopy diaper) I have now thought I heard: no, other side (in reference to nursing), water, push (as in Ben pushed him), and several other things which I can’t remember right now. It isn’t super clear but clear enough that I’ll look up at Dom or Tree and say, “Did Anthony just say ____?” and they will reply, “I think so.” And in addition he’s started speaking long strings of babble that may be intended for words but I cannot understand at all. It reminds me very much of Sophie at an early age we were sure she was stringing together words but with such poor enunciation we had no idea what she was saying. She finally got frustrated at our inability to understand and stopped talking for a while. When she tried again it was much, slower. She worked on enunciating each word so we would get it. I think Anthony may be trying to say real words that he knows when he hears but can’t really form yet.

He also has a range of waves and hand gestures, some of which I can’t figure out. I’m not sure if there’s a consistent meaning or if he’s just trying to get my attention. There is one that seems to be a happy wave, one two-handed wave that seems very deliberate but I can’t quite interpret. And there’s an angry wave I saw today after I cruelly tried to feed him a piece of nasty roast chicken which was yucky, yucky, yucky, so that he had to spit it out and then wave his hands over it, rubbing it into the floor to make sure it was good and gone.

Oh and he’s learned how to clap, which is just the most delightful thing ever and made me realize exactly why the Psalmist writes about clapping your hands for joy. (Oh yes, I do sound just like a parody of a mom blogger that I just read but you know what, it’s funny because it is true. And I’m ok with that.)

Tonight Anthony was playing with Dom’s iPad, lifting the cover and letting it fall. Fascinating stuff. Then Dom confiscated it. And the boy threw a honest to God temper tantrum. High, piercing screams, arching back, yelling, kicking, slapping me. It was so funny I couldn’t but laugh and Dom and Tree were laughing too, which of course just made Anthony even more angry.

Also, Anthony is on the cusp of walking. He’s letting go and standing on his own for minutes at a time and cruising around with only a light touch to balance himself. And today I saw him actually take a step between two chairs. He really wants to walk so bad. I see him watching the big kids and wanting to run with them and frustrated that he can’t keep up. Poor guy.

2. Sophie has decided that she can’t go to the bathroom by herself. She cries and says she’s lonely. The other day I was sitting on the edge of the tub while she did her thing and asking her why she was so lonely when everyone else uses the bathroom without company. She confessed that she is scared a dinosaur is going to come into the bathroom. Then she told me that she had a scary dream about dinosaurs. So I told her that her guardian angel could take care of any dinosaur or other scary thing in her dreams, she just had to ask for help. That seemed to comfort her and a couple days later she told me she’d dreamed about her angel fighting a scary monster.

3. Bella has taken to asking a strange sort of leading question. She does it to me, to Dom, to Sophie most of all. Except it takes on a different character with Sophie than with me. Example: today she asked me if I was tired because the wind made me tired. Or She kind of makes a hypothesis about the way something is or the why of something and then presents her scenario to you for confirmation. She’s not so much gathering information as trying to get you to agree that her hypothesis is the correct one. She starts off with an a priori assumption about a situation and then asks leading questions to get you to agree to her assumptions. “You aren’t eating that right now because you don’t like it?” No, I’m not eating it becasue I don’t want it right now. “You aren’t eating it because it doesn’t taste good?” No, I just don’t want it right now. “Because it doesn’t taste good?”

But when she and Sophie are playing one of their imaginary games, the questions become a way for her to seize control of the game. Sophie says something about what one of the toys is doing and then Bella interjects, “Is it because she wants….” with some very elaborate scenario that couldn’t possibly be what Sophie originally had in mind. Sophie usually agrees reflexively. The other day my sister witnessed an interaction that has us both befuddled. Bella came up to where Sophie was playing by herself and asked if she could play. Sophie said she wanted to play be herself. The Bella asked some leading question that posited a scenario about the game Sophie was playing. Sophie brushed her off with a yes to get Bella to stop questioning her. Then Bella got mad and started crying. When questioned she said it was because Sophie had said whatever it was and that made her angry. But of course Sophie had said nothing of the sort, it was all Bella.

I wonder now if that isn’t what is so disturbing about the way she questions you about her hypotheses: it’s as if she’s trying to control the situation, to make reality conform to her mental model by sheer force of will. When her guess is wrong, it really disturbs her and so she keeps questioning, trying to find a way to phrase it so that you will agree with her statement. 

4. Bella and Sophie have developed a fairly complex set of rules and terminology to go with their imaginary games. There are “one person” games or “two person” games, depending on whether one or the other feels like collaborating. “Are you playing a one person game or a two person game?”

When a game switches from being a one person game to a two person game, they refer to this as “popping”. One will say that she is going to “pop it to a two person game.” One day Tree saw Sophie jumping up and down and Bella questioning what she was going. Evidently she was trying to “Pop it to a five person game.”

Also, there is frequently occasion to “pause the game”. When either player needs a snack break or a bathroom break or has to comply with a parental request, the other will be requested to “pause the game.” Today I asked Bella to pick up something she’d left around and both girls started making a buzzing sound. When I asked about it they told me that the buzz was for the pause in the game.

5. Ben is staring to play games with Sophie (not so much with Bella, he gets too frustrated, especially when she gets pushy about how she thinks a game should go.) He’s got a great imagination and will play pretend games with the little people and his cars and trucks. Going to the grocery store and buying things. Going to the library. He’ll pretend that the cooler or a box is a train or a boat and get the girls to come ride on it with him.

The other day he put an apple on top of the jelly jar and said it was ice cream. When I said, Oh it’s ice cream? he replied, “I’m just ‘tending.”

He loves, loves, loves, the song about the monkeys jumping on the bed and sings it as he jumps on my bed. So I found him a board book of it for Christmas. That was as big a hit as the books about trucks.

Speaking of truck books, the boy has an uncanny ability to walk into the children’s section at the library and immediately go over to a shelf and find a truck book that he’s never seen before. I’m still putting down my bag and removing my coat and he’s already sitting at the table, flipping through his new find. I don’t know how he does it. It’s not memory because they are different books. Somehow he just knows where the books with cars and trucks are. Maybe it’s his guardian angel?

6. Ben is starting to be more affectionate toward Anthony. He will occasionally share a toy, give Anthony a hug or a kiss, try to tickle him. It is very sweet to see the two of them grapple with each other or romp with each other. They love to frolic on my bed (with supervision of course). Ben will play peek-a-boo with the curtain and Anthony giggles and giggles. Oh it melts my heart.

Though he does still push him over at least once a day. He expresses a sort of contrition as soon as you call him on anything he knows he’s not supposed to do, “I won’t.” Don’t push Anthony, Ben! “I won’t!”

7. Bella has been making a conscious effort to catechize Sophie. The other day I overheard her telling Sophie: “When you say, ‘No, Mama, I won’t use the potty,’ you’re saying “no” to Jesus.” She’s repeating a variant of what we’ve told her—a trickle-down of a homily from one of our favorite priests about saying yes to God; but it’s still funny.

The other day my sister took Ben and Sophie out for a trip to the mall but Bella opted to stay home with me. While Anthony napped and I made pumpkin bread she asked me to tell her everything I could think of about various saints. I recapped a bunch of anecdotes from Sigrid Undset’s biography of Catherine of Siena plus whatever I could recall about St Claire and stories from other saints too. She has a great desire to learn more about the saints. My parents sent a biography of Rose of Lima which we’re reading.

It’s fun to see her incorporating these stories into her play. I told her about a friar who came to visit St Catherine intending to prove her a fraud or heretic and leaving convicted because he owned too many books, nice furniture, etc. He gave away everything that he had that was excess and joined Catherine’s group of followers. So today I overheard them playing a game about friars giving away beds because they were too small.

She’s been consciously trying to be helpful around the house and with her sister and brothers. Of course, she has moods when she doesn’t want to be helpful and she can be as selfish and crabby as any small child. But it is the moments when she really tries to model her behavior on that of the saints that stand out. I can see that the stories are firing her imagination.

for more quick takes see Jen

5 Responses to Quick Takes—Childish Things

  1. Karen January 15, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    I never knew what that epigraph meant (my copy of The Waste Land has no notes, it’s in a small paperback I’ve had since grad school). The epigraph, for me, puts the first stanza in a new, brighter light.  Rebirth can only occur after death, and spring (April being referenced in the first stanza) is a rebirth after the “death” of winter.

  2. Katherine January 15, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Oh you are making me want to read so many great works all at once!

  3. Melanie Bettinelli January 15, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Karen, Yes! It’s easy to miss the theme of rebirth if you don’t know where to look for it.

    Katherine, I know. I’m starting to feel the same. So many works I want to read and re=read.

  4. Melanie Bettinelli January 17, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Thanks, Erika. Writing these blog posts does feel rather like typing up notes for a lecture. It’s fun.

  5. Erika January 17, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    Melanie! This series is so fabulous. Thank you. I never got to study the Waste Land with anyone—it’s like I’m taking the Great Books course now! Keep it up!

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