Monday, February 18, 2008

But What Can She Do?

One of the more fascinating aspects of being a parent is the accomplishments of your kid. They are, ultimately, the thing that you get asked about most frequently as he or she ages.

Can she roll over? Can she pull herself to standing? Is she crawling? Is she cruising? How many teeth does she have?

And on and on and on.

I have difficulty with these questions, because I prefer to be specific and accurate rather than speculative.

I was not this way at first. When Kara and I first met Mihret, one of the first thing we found ourselves doing was checking for teeth. We’d jam our fingers into her mouth pretty much unprovoked, searching for the little bumps that everyone told us would be “so obvious” when we saw them.

Consequently, we felt bumps all the time – in the front of her mouth. In the back of her mouth. Her mouth appeared to be filled with just-about-to-bloom teeth… right up until a pediatrician told us that kids just have really hard gums.

And that the first teeth usually appear in the front of the mouth, and not in the back.

We became even more vigilant. We knew that her teeth would appear at ANY MINUTE. We swore up and down we could see them just under the surface of the gums, ready to burst forth like little bursty-forthy things.

When suddenly… nothing happened. There just weren’t any teeth in there, and I finally gave up looking for them, adopting my new mantra: “Nothing is in there until I can actually see this.”

Later, I discovered that my daughter had her first tooth when she bit me. I was in a bookstore, with Mihret strapped to my chest, and I gave her my finger to gum. She chomped down, and it actively hurt. I had just experienced tooth-to-skin contact, and it was not pleasant.

Hence my new saying: It isn’t a tooth until it bites me.

This served me very well, as person after person eyed my little one’s gum line and swore up and down that another tooth was just about to burst out… only to have nothing happen. My rule of thumb (or tooth, if you will) has served me well.

The problem has been in measuring her other accomplishments.

Here’s a question: When can someone “do” something?

If I change a tire once, and am successful in my task, can I change a tire? How about if I do it once, but then fail the second time I attempt to change a tire? Can I “not” change a tire?

You see my dilemma. The thing about babies/and or toddlers is, they will do something once, and sometimes twice, and then never do it again.

Take Mihret’s first word. It seemed to be some variation of “Mama.” Only, she would usually say, “Mamama,” which would indicate to me that she didn’t get the concept of “this word is the female person who takes care of me.”

It was also unrepeatable. One day, while Kara was changing Mihret’s diaper, Mihret looked right up at Kara and said, “Mama,” clear as day. Then she did it again.

So Kara tried to get her to do it again at the next diaper change – and Mihret wouldn’t say Mama. It didn’t matter how many times Kara repeated the word, or I repeated the word.

My thinking was – okay, Mama doesn’t count. If Mihret’s not repeating it, then it is not the official first word, and we move on.

She did the same thing with Dada – sometimes she would say it, and sometimes she wouldn’t, and at the end of the day it’s pretty clear to me that while she knows who I am, she does not know that I am “Dada.”

Her first word was, ultimately, “Duck.” And as I write this, it is the one word that I can always, always, always get her to repeat, either by handing her a toy duck, or showing her a duck.

She will also say, “Row, row,” as in Row, Row, Row Your Boat. She does this to request that Kara or I (or anyone, really) sing the song to her and play the game she learned at day care.

Sometimes she will use other words, and sometimes she will do baby signs, but those are the only two words she does consistently.

The other big thing people kept asking about was walking. The thing is, when is a kid walking? How many steps does she have to take for it to count? If she just does five steps one time, is that enough? What if she does it two times?

What if she does it six times in one day, but when I try to show other people that she can walk, she stands there for almost a minute, then flops down and starts crawling?

As of February 12th, the kiddo demonstrated, on camera, that she can get up from a sitting position into a standing position and then walk upwards of twenty steps without falling down or otherwise grabbing onto something to steady herself.

She’s a walker.

Most of the time. Sometimes she gets down and crawls, probably because that’s still a little easier for her, even on our hardwood floors. And sometimes she uses people to get up to standing, because it’s easier.

And the last couple of days, she mostly wants to hang out with mommy and daddy and be carried around.

Even if she doesn’t seem to know what to call us, it’s pretty obvious that she likes us a whole lot. Which is great, because walking or non-walking, talking or non-talking, she’s still an incredible, incredible kid.

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