The First Seven

Last night our two year old said his first seven word sentence (that we know of). "Blue fish sleep with (L - he refers to himself in the third person) in bed." This lexical locomotive was received with what hubby and I hope was contained surprise, albeit the reflection of his own amplified smile at our stupefied reception seems to evince the contrary. We were soon guilty of trying to extract more linguistic gems but we dropped the circus training when we realized that the last thing our tired kid needed right before bed was to fire his neurons (though admittedly his eyes dropped even more when he attempted more sentences).

The development of language is nothing short of miraculous. I have been talking to my son from before his was born and only in the past few month but we have been conversing only in the past few months. The early wins were words. Now the wins are whole sentences. I continue to be amazed at how the human brain can concomitantly manipulate languages. My son knows to tell me something in Serbian and quickly change to English or Greek depending on the family member receiving his command. He also understands why he must switch. He understands the concept of multiple languages and grammar they use. We count to twenty in English and then I instruct him we will do it in Serbian and off we go. He is picking up the seven Serbian cases expertly.

It's immensely satisfying to see your instruction gratified. It took a bit for my son to understand the various nominal shapes - circle, square, oval, triangle, rectangle. Then I added pentagon and hexagon. He picked the latter up more quickly, understanding the concept of shapes. Now we're working on 3D shapes, which he continues to comprehend in their 2D components. A pyramid is triangle, a sphere a circle. Soon that will click too. Nothing has taught me more patience that teaching my son. We repeat daily something he may not seem to ever get and then one day - jackpot. I'm teaching him how to use the swing on his own. The choreography continues to be demanding for him, but soon he will pick it up and flow.

What may be even more satisfying is when your child picks up a concept or a word that you haven't taught them. Yesterday my son pointed to a skateboard and proclaimed its verbal conquest to the world - where could he have got that from? My husband excitedly related to me the other night that our son pointed to his NASA shirt and said "rocket" even though the NASA symbol for all its stars, does not contain one. It does however have a shape reminiscent of a rocket and our son knows what rockets are and that they fly to the stars up in the sky.

Repetition is royal. I've now instituted the same routine with our younger son. Every day there is physical and mental exercise, for if we don't nurture this, who will? And what would we have lost? I worry that our younger son receives less attention and less nurture than our first for we are constantly dividing our time between the two. To some extent having an older sibling and noting his ways may aid him and propel him to excel earlier but on the flip side, there are activities that can only be conducted on on one. For instance, I noted that when reading a book to my 5 month old alone, he attempts to turn the pages and to flip up the pop-ups. He has achieved the intellectual milestone, but not the physical - he is unable to manipulate his hands in order to achieve what he wants to his utter and most vocal frustration (my husband and I joke that his grunts and expressions are sometimes reminiscent of a frustrated old man - I suppose it all comes full circle). Yet the intellectual achievement propels his dexterity for he keeps attempting what he has yet to achieve - to reveal the bear in the peekaboo book. This cannot be achieved when he is on one leg and his brother, who likes to read along with me, on the other.

My guilt in not providing my younger son with as much attention (albeit I have consciously decreased my work load to ensure that we have on one one time each day) has resulted in other compensating behaviours. He didn't like the crib, so I took him into bed. With my first son this resulted in constant nursing and thinned my sanity to a skeletal state until he was moved into another room. My second son sleeps soundly and nurses less as if my heartbeat is enough for him to enter into a longer, deeper sleep. My husband believes this is not a wise policy and he may be right, for there is sound argument for providing each child their own room (albeit one difficult to achieve when living in SF as we do, for instance), but if I sleep more and our son sleeps more, I don't see any other theoretical factor that could outweigh that...

There is nothing more rewarding nor difficult than parenthood and it teaches you invaluable lessons. For me, the biggest lessons have been in patience and flexibility. I'm still guilty of being impatient and obstinate at times, even obstreperous, but less so. I know that any plan may fail but if it does I don't  crumble into a foetal position and wail my woes away (at least not as much), but rather view it as a testament to the fact that it was shoddy planning on my part in the first place.


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