Saturday, October 14, 2006


Sleepless in almostwinter, the sky still dark, I am awoken at six in the morning by the wee one waving a waning-light flashlight in my face, asking for batrees. Clok?, she asks, pointing above my head. And in my half-awake stupor, it takes a moment to realize she's asking me to switch out the unseen power from one object to another. Pretty subtle, for a little kid.

It's her half birthday today. At eighteen months her vocabulary has grown to almost a hundred words, though not all are clear. And she still won't use more than one at a time, unless you count the sequence of sounds that comprise Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in babblese.

But she's forever on the cusp of full language, prepped with nouns and adjectives and verbs, a few sounds. She can finish every line of her favorite songs with the right word; knows the names of a dozen family members, twice as many foods. Some words, like in every kid's development, seem to have come from nowhere (what do you say when you burp, we say? Beep!).

So far this morning, we've talked of snak -- appies, nuts, mik -- and settled on fissies (What do you say, Cassia? nak nu!). She's gone to the door to look for the moon, watched Daddy make cafi, and asked for batteries until the mind moved on.

Watching her come fully awake is like watching a seed grow. At first, the wee one and I glaze over to Boohbah, an old tape made by my mother when we first tried the telly with the elderchild oh, so long ago. We watch it twice together, talking our way through, like an ex-media teacher should when watching television with a kid far too young. She sways along with the fuzzy wide-eyed blobs, first in my arms, then, more independent, on the carpet in front of the television, solo with the screen, grinning like a madman, laughing with glee in the otherwise silence, learning to jump with fierce concentration.

By now, she's running in circles behind me, humming along, rolling and tumbling and spinning in almost-control of her body. In a half an hour, she's moved from identifying with the Boobahs themselves to trying out the movements of the live-action, look-what-I-can-do kids portrayed between the scenes. She's fast with the fast music, slow with the slow, almost on the beat, almost okay on her own, except that she wants to be sure I'm here, enough to come over every few minutes to touch my hand, look at my face, laugh, go back to her play.

Maybe she isn't too young, after all. In the context of the usual daytime I experience, she looks so small against her sister; though their constant struggle for place and self has become a bit more manageable in the past few weeks, it's still rare to know them for themselves, outside of the sibling struggle.

But kids aren't statistics; each one needs what she needs, and those of us with more than one of them must constantly struggle to give them their individual attention in a constantly shared environment. And this one is, to my surprise, more awake, more human here in the early morning than she is in the late post-work afternoons that, usually, are my only lot with her.

God bless the one that can take us by the hand, lead us downstairs in the morning long before her sister arises, and, in doing so, give us the time to finally see them in their own growing light.

Postscript: First sentence: Daddy, Dance! Ten minutes of frantic, hilarious carpetwiggling later, she fell asleep in my arms watching Elmo. She may be growing up, but she'll always be my sweet little girl.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:17 AM |

I love this post. The process of children learning language is endlessly fascinating to me and beautiful to watch. Isabella often writes posts about her daughter's emerging bilngualism that remind me of this one. I can't get enough of these. :)
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