My toddler (Max) has always put the cart before the horse when it comes to his early life development…which has caused me to think he is a genius, as all parents do with their children. Max smiled at me in the delivery room when he was less than a minute old, he laughed before his first month’s birthday, crawled and stood on the same day at 4 months, and has been walking since he was 7 months old. Most impressive has been his verbal skills which are growing so rapidly it is scary. For a while its hard to tell if a child is mimicking a word or associating it. Max shifted over into association at an early age and is constantly talking now at 17 months of age…and very good at communicating his wants and needs.
Max’s favorite word is still “basketball” as it is his favorite activity. His basketball skills have gotten better too. However recently we started realizing how much he understands what is going on around him. We are on vacation at my family’s camp on Lake George right now and he is just firing off new words every day that make us stop and stare in awe. In the past when it was time for him to go back to the hotel or my folks house for a nap we’d just say “Okay buddy, time to go home for night-night.” That was enough info for him because “home” was wherever we were and wherever we were staying. Now…”home” will not suffice for young Maxwell.
Our first few nights here at the camp we would say “let’s go home” and when we went to our cabin (named “Tree House”) he would fight with us and say “No! No! home!” We pleaded with him that this was our home for the vacation and resisted. So then…we asked him where he wanted to go. This was his response:
“Airplane. Sky. Home.”
He wanted to get on an airplane, go up in the sky, and land back in Wichita at our home. This is a 17-month-old. Kate and I were shocked. Maybe that’s early – maybe that’s not – but it made us realize how much Max understands his surroundings and the language we are using. We explained that the camp we were in was called the Tree House. “Tree House,” Max responded, and since then he has had no issues with going back to the Tree House for a night-night.
Max, like most kids, is a thrill junkie. Slides, tickles, riding on shoulders, swings…you name it, the kid wants it – and greets them with his high-pitched voice shouting “Wheeeeeeee!!!” Kate and I always count to three and then whatever the fun thing is happens. “Ready Max?” Max claps his hands in anticipation of being swung around in circles…Kate and I begin counting. “One…two…threeeeeeeeeeee!” Max swings in a circle between us shouting “wheeeeee!” Then the ride is over and he uses baby sign language (more) while saying “more” to see if we will do it again. To urge us into it he starts to count. “Twoooo…” We look at him funny, “No, one comes before two.” He replies, “twooooo.” “One” has eluded him his whole life so far and “three” seems interchangeable with “wheee.” Then the other day while we were counting with my seven-year-old nephew, Max did something we had no idea he could do:
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”
The whole faily cheered in total shock! “Eleven, twelve…” he continued, and that was when someone seemed to pull the floor out from under me! A 17-month-old had counted to ten and was counting towards twenty! Most of the teens got funky but clearly he had been learning from hanging with his nephew. Then today, as we were leaving a store in town, he pet the store’s dog good-bye and waved to stuffed animal dog on the shelf. “Two doggies,” he told us. Association.
Parenting is special not only because of the unconditional love between parent and child, but bearing witness to a personality developing and to seeing a human being come to be. Max is certainly not a baby anymore. He is a toddler and he learns so much every day. Is he a genius? Maybe…maybe not, he’s just fast to develop these skills and most likely will balance out with the pack at some point as most of us do. The other 17-month-old kids out there who aren’t talking or have the motor skills Max currently has will be just as good at teepeeing a house when they are 13 as Max will be. So I don’t know if he is super advanced or right where he should be because I don’t believe in timetables when it comes to development. I believe in providing opportunities to Max and when he explores them we learn…and I do push him to learn more and be social. However I am not interested in comparing him to any other kids because kids in development are incomparable. My wonderful 7-year-old nephew didn’t say a word when he was a baby…now the most amazing thoughts spill out of his brain and into the air via his eloquent vocabulary and amazing personality.
Max is napping now in the Tree House, and he is dreaming. His little mouth curls into smiles from time to time and phrases softly come from the crib like “duckies!” Or, “No, no, no…” My favorite was the other night when he suddenly broke out into laughter, took a deep breath, and sighed “Dada.” Association.