Thursday, May 16, 2013

Flat out impossible

The little girl has recently been cracking me up when we sit down together to read one of her picture books. We'll be going along from page to page and then we'll come across an illustration of something desirable to her, like a cupcake or a doll, and she will try to pick that thing up off the page and out of the book. In the cases where it's something to eat, she will then pantomime shoveling it in her mouth with lusty lip-smacking sounds. But then, she'll try a couple more times to grab the picture, all the while saying* to me "Can't do it! Can't take things out of books!"

(* This is entirely a side-issue, but the little girl is still in the communication borderlands between baby talk and fully recognizable speech. And yet the vast majority of the time I feel like I know what she means and what she's trying to say, so much so that my brain just kind of auto-translates things and later, like right now, if I try to transcribe what actually came out of her mouth, I find it extremely hard to do so. I know that it was some mixture of fast-cadence sounds in the zigga-digga-zooba phoneme family with actual words like "can't" and "book" but an exact reproduction eludes me. So forgive me for the shorthand.)

The thing is, she doesn't say this as a complaint, or even as a question aimed at something she doesn't understand. She has accepted this as a facet of reality, and it's more like she and I are sharing a little joke, like she's doing a little philosophical observational stand up comedy: "Ya ever notice how the representations of objects are not the objects themselves?"

I don't know why I find this so funny (above and beyond my love of surrealism, and of my daughter). But I love that she is perceptive, and I love that she is a hoot.

I do wonder about her perspective on lots of things, of course. Yesterday, for the first time, I went through the process of taking care of all three children by myself in the evening while my wife was at work. It was supposed to be the first day where I left for work in the morning, the babysitter came over to the house, my wife left the two younger kinds with her while dropping off the little guy at daycare on her way to work, and then I would come home in the afternoon, pick up the little guy, and relieve the babysitter. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a miscommunication/misremembering and the babysitter thought we wanted her on Thursday this week rather than Wednesday, so what ended up happening was the little guy did not go to daycare, my wife stayed with the kids until I was able to come home early, and then my wife went in to work late.

None of that was too big a deal, but it did give me the opportunity to take all three kids outside to play for a while, as opposed to having to jump right into the cook/serve dinner, baths, bedtimes drill. However, when one child out of three is a mere eight weeks old, then taking them all outside to play really means sitting someplace (preferably with an unobstructed view) while holding the infant, and watching the other two amuse themselves, hopefully not in too self-destructive a fashion. The little guy and the little girl tend to resemble A Field Guide to Abrasions and Contusions from the knees down as it is, so sometimes that is hoping against hope. And sometimes, like yesterday, between rushing home and knowing I would have to pick my battles mindfully for the evening, I just tend to let things play out as they will, even when that means the little guy is taking one of the toddler riding toys up to the top of the driveway and accelerating back down again on its back, and his little sister is doing the exact same thing as her idolized role model.

Fortunately, the little girl's riding toy had some rudimentary steering ability, which was to the good specifically because she doesn't quite know how to steer it, meaning that when she would start rolling down the driveway she would inevitable trace a slow arc over to the grass on one side or the other instead of flying straight down at ever-increasing speed. Every time this happened, she would just kind of laugh and say "No!" as if she were talking to the riding toy (which looks like a giraffe on wheels) and trying to cajole it into doing what she wanted. At first I thought this was another amusing example of her inability to distinguish between responsive living things and inanimate objects, but then I stopped and thought about all the times I've talked out loud trying to cajole my car (or computer or whathaveyou) into doing what I wanted. So maybe her worldview isn't quite so unsophisticated as all that.

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