Julie and I can’t resist measuring Natalie against imaginary ideal mileposts.  We are so eager for her to be smart that we’re inclined to see supergenius level achievement in ordinary toddler development.  We don’t want to be Rick Moranis in Parenthood, pushing her to be TOO intelligent or not letting her have ice cream until she can distinguish the Anabasis from the Iliad in the original Greek.  We want her to be smart enough to be happy and know that she’s developing normally. 

When we’re candid with ourselves we admit we yearn for her to be at very least “above average” in every metric from height to intellect to poop output.  To this end we’ve signed up for emails from BabyCenter.  Every month we get a report that says “Your six month old should be break-dancing by now,” etc.  We know that development varies radically from child to child and no one reaches all the mileposts at the exact time as this imaginary benchmark baby, yet still we compare, yearning to find her ahead of the curve.

When Natalie turned a year old, she had hit every one of the By Now Your Toddler Shoulds except one.  She was supposed to point to parts of her own face or body by when prompted, and she wasn’t.   She obviously knew what eyes, ears, nose, and mouth are, and when prompted would point them out on mommy, daddy, or her favorite stuffed Bear.  But never on herself.  Even at 14 months she refused to check this box.

We weren’t worried, though, since she was so obviously engaging with and delighted by everything else in the world around her.  She loves to walk up and down our hallway and point out the elevator buttons with a firmly declarative “DAT!”  When I’m pushing her in the Chariot on the street she can spot a dog farther away than I can, and never fails to alert me so we can pull over and say hi.  But still, it would have been nice to have that one item off the developmental checklist.

Last week she started sleeping unusually long and taking more naps than usual.  More experienced parents told us to expect a huge growth spurt and to order the next size diapers and jammies. 

Based on this weekend it appears she’s taken a quantum leap in intellectual development as well.  We’re becoming aware of how much language she actually comprehends and responds to even if she can’t verbalize.

While Julie was reading her the Alphabet Book she got to “N is for Nose” and promptly indicated her OWN nose.  Delighted, Julie alerted me and we happily checked the box.

But the hits kept coming.  It was as if she’d defeated a Boss Dude and gone to the Next Level.  Baby Ninja Gaiden had become SUPER Baby Ninja Gaiden.

I used the word “kiss” conversationally around her, not to her, and she promptly started blowing kisses to us.  Then she leaned in to kiss her mom.

She has been able to say “Up” for a while, but over the weekend added “Down” to her vocabulary.  She also added words that sound suspiciously like “Birthday” and “Money.”  Yes, we’re worried about the portent of that association.

Julie discovered that if you ask Natalie to dance, she starts rocking out in her oh so adorable up and down chicken bob, even if no music is playing. There are no words to describe how awesome this is.

On Sunday I asked Natalie “Would you like to go for a ride?”

She promptly got down off my lap, walked out of her room and into the dining room.  She found the Chariot and pushed it into the middle of the room.  She grabbed her coat out of the Chariot and started trying to put it on by flipping it over behind her head.  Clearly she knew not just the word “Ride” but the whole associated process.

Perhaps most amazing to me, Julie found that though she still refers to Buford as “Dog!” and Moxie as “Cat!” or “DAT,” she’s well aware of their proper names. We tested it scientifically, asking, “Natalie, where’s MOXIE?” She would then look around until she found her, point at her, and exclaim, “DAT!”  Similarly, when asked “Where’s Buford?” she will walk around from room to room until she finds him, point him out and say, “DOG!”

This is some complicated shit here.  She’s figured out that not all furry things with tails are the same set, and that while they may be MEMBERS of their respective sets, Buford and Moxie are individuals and have unique identifiers.   There are members of Congress who haven’t mastered that yet.

Monday night after she went to sleep Julie read me off the list of achievement mileposts for 14 month olds from BabyCenter.  We nodded smugly, knowing that our Superbaby was ahead of the curve on all of them.

Of course since her little sponge brain is soaking up language so quickly, we’re going to have to start curbing our sailor mouths around her or she’s going to be cussing adorably in her new daycare. 

Maybe I’ll give up profanity for Lent.  Good thing Sundays count as Feast Days, and I can get all my swearing in then.

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