“It’s Crissum Time!”
Before you came into our lives, I knew, and almost certainly used, the phrase “childlike delight,” but I really don’t think I had the visceral sense of the meaning of that phrase until you showed up to demonstrate it for me. You love looking at people’s Christmas lights (Crissum lights) — including our own. You’ve even interrupted whatever play was going on at the time to simply call out, in case anyone forgot, that “It’s Crissum time!”
So the beginning of Crissum Time usually comes right around Thanksgiving. Another thing that came around Thanksgiving this year (and we hope in future years) was Grand-mere. She was here for the two weeks surrounding Thanksgiving as well as those bordering weekends. We were a little bit worried about this because of your limited acceptance of her the last time she visited. We spent most of the week beforehand telling you “Grand-mere’s coming!”, telling you about how we’d be picking her up from the train station, that she was going to be sleeping in our office, etc. We even looked up the sign for train, and train station (discovering a cool, new-to-us ASL reference site in the process — asl pro.) We needn’t have worried. You guys hit it off famously. It wasn’t long before your litany of who was doing what included “Sammy, and Mommy, and Daddy, and Grand-mere”. Whether we were “all in a line” or “all in chairs”.
You also engaged in a lot of imaginative play together. One of the things that you and I had played with before was “the little tray”. When I bring the tray for the highchair from the kitchen to the dining room, I’d pretend I had it in one hand, and I’d give it to you from that hand. Soon, it became the little tray, and the actual tray was the big tray. It wasn’t long before we were “throwing” little trays back and forth to each other. You also did this with Grand-mere and the two of you took it to a whole ‘nother level. Mainly this was a car game as the two of you sat in the back seat together. But between you, there appeared many colors of little tray (The red one was a little crazy). Little trays would arc and fly around the car. They’d get stuck in the ceiling, apparently getting peas stuck to the ceiling of the car. They’d get dirty and need to be cleaned with some cotton ball that came into your possession. You had a blast.
Grand-mere was a great playmate for you; she was very good at “Saying ‘Hi.'” You’ll often have a doll, or stuffed animal which you will hand to a (grand-) parent and say, “Say, ‘Hi Sammy.'” This means that we are to take the said animal and animate it in a conversation with you. With Grand-mere you were able to more clearly project yourself into one of the animal interlocutors. The cast of characters at the time was piglet (You enjoy the story “Pooh helps out.”) and dinosaur (from the story “How do dinosaurs say goodnight?”).
Piglet and dinosaur helped you process past events. For example, Grand-mere, Mommy and Daddy had ridden bicycles to Alvarado Park where you briefly had the playground to yourself, but didn’t take advantage of it before another (younger) toddler came on the scene. The other toddler’s name was Daphne and if there was a personality opposite of yours, she had it. Not shy at all, she said the only word she seemed to know, “Baby” once she saw you. Pretty much as soon as she was out of the stroller she had toddled over to you, said “Baby” a dozen times, and wanted to hug and kiss you. Needless to say, you wanted none of that. Eventually, she went and played on the play structure some, but would always gravitate back toward you. When you answered Mom in the affirmative when she queried if you wanted to go for a walk, and we started to head away from the playground, Daphne started to cry. You, on the other hand were terribly relieved to get out of there. You still talk about Daphne weeks later, even though you never talked to Daphne. But you recreated this event through dinosaur and piglet with Grand-mere.
This is a good time to talk about your temperament. Your mom and I were very concerned about how “shy” you seemed and particularly how anxious you get around other toddlers. Mom talked to your pediatrician about this during your two-year visit and was referred to a temperament specialist with whom she talked this month. You scored as having “low adaptability” based on a questionnaire Mom filled out. This means you’re a “natural planner.” You get an idea in your head of how things are going to be and can get stressed out when it doesn’t go like you’ve planned. This can be very evident during a walk to the playground where you’ll tell us that there’ll be “no kids there!” Kids are far less predictible than adults and it is this difference to which they attribute your anxiety around other kids. Going along with that appears to be a certain visual center. You like to observe what’s going on. In play group, you don’t, well, play. But you still learn by observing the other kids. You also notice change. Apparently most kids your age wouldn’t notice if furniture were moved around, but if we so much as cover a couch, or change just about anything in your environment, you not only notice it, you ask us about it. As a result we were instructed to basically help you be accurate in your predictions to reduce your stress. So we tell you that there probably will, be kids at the playground. And, of course, that “Grand-mere’s coming!”
In terms of your development, it is again your language that astounds me. Most vocalizations you make these days are full sentences. Something like “Sammy will do it by all herself!” You’ve gotten quite good with prepositions. At, near, on, above, below, beside — all in your active vocabulary. You’ve also started to come around on your personal pronouns. You still get genders mixed up as often as not, “What is daddy doing with her hat?” and you seem to assume the world desires whatever it is you desire as you frequently use sentences like “Daddy want to get off the chair?” Of course, the most common sentence this month that I’ve heard is “No, Daddy! No, Daddy! I can do it.” From washing your hands, to taking off your jacket, to turning the pages of your book, there is little that you let me help with. Of course, as often as not, it sounds like “I can’t do it.” and I’m not sure if you’re mixing up “you” and “I” or “can” and “can’t.” Regardless your relentless pursuit of independence is, well, relentless.
Your physical development has progressed as well. Most notably on steps. On a walk we took with Grandmere while Mom did alumni interviews for prospective Swarthmore students, you would go down a flight of steps without holding on to anyone’s hands. As the steps were concrete, you managed to worry Grand-mere and me, but you came through just fine. Similarly, you’ve started to take the occasional set of steps alternating feet, though you still default to right foot first, with left playing catch-up. I’ve been trying to teach you your right and left, but it’s hard to tell if I’ve had any success. I’d say you get it right about half the time — those times I start by asking about your right first. If I point to your right elbow and ask which one that is, you’ll say “right”. I’ll agree and for the rest of that session, you’ll get right and left correct. If, sometime later, I start with your left knee for example, you’ll say “right”, I’ll disagree, you’ll correct and the rest of that session, you’ll get right and left correct.
Your memory continues to improve as well. Often you’ll ask your mom and me if we remember things. “Remember the purple balloon?” — A balloon you got from Trader Joes (one grocery store) and only a few minutes later lost into the reaches of the ceiling of Lucky (another grocery store). Or “Remember the red car?” — a car you saw on the lift at the mechanic’s that seems to have captured your fancy. Of course, you ask me if I remember these things, even though I don‘t remember them, and even couldn’t remember them because I wasn’t there when they happened! But I remember the stories about ’em. I even put ’em in your newsletter. 😉 Similarly, you often repeat our questions back to us, even if the answer has only ever lived in your mind. I was at work, and Mom elsewhere in the house. The cat was on the sofa, and you were in the living room. Mom heard you cry out, and came running. The cat still seemed rather peaceful. Mom asked you what happened but never got a satisfactory response. A month later, you’ll still sometimes bust out with “Sammy was standing on the rug, and what did Camus do?!?”
You have also gotten quite good at reading non-verbal cues and picking up on tone of voice. More than once, I’ve been near by when you did something annoying for the umpteenth time and it’s finally gotten under Mom’s skin. She asks you (again) to stop, or takes something away, or whatever, and you’ll say, “You’re driving me crazy!” Fortunately, this usually breaks the tension some and mom will clarify that no, you aren’t driving her crazy, but she does wish you’d stop whatever the behavior in question is.
One of the other curious things that started up this month was your questions about the human origins of things in your life, “Who gave them to you?” (And in these cases, by “you”, you mean “me”.) Usually this is something your mom is good about keeping track of, so we can say that that book came from Pop-pop and Grandma Carolyn. Or that jacket came from Mom-mom and Granddaddy. Sometimes the question is a little harder to answer. We have a stone (rock) walkway going from the lower driveway to the upper part of the main entry walkway. You like walking along the rocks. At one point, you stopped at the top of that walk way, pointed down and said, “Rocks. Who gave it to you?” I explained that we got the rocks with the house and that we were renting it from Bethany. But I don’t think you found the answer very satisfying.
Another typical conversation from the month is courtesy of Mom:
Mom: Sam, so you want to listen to music or a story while we eat lunch?
Sam: Let’s have a conversation.
Mom: Ok, what do you want to talk about?
Sam: let’s talk about people.
Mom: uh, ok
Sam: What are people doing?
Mom: Well, some people are having lunch like we are, some people are working, some people are traveling, some people are playing.
Sam: Uh uh.
Mom: What do you think they’re doing?
Sam: Let’s talk about the people again.
Let’s talk about the people again! Well, no. To repeat this post would take too long for poor old Daddy. But, you can read it again. And then, you can read it again. And you can read it again! But pay special attention to this last part:
I love you, Sam!