Sunday, April 03, 2005

Signs of Intelligent Life

I love babies, don't get me wrong. But those very early days can be a bit...trying. You know, when they mostly lie around having a rest between squalls and don't give you a whole lot of feedback on things. When you wonder, "Is there anybody HOME in there?" as they stare fixedly up at something only they can see on the ceiling while you're trying to engage them in some brain-stimulating game guaranteed to make your three week old a genius by age two.

But then suddenly, with little warning, they begin doing things like cooing, smiling and laughing, and otherwise reacting to the world. And you think, "Hey, there's hope for this kid yet!"

And then, glory be, they begin to take a very active interest in the world around them. They struggle to move themselves over to objects, instead of lying there like slugs waiting for a servant to bring the object to them. They begin to express emotions in a wider range of ways, from crying to laughing, even the occasional pointing or hand-wave-in-the-general-direction-of.

Bacon Bit has moved into the ‘crawling with a vengeance’ stage now. After being stuck in reverse for a few weeks, he suddenly threw it into drive and is now able to go just about anywhere he’d like in a remarkably rapid fashion.

A point of definite interest in his world is my knitting basket. Each child has had to learn this basic rule of the Den of Chaos: the knitting basket is Off Limits. Now obviously, I don’t expect my eight month old to understand the whole concept of ‘no’ or ‘off limits’ or anything like that. I just move the knitting basket out of his reach when I’m not actively using it, and redirect him whenever he attempts to get at it while I am using it.

So yesterday, he saw me take it down from On High to begin working on my project. He threw it into high gear and bustled over to attempt a reconnoiter of the contents – he is a great lover of paper (good source of fiber, interesting flavor and texture) and string (fun to wave about and chew upon), and he knows I have some of both in there.

“No-no-no,” I said gently, picking him up and setting him back down on the floor some distance away. I handed him a couple toys and reminded him how they worked.

First, he shouted his outrage. I will not be balked!! It didn’t last long, though, and he moved on to idly banging the plastic truck on the floor while mulling things over. He watched me for a moment, then crawled nonchalantly over. He sat up. He looked up at me and gave me a charming little smile as he rested one hand, ever-so-lightly, on the edge of the basket.

I heard what he was saying, loud and clear. “I’m checking to see if the sound ‘no-no-no’ means what I think it means, Mommy. And whether or not maybe I can use charm to get away with it anyway…”

A little later that same day, he was sitting in the middle of the playroom floor chewing on a teething ring and watching me from the corner of his eye. Hmm, I thought. Wonder what he thinks he’s up to…?

Sure enough, he set the ring down and began hightailing it out of the room. Out of the playroom, behind the sofa, and out into the hall. Grumbling, I set down my knitting, heaved out of my chair to go after him…and found him sitting up in the hall, bright-eyed and expectant, waiting for me.

The instant he saw me coming after him, he let out a shrieking giggle of pure glee, flopped back onto all fours, and began crawling away as fast as he possibly could. “Chase me, momma, chase me!!”

When I swooped down on him, he let out another shriek of joy, seized hold of my face in both hands and got me a good one in his baby version of a kiss (open mouth as wide as possible, work up some slobber, then rub vigorously back and forth across any exposed skin on the kissee). He was just so darned pleased with his servant’s ability to figure out the new game!!

He’s showing himself to be a fun-loving young man with a good spark of intelligence, a physically active child with a love of games and a deep affection for Servant #1, a.k.a., Mommy. He is also very persistent – we played the ‘chase me’ game at least six hundred times in the next hour, before he finally tired of it and moved on to demanding food and a nap.

Every day now, he shows me a little bit more of the person he is going to be. I’ve been blessed so far with three older children that I not only love (which just sort of comes along with the Mommy gig) but also like (which can be a bit trickier – some kids are pretty, well, uh, obnoxious and easy to dislike).

And it’s starting to look like we’re going to be four for four. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Now I just need to remember that right after he’s drawn on my tax return with crayon or used Play-Doh to decorate the sofa.

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