Friday, September 17, 2010

Things children have taught me

Yesterday I saw my friends Ian & Shelley & their sons at a photography opening in our neighbourhood. It'd been a while since I'd seen Emet & Leo. Even at their ages (15 & 8, I think) they still change so much in a few months. I made me think of the first time I met Leo, when he was about three. It was the year of the World Cup, when France played Brazil. Ian was reminiscing about watching the game with little Leo, who kept himself occupied drawing all over my arms & his with some face paints. I think it was that day that we (for some reason) stuck Leo into a tall upright laundry basket. I have a photo of that somewhere--he was so little & now he's a head taller than me. But I digress...

Around the same time I took Leo to Science World. It was an educational trip for me. Leo constantly surprised me with how much he understood of what he saw there & the things he knew how to do. He inevitably needed to use the washroom & as we went in I was wondering how much help he'd need. I mean, he was only three, hardly even tall enough to hoist it over the toilet rim. But he schooled me on exactly how to pee standing up. I was impressed as he explained the process step by step, using correct terminology (not 'weewee', but 'penis') & requiring nothing of me except to reach the flush lever.

I started to realize how much kids learn from their environment this summer, due to several encounters with children who happened to be about the age of four. The first of note was little Zoe asking when my baby would hatch. She was somewhat interested, but didn't quite have the right terminology, or really grasp the concept that the lump in my shirt was going to be a little person in a few months. Another time I met another friend's daughter Marlot, who I encouraged to put her hand on my belly to feel the baby move. When he didn't comply, I told her he was sleeping & she proceeded to whack my belly to wake him up! At the same event was Suzu, who tried to see the baby by looking up my skirt.

What these three have in common, besides their year of birth, is that they haven't got siblings & therefore seen their mom go through a pregnancy. My nephew Jonah, on the other hand, has twin sisters about three years younger than him. When I first had a conversation with him about his pending cousin, he initiated it, asking me when my baby would be born. He was always very gentle with my belly & seemed quite interested in feeling the baby move. When I said goodbye, he came over & put his little arms around my bump to give Sprout a hug. He even insisted that my sister buy a particular little hat as a gift for 'Pout' (as he pronounced little L's nickname) when she was shopping. That was the hat we brought Sprout home from the hospital in.

Despite how abstract it is to think that a belly bump will grow over months & then become a baby, Jonah understands. Just by living with a pregnant mama & now his little sisters, he's learned an enormous amount about babies. One of my favourite photos of him shows him laying on his back in his sisters' crib, one twin on each arm. Not to say that he's perfect--of course he's dealing with the fact that he's no longer an only child & slowly adapting to his role as big brother. However, he really taught me how much children can understand about pregnancy at a young age.

The lessons I've learned from my own son are (so far) harder to articulate. He's teaching me how to understand his cues & generally patiently waiting for me to figure out what he's communicating. This is so much harder with a newborn compared to a child who is talking. I'd compare it to suddenly having an alien living in your home. You are entirely responsible for his care & feeding. You know what he's supposed to eat, but not necessarily how much or how often. He doesn't speak & because he's new to Earth, every experience is foreign to him & quite often upsetting. In some ways, his needs are fairly simple: eat, sleep, be cleaned up, get cuddled. It's a fairly short list of things that go through my head when Linnaeus cries or seems to need something: hungry? wet/poopy? uncomfortable from gas or temperature? tired? However, distinguishing his hunger cry from his 'I have a burp to come up' cry is a lot harder than it sounds.

It's an incredibly steep learning curve, being a parent. I try to remember that I'm not supposed to just know everything & that as he learns about the world, I learn about him & how to parent him. It's very hard to be learning such crucial things as we go along, but there's no other way to do it. No matter how many books or websites I read about babies, he is a tiny individual. I need to watch & listen, being open to what he's trying to say.

1 comment:

  1. I think the majority of Jonah's knowledge is my fault?!? I don't like to make up stories about things (ie. the stork brought you), I would rather he learn the real biological details of pregnancy, his body..etc. Sometimes I worry that I give him too many details, but what can it hurt? He knows about muscles, and digestion, and kidneys, and where babies grow, how they come out..C-sections etc. But he *did* initiate the conversation, wanting to know how the babies were going to get out! I haven't yet told him about how babies are made...he hasn't asked!



Thanks for commenting! (I've had to enable comment moderation on older posts to thwart spammers, so your post may not appear right away.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...