Friday, September 21, 2012

Prove It!

So, my 18-month-old can identify body parts. My MIL says that some 3-year-olds can't even do that. How smart little Munch is!

He's known "nose" for a while. I worked very hard on this one in the bathtub--he has a little boat with a big red nose and I pointed over and over saying "nose nose nose" then pointed to Munch's nose. Now, Munch points to it himself and almost says it--at least, "No" while he points.

He's known "belly" for even longer, thanks to Lisa, who taught him to slap his Pooh Bear's belly. He now does it to Monkey, himself, and Daddy if prompted.

Lately, he's been very into eyes. We were looking at a book and came upon the letter I and I said, "I!" Munch immediately pointed to his eye. It's amazing to me that he knows these things already.

So last night Munch was in the bath and I said to Hubs how impressed I am that Munch knows his body parts. "You need to be able to do that when you enter kindergarten!" I know that because the one body part I missed in my kindergarten entrance exam was "jaw." (It speaks to my history of academic perfectionism that I'm not even forgiving with that less-than-100% effort.)

Hubs said, skeptically, "He knows nose and hair, but not much else." Me: "He knows mouth and ear too." Hubs: "He knows his mouth?"

I looked at Munch, sitting in his suds, and said, "Where's your mouth?" And held my breath. I've never "tested" him in such a way, in a "prove it" way.

And boy that kid came through--he immediately opened his mouth wide, stuck his tongue out, and pointed. Triumph! It was so cute, and I got the, "boy what a smart kid we have" feeling.

Reflecting on this, I feel myriad jumbled feelings.

1) George Carlin has a bit where he talks about how excited we parents get when our kids POOP! I'm sure he would lump knowing where one's mouth is and being able to point to it on cue as not placing one in the "genius" category. However, George Carlin never saw a kid as cute as MINE, I'm sure.

2) No, there is a wonder in watching what started as a microscopic cell learn the art of, well, living. I understand that billions of kids before mine have rolled over and smiled and eaten a puff and clicked their tongues and stood on their own. But MY kid has a first time for these things. And though you know these milestones are coming and though the novelty wears off and soon they're just walking like most other bipedal creatures, there is something so joyful in watching them learn to do it. The excitement of those first few steps Munch took, for us and for him, are quite nearly unmatched. When he was first walking on his own for about 10 steps, it struck me as so odd to get excited about so commonplace a thing as walking. But it was wondrous.

3) I've said before that I don't want Munch to be the top of his class. I know that sounds so weird from a mother's mouth. But what I wish for him is average. For so long in my family, "average" in school or work equates to "mediocre." What I mean is, I don't want him to feel that he's a complete failure if he tries his best and gets a B. I don't want him to feel like he has to be the BEST at everything. I want him to enjoy life, and find what he is naturally BEST at, whether that's music or tennis or math or science. I don't want him to be a slacker; and I hope he doesn't struggle in school. I want him to be a solid B student. That may be weird, but that's how I feel.

However, was my innocuous question, "Where's your mouth?" the shot across the bow for the "show me how smart you are" trap we parents all somehow seem to fall into? If Munch had simply stared at me or leaned forward and put his face in the water or eaten more bubbles instead of triumphantly finding his mouth, what would that have felt like? Would I have been disappointed that he wasn't further along, that he couldn't "prove" to his father his anatomical knowledge? Did I get too much satisfaction from him knowing the right answer?

I hope not. I hope I felt pure joy that my little man learned another new thing. Because the joy is in the learning. And, as toddlers are wont to do, maybe he's forgotten where is mouth is by now. But the joy, the triumph, I think I take in his body part identification is the progress. He's growing! He's understanding that everything has a name. And he's learning to name it.

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