I really dislike reading things about baby development — they take away the magic of it all. Here. Let me show you why.
I’ve been watching awestruck over the past two weeks as a dramatic wave of change has taken hold of my daughter.
Subtle and beautiful and unexpected. Was I really seeing this?
Was it new or had I just not been paying attention?
Then, last night, Aria hands me a paper from daycare I had ignored. It spelled out every nitty gritty detail of the transformations from 12 to 18 months. Something to the effect of a very scientificy statement about the child exhibiting first signs of memory and imagination.
I frowned. This is exactly why I stopped reading parenting guides and books about development probably at six months pregnant. Where’s the adventure in being told what is going on?
Here’s the magic I had been experiencing.
I’d of course noticed months ago how Aria very clearly knew where all of her favorite foods were located. Cheese in the cheese drawer, crackers on top of the fridge, clementines in the crisper.
Then I’d noticed how we could be playing at a vantage point and she noticed this big interesting rock. When we went down the stairs and around, it was like she knew exactly where it was.
But the first time I really realized the extent of Aria’s change in memory, was when it became a memory about an experience, rather than a sight or food.
One day a couple weeks ago we were hanging out in the kitchen at breakfast. Aria started squealing and waving her hands. Through the nonsensical stream of vocabulary I heard loud and clear
Sure enough. There was Buddy heading into his house down the road.
[Just for context, Aria LOVES dogs and has since the moment she first met her cousin, Toc. They’re her favorite part about walks in the morning. Pretty much her favorite thing in the world.
It had taken me too long to figure out, but Aria insisted that we go outside to pet Buddy as we often did in the mornings. She looked everywhere. I took her hand and led her down the sidewalk. We knocked on Buddy’s door. I explained what happened and, with a big grin, Trek led Buddy out.
Aria exuded delight as the tiny dog kissed her face. It may have been one of the happiest, most surprising moments of her short little life.
A week later Aria looks up at me in the kitchen and says “Ga!” This time there was definitely no dog outside. After some nonverbal discussion, she’s dragging me outside by the finger and leading me to the neighbor’s house.
She remembered. And she wanted that miraculous experience again.
What was so distinct about the was that it wasn’t some trigger, like seeing her stroller or the refrigerator. She was thinking about a memory she’d had and wanted to repeat it.
I can see memory in her eyes more and more since then. She sends signals to do certain things, like dancing around the living room, or remembering things that make me laugh and doing them with that look in her eyes, waiting for me to giggle. It’s not me suggesting or her reacting to triggers, like I said, it’s her pulling from her experiences to shape and decide the new moments of her life.
I find that extraordinary.
And I don’t need some paper to point it out to me — Aria is the far more interesting teacher of what happens as a tiny little supermanning baby stands up, speaks out, and becomes a full blown child!