Since my husband has been home with the baby, we've seen a small explosion in her development.

In the last week and a half, her vocabulary has expanded. She calls him "Dah-doo," and watches everything he does. I'm still just "Ma-mom."

She's becoming talkative. "Do," is her way of letting you know she wants something. She'll point to whatever it is. When she wants a story, she demands, "Book. Do." She usually takes your hand and puts the book in it, then stands there expectantly. As soon as you start reading, she'll either try to turn the pages at her own rate, or climb over the book, and into your lap.

"Uh-oh," indicates that she just dropped something. She'll points to it, or tries to climb over the furniture to get it. "Duck," refers to her bathtime pals. "Duck. Do." This tells me that she wants me to play the "Duck Overboard" game, wherein I make the two rubber duckies dance on the edge of the tub before tossing them into the air. She thinks it's pretty funny when they splash down. We'll repeat this game until we're both soaked. "Jooce," means that she's thirsty. "Cup," refers to the sippy cup. We're debating whether "Ba-ba" refers to her bottle, or is a general all-purpose descriptor. After all, she's pointed to me and said, "Ba-ba."

She whispers to pretty things, reaching out delicately with the tip of her finger to explore them.

She knows "Hello," and "Hi!" She waves, plays peek-a-boo, and kinda/sorta blows kisses. She mixes that up with peek-a-boo.

Her confidence with walking is growing. She'd rather hold on to someone, but lacking that, she'll motor straight across the floor to get something she really wants. Most times, if she's eager, she'll just crawl, but we're watching her grow impatient with that.

She likes going places. In the morning, she and her Daddy will hang out for a while, and watch Noggin. Then, after her mid-morning snack, they'll go out for a while. They go to Target, or the mall; yesterday, she got to see Grandma at work. Last Friday afternoon, they came to see me. Monday, the two of them went to the grocery store. (She likes to play "masthead" in the shopping cart. In other words, it takes her about thirty seconds to turn around (despite the seatbelt) to kneel, facing the direction the cart is going. It doesn't matter how often you turn her around; she'll do it again. What a nutty little kid.)

After errands, they come home, and the afternoon involves eating lunch, getting her to nap, and playing together.

I've been watching their bond grow over the least several days. My husband tells me that he's at peace with the idea of being wrapped around her little finger, and it doesn't bother him to be scolded, "Dah-doo!" I've seen her pause in play to look around for him. She'll run to him and plant butterfly kisses on his face. Her face lights when he seizes her, kisses her back, and tosses her in the air. I've seen his serenity when he snuggles her close, and she presses her little face against his neck.

She also does things like yank his shirttail up, to stick a saliva-slick finger in his belly button. That really isn't his favorite game, but she scolds him if he tries to pull his shirt back down.

She's good at entertaining herself. We have no idea what's going on in her head, but sometimes she bursts into laughter for no apparent reason. She's told herself a couple of knee slappers recently, judging from the gales of giggles.

We have to distract her from using the furniture as a jungle gym. Have you ever seen a cat play "Alligator"? It's when a cat will walk on the edges of all the furniture to get around a room, never once touching the floor. It's as if they think alligators are down there. Yeah. Well, she'd play that game too, if we let her.

We thought we had the house child-proofed. Ha! Silly us. I just didn't think that she'd start walking and climbing at the same time. Objects are placed on ever higher shelves. Her father came around the corner the other morning, while I was drying my hair, to find her with one foot planted on the top of the baby gate. She was bound and determined to get to me, going so far as to throw a fit when he lifted her away.

Tantrums have a new intensity. She gets frustrated with her abilities. My husband told me that on more than one occasion in the last several days, he told her no, and she slapped him. His discipline involves seating her in the middle of the floor, away from the toys, with the object of the tantrum being taken away for a period of time.

Believe it or not, it takes her very little time to pull herself together. Usually, within ten or fifteen minutes, she's playing and snuggling again. (Disciplining her is harder on us, I think. It's difficult to resist the urge to kiss fat tears away.)

Also, the time they spend together settles their boundaries. The fact is that she's more apt to listen to him, now. When he scolds, she listens. When I scold, she tries to wheedle me. This has resulted in a new solidarity between us. "No," is final, and we back each other up.

Also, it's built new empathy between us. We each understand where the other has been coming from. For the last year, he's let me lead the way in terms of her care. Now that he's the primary caregiver, I let him lead the way, and I try to do things to make it easier on him, like dressing and feeding her in the mornings, so he has time to wake up with a shower, get dressed, and eat something. We've been sharing tips and tricks in dealing with her. In fact, he's getting a lot of insight into the way she thinks. At this crucial stage, his clear-eyed perception is invaluable to me, because I'm often blinded by my love for her.

I'm not jealous of their relationship. To the contrary, this is exactly what I've been waiting for. My close relationship with my father made me eager to see theirs develop.

Nor am I left out of the mix. As far as she's concerned, there are still things only Ma-mom can do, such as the bedtime ritual. She likes the way I read aloud. She runs to me, and snuggles, and plays. Our play is different, more passive, but it still fills a need for her.

I just can't believe how much she's changed and grown over the last two weeks. Karen was an excellent caregiver, and we can't wait until we're back in a place where we can afford her again. Yet, the time B. has spent with Daddy lately has yielded some of the most profound, amazing changes to date.

I truly believe that we may have a gifted child on our hands. The thought is exciting, but means that S. and I have some decisions to make in terms of her education. The thought of her light being choked in the public school system dismays us. Private schools around here are mostly religious. As Pagans, we aren't really interested in watching her receive Catholic or Baptist-flavored instruction. We both need to work full-time to survive, so homeschooling while she's young is out of the question. Besides, we feel that she would benefit from interaction with other children. In passing, we've mentioned hiring private tutors, but the expense is a concern.

What we'll probably do is send her to public school, but spend hours in the evenings deprogramming her, and taking responsibility for teaching to think for herself. We'll be the ones to foster her natural curiosity. I see pitched battles on the horizon with our school district. We're in an area infamous for its arrogance and unresponsiveness.

Really, in the end, it doesn't matter what price we pay to make sure that she is challenged to reach her full potential. The point is that this sweet, affectionate, playful, and brilliant little girl deserves every advantage we can give her. She can't see it right now, but we're devoted to her, and will do whatever it takes to see that our child has a good life in which she can excel according to her lights.

At home, right now, her Da-doo is helping her discover what those might be.

posted by Linda on January 29, 2004 06:34 PM