Friday, September 22, 2006

Telling Adam Stories

This blog used to be full of stories about my son, Adam, now almost twenty months old. But lately I've been caught up in "serious" stuff, forgetting the wisdom of youth which says that the purpose of life is simply to live. While I don't want to idealize them too much, children have a kind of spiritual genius which we could all stand to learn from.

My son, for instance, still makes no firm distinction between work and play. Every morning, after I change his "morning diaper" - the sticky, soggy, saturated blob still stuck to his butt from the night before - he insists on cleaning everything up. He picks up the changing pad and the wipes container, putting them back where they go. Then he grabs his late, great diaper, lifts it over his head and proudly, almost gleefully, declares "Trash!" Then he trots out to the kitchen, opens up the cabinet where the trash can for diapers is kept safe from the reach of curious household pets (who would gladly scatter the remnants of a former diaper all over the house if only the could get the paws on one), and plops it into the can. "All done!"

"All done" is his new favorite phrase. It is a useful little gem of a statement, made all the more useful by the flexible meanings he ascribes to it. It could mean that he is finished eating his morning oatmeal. It could mean that his cup is empty. It could mean that he has just done something that we should all marvel at. Or it could be an expression of wishful thinking, hoping against hope that if he proclaims an unwanted activity finished, then, by God, the activity must be finished.

Half an hour into the forty-five minute trip to Oldham County to visit Sami's mother, Adam's beloved "MeMe" (so named in part as a joke that stuck - every time she left a message on our answering machine my mother-in-law would begin, "Yeah, it's me," so we threatened to change her name to "Me") he grabs the strap on his car seat - we call it his "seat belt" so he can associate it with our seat belts and realize that if Mama has to wear a seat belt and Daddy has to wear a seat belt then Adam had better wear a seat belt, too - and declare this torturous trip "All done!"

His language is exploding. That may be the biggest change since the last time I've written about him. Whereas he once had only a few disconnected words, now he speaks in little sentences. Every morning, as he readies himself for preschool, he says, almost rote, "Bye-bye, Daddy! I love you, Daddy!" Of course, his "I love you" is more like "Iwufoo," sounds all jumbled together, unable to slip past his still developing tongue. But I know what he means.

His language is often context-dependant. That is, he is almost constantly speaking, but if you don't know what he's looking at or responding to, you may never know what it is that he's saying. For the longest time I thought it was gibberish, but it is starting to become more clear. You can see patterns in the sounds even when he doesn't exactly know the word he's looking for.

To understand him, you also have to understand that sometimes he simply gives up on words. Realizing that he can't get the whole thing out, he'll pick a sound for a particular word, go with it, and hope that you can figure it out. For instance, "Ahhh!," if it is accompanied by the roar of an airplane overhead and his little finger pointing at the sky, is "airplane." If that same sound is accompanied by him puffing his cheeks out and blowing furiously trying triumphantly to imitate the trumpeting of an elephant, is, of course, "elephant."

But he doesn't always pick his closest approximation of the opening sound in a word or phrase. For complex words he generally goes for the most familiar sound, no matter where it appears in the word. This morning, for instance, we were wrestling on the bed, part of our Friday morning routine. He goes to preschool Monday through Thursday. When we signed him up we expected that by now I would either be working, in law school, or both. But I still don't have a job, and law school was a terrible idea for me. Since his preschool is in the same building where his mother works, and since we are getting a good discount for that, we decided top let him start preschool anyway, giving me time to work on my writing while also, hopefully, getting a part time job and working toward getting back in school (you should already know that story. While I pick him up from his preschool at noon four days a week, giving us some time alone together those day, Friday is our day. Just the two of us, like it used to be.

So, on Friday mornings, we wrestle on Daddy's bed, a treat for the both of us. Today during our match, he learned a new word: BOOM! I'd pick him up and slam him down on the mattress, yelling "Boom!" I'd jump onto the bed next to him, mimicking an elbow drop. BOOM! Then he started saying "boom." He'd jump up an down on my chest after "knocking me down" (I wonder if he thinks he did that with his own strength, like he can really take me down if he needs to), yelling Boom! BOOM!

Every moment is a teaching moment, so I decided to teach him something he won't learn for a few more years. I said, "Adam, did you know that 'boom' is an example of onomatopoeia?" He responded by proudly declaring "Pea! Pea!," like, "I get it, Daddy! See, I can say it, too!"

But what I love most about him is that, for him, everything is play, everything is - at least potentially - a game. It is a dark, damp, ugly morning. Rain has set in, keeping us from going to the park, swinging at the playground, or taking the dog for a walk, a few of our favorite Friday things. He spent much of the morning begging to go outside, so I told him that it was raining, and we can't go outside in the rain. Adam, in response, opened up the front door revealing the glass storm door that he looks out through to see the wider world, as if to try to prove that it wasn't really raining, like hope is a strategy for changing the fundamental nature of the universe. Seeing that it was, in fact, raining, just like Daddy said it was, he paused for a moment, downtrodden.

Then he simply shut the front door behind him, leaving him standing in the space between the front door and the storm door. In mock surprise I playfully teased, "Where's Adam?" Giggles come from behind the door. "Is he under the couch?" More giggles. "Is he in the bathroom?" Still more giggles. "Is he... behind the door?" *Gasp* A little voice from behind the door, emphatically, "NO!" I walked to the door, slowly opened it, and said "I see ADAM!," at which point he erupted into a fit of giggles.

But now I hear him calling out to me, "ALL DONE!," letting me know that his benevolent patience has about run out. Daddy simply must be done pecking at that silly keyboard.

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