Browsing my favourite online Parenting group the other day, I happened across a familiar post.
A fellow Mum was asking how our children’s speech was coming along, and wondering if her son was making a typical amount of progress for his age (they are all around 17 months). He has a few words, but is way more interested in pointing.
Haven’t we all been there? Eyes sliding anxiously along to next kiddie, some Speedy McFastpants who’s halfway through War and Peace already:
‘I wonder how old they are? Wow, my pride and joy seems a long way from doing that!’
[cue yet another day of nagging worry]
This little lad is an athlete. He’s been up and at ’em since 9 months, climbing things, running and, in some instances, removing his own nappy! (Nothing quite like airing the basement, eh?) So you might conclude he has been directing his energies firmly into being a physical Speedy McFastPants. Another baby is a little chatterbox. During a spring picnic, she approached me brandishing a baby doll. ‘Eyes! Blue!’ she declared, to my astonishment, while Eva rolled happily in a puddle in the background, or some such. This little girl obviously has Verbal Fastpants. Other babies take big mental and physical leaps alternatively, donning and removing their Fastpants, keeping their parents on tenterhooks.
Because you, my friend, have been given a gift. The gift of a little extra window in which to enjoy their innocence. I shall call this ‘The Pantless Window’.
So, your little person won’t be winning any prizes for stringing a sentence together imminently? Well, you know what? That means you get to listen to their funny babbles all the longer. The unrestrained joy of their crazy vocal experiments. The whoops, and the ‘daaa-da-da’s, so blissfully untarnished by bashfulness and all that rational stuff that restricts us as time goes on.
At the moment, Eva is big into her plush toy ‘Owlie’, and animal noises in general. She can’t pronounce ‘Two-whit, too-who’ yet (hardly surprising given I can’t even spell it at 40!) so what comes out is ‘Duh-Djeeeee!’
The sound of her little voice repeating this to Owlie over the monitor in the mornings is music to me. No one else could know what she means except she and I (and possibly Owlie!) and this gives my heart an extra little squeeze as I listen. We have this private code, just for now. It’s a gift of The Pantless Window. Once she finds her Vocal Pants though, the rest of the world will be in on it!
Moving away from the verbal realm, there is the important pastime of ‘Showboating’. This is how Eva attempts to impress adults and older children, with zero understanding of what actually impresses adults and older children. It may include (but is not limited to):
- Bouncing up and down on the spot
- Frequent Down Dogs
- What can only be described as a sumo wrestler walk
- Playing dead
(….errr, no, me neither!!)
If you’ve taken a walk down by Guildford canal recently, you may have been one of the ‘lucky recipients’ of such smooth moves. This little girl gazing expectantly at passersby upside down from between her own knees is something I hope never to forget. It’s hilarious! She’s giving it her all. And the beauty of it is, she is still.. just about… too young to care one jot if it’s ‘appropriate’. But, I’m sure most aspects of the showboating will disappear before the year is out, as she discovers her Social Pants and becomes ever more conscious of other people, and her surroundings
Eva is generally slow and steady, speech-wise, but she did manage to nail ‘Hello’ early on. One of my fondest memories is of taking her out of her pram for a break while christmas shopping. I held her standing up on a bench on Guildford High Street so she could people-watch. Never mind just watching, she proceeded to yell ‘HEH-WOO!’ ‘HIIIYA!!’ to nearly every shopper that went past for a good ten minutes. She only just stopped short of exploding with excitement when people responded, and many of them seemed equally tickled. Babies are so great at bringing out the best in us jaded older folk!
So, I guess this is just another post about innocence, and about its loss. A ‘don’t wish it away’ post. And there are plenty of those already. But, you know what? That’s because it bears repeating. Stop rifling around looking for those elusive Fastpants for a moment. Because as your little one slowly peers around and start to realise that everyone else is wearing pants, they’ll start wanting to wear some too, and some of that joyful spontaneity will be lost.
Take time to enjoy that nonsensical babble. Or the way they reach for you because they can’t walk yet. Or the way they end up wearing most of their food because they can’t use a spoon. Yes, it can be exhausting.. frustrating.. worrying. But these moments will disappear sooner than you think.
There’s so much fun and joy to be had as that personality assembles. It always make me think of that final scene in The Iron Giant, so exciting and awash with potential. And, while their development never really ends, it progresses so far and so fast in these formative years.
So enjoy the journey, and let them air the basement for now. They have an entire life ahead of them in which to wear pants.