Monday, October 3, 2016

Parenthood: Week 172 - The Subtle Growth Of Toddlers

When Ollie was a baby, there were clear signs that he was growing up. His fist started to relax, he learned to role over and eventually he began to talk. Babyhood is full of these milestones that provide clear signs of physical and mental development.

Looking back at pictures of Ollie a year ago, the growth is not as clear as when you compare pictures from his first to second year of life and even his second to his third year of life. It’s not that there isn’t tremendous growth happening, it’s just that the signs of this growth are much more subtle.

A couple days ago, I told Ollie to read a couple books by himself and he picked out three books and sat and “read” through them for almost ten minutes. No, he can’t read yet, but he does have the maturity and patience to sit down and look through a book and get stimulation from this activity. This wasn’t happening a year ago. Ollie now wears his backpack to and from school, which he never did a year ago, and he is far more coordinated which I can see in the way he cracks open eggs and stirs.  His basketball game hasn't improved much, but he's learned how to swing a lightsaber.

Ollie has always been an inquisitive child, but he now articulates this through questions. “Are we there yet?” and “What is that?” has become common in his conversations and no, I actually do not find these questions annoying. Okay, I’m lying, I do find them annoying sometimes, but I refuse to let Ollie see this in my response. I value his questions and each one is  a challenge as I try to explain the world around him in a way that he can understand.

It has been interesting lately to see how much Ollie picks up of the world around him. The other day, I was playing an old episode of This American Life and in the beginning of the episode a mother reads a couple lines of a storybook to her son. Not realizing that Ollie was even listening, he asked for us to go back to that part, because he wanted to hear about the owl the mother was reading about. Ollie didn’t fully understand the context of what he heard, but he was able to pick something out that made sense to him and he wanted to examine it closer.

While Ollie still wants to be held, his endurance when walking has improved and the trepidation on playground equipment I noticed most of the time when we were at the park a year ago has diminished.  Ollie can run pretty fast when he wants to, and he can also make himself a lot harder to hold when he really doesn’t want to go somewhere. Even though I don’t notice him getting taller, this growth has become clear as we transitioned out of shorts and found out that many of his pants are too short.

Probably the growth I’m most proud of is Ollie’s emotional development. Yes, Ollie still has tantrums and meltdowns, but the truly catastrophic ones are less often. His is able to calm himself down faster, and he more actively advocates for what his emotional needs (e.g. more hugs, wanting to be left alone). When reading a book a couple days ago, Ollie told me that a character looked sad. And today, Ollie was talking to Diana about the different facial expressions associated with emotions, and I felt so proud of his interest and exploration of the nature of human feelings.

My little guy is growing up. While there aren’t any huge milestones like learning to walk coming up anytime soon, these small moments of growth feel just as meaningful.

The most important journeys in life aren't taken by walking but by exploring human heart.

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