Daddy Talk: She’s All Grown Up!
Our daughter, Lydia, is now two and half years old, and people keep telling us how grown up she is getting. Often, this opinion is not related to her behavior but to how she looks—tennis shoes, pigtails, pretty smile. Certainly the way we dress her and her new facial expressions make her look more mature than she used to, but I think kids’ maturity could be gaged more accurately by looking at their behaviors, and parents could talk about behaviors much more specifically than they usually do.
For example, one way Lydia has grown up is in her desire to participate in “big kid” activities. This summer, she learned to go down one of the slides at our local swimming pool. After the first couple of times, she didn’t even want a grown-up to stand in line with her, preferring instead to wave and give a thumbs up sign to us across the water. All grown up! Unfortunately, her standing-in-line etiquette is still lacking in maturity. Her typical move is to slide into the line wherever she sees a gap between two big kids—and if you’re only two years old, a gap is any space in which the folks in line are not pressed firmly against each other. The big kids don’t care too much for this cutting but are typically not willing to press their bodies firmly together to keep it from happening. Lydia also enjoys ramming her head into the backs of the bigger kids when the line is taking too long to move. Luckily, when they see that she’s only a toddler, they seem to only roll their eyes and ignore her. Whenever I see her smash her noggin like a billy goat into those other kids, I think, “She’s so grown up!”
I can also tell that Lydia is growing up because she is developing skills as a storyteller. All of her stories begin the same way: “One time…” And what follows is a sentence or two that remind us, incoherently, of something that happened to her recently, maybe as recent as that very morning. Without fail, though, we are left trying to figure out how her stories relate to the present situation. Usually there is an obscure connection. For instance, this week, Lydia brushed her teeth before bed and then addressed my wife: “One time, we went to the dentist.” “Yes,” said Ashley. “And the dentist fixed your tooth.” Made sense. But Lydia replied, “No. The dentist painted my toes.” Eventually, my wife remembered that at the nail salon the man who gave Lydia her first pedicure was wearing a face mask…like the kind the dentist wears. See? We thought we knew where that story was going, but the ending took an unexpected twist. It’s possible that Lydia is the next M. Night Shyamalan. Seriously, though, it was a much better story than her earlier attempts, which all revolved around dirty diapers. As a sidenote, we’re not sure if Lydia remembers the dentist fixing her tooth. And we’re not sure if she remembers what the dentist office is. But we know that she believes that dentists work at nail salons.
Clearly, these descriptions of Lydia’s behavior establish her maturity even more than her physical appearance does. But parents often don’t have time to go into all these details. If I see you during the hectic activity of a weekday and you say somethinglike, “I’ll bet that little girl of yours is growing up,” I’ll reply with something a bit more vague. Like, “Oh, yeah. She’s getting very independent.” Or, “Yes, she’s talking all the time.” But in my head, I’m remembering the water slide billy goat act and the dentist who provides clients with pedicures.
Tim Krason lives in Clinton with his family. He has tried to stay cool this summer by visiting the swimming pool and drinking lots of lemonade.