Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Simple Answer Never Sounded So Good

Yesterday evening sure seemed pretty typical on the surface. I was preparing dinner (white bass sauteed in a Japanese soy-mirin-ginger marinade over quinoa), while Max was playing in the next room, Sarah was at a Pilates session, and Jackson was out skateboarding. At some point, I realized I hadn't heard anything from Max in a few minutes, so I called out to him, asking what he was doing. Until very recently, those calls were totally futile, with him lost in his own little world, and my voice flying over his head unnoticed. In recent days, he'd at least had the good sense to make some kind of sound, letting me know he was alive and well.

But at this particular moment last night, the quantum leap many parents dream about finally occurred, totally unexpectedly. (Let's face it--no matter how many kids you have, all the big advances remain fresh, earth-changing moments.) As I waited for a response that would prevent me from having to march into the living room to verify Max's whereabouts, the answer came back at me, loud and clear: "Bookie!" This is, of course, his toddler version of "book," and I had to make sure what had happened was as meaningful as it seemed. I shuttled out of the kitchen, peered around the corner, and saw him sitting in our leather chair, book in his lap, just as peaceful as could be. Upon sensing my presence, he looked up at me, book held in both hands, and flashed an expression that seemed to say, "yes, Father? Is there something else you need? I'm a bit busy right now."

And with that, the barriers to communication began their precarious fall. To be fair, Max has been answering questions for a couple of weeks now, offering up simple responses such as shaking or nodding his head, or saying something like "apple"--which, per my previous post, remains his code word doubling for both "food" and "hungry." But this--answering a question decisively from the next room--was a major step toward the day when we'll have real, substantive conversation.

Of course, first we'll have to get him to stop throwing himself on the floor in a pool of distraught protest every time something doesn't go his way, but hey, no one said it was gonna be easy. So, first we put a stop to the toddler tantrums, and then we can move on to debating the finer points of existentialism. No need to be impatient.

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