Until a month or two ago, raising Daigoro was more work than play. More often than not, I felt as weary as Atlas and at least twice as old as I actually am. I could hardly do anything with this child. My social life was utterly shattered, as my closest breeding friends were on the other side of the Atlantic. I had no time to read, watch movies, or sleep, and every time I left the house I had to either trundle along with a stroller or walk with Daigoro at a speed of roughly ten feet per minute (allowing for side trips into every open gate and driveway). Doing the laundry was a major endeavour, the four-block trip to the launderette seeming like a quest worthy of epic poems. Our house was becoming very much like a sty, and I was becoming a very cranky old househusband. I have never been very patient, and life with Daigoro was driving me absolutely crazy.

Fortunately, things started to change before I completely lost it. The baby started to walk faster, taking far less side trips and not screaming every time I took her hand to cross a street. She started to occupy herself for longer periods, either curled up in her bed with a book, running around the house hiding her toys, or watching entire episodes of Sesame Street with a bowl of cereal. She stopped pulling all my books off the shelves every five minutes, and did not fuss quite so much when I left her alone to wash dishes - previously, this had been grounds for agonized wailing. And, most importantly of all in my opinion, she began to understand the things that we told her.

Daigoro is quite a talker. Her arsenal of “real” English words that she can say consists of a mere two or three dozen words, but she will babble all day long in a stream of made-up syllables that undeniably follows some sort of grammatical structure and almost, but not quite, makes sense. And she understands almost everything she is told. I am continually amazed by the things she understands.

Just this evening, she picked up a wet washcloth from under the dining table. I had used it to wash her hands and face after dinner, and didn’t notice when it fell to the floor. She picked it up and, still holding it, began to look for other interesting things on the floor. I told her, “don’t do that. Put the washcloth in the sink.” And to my astonishment, she actually marched over to the kitchen sink and threw the washcloth over the edge.

Okay, so I had wanted it to go in the bathroom sink, not the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes. But it still seemed like a miracle. I’ve never told her, “this is a sink,” or even “this is a washcloth.” It wasn’t a case of merely putting something back in the place she knew it had come from, which she does all the time now. She learned those words by herself, from conversations she had overheard. Or she had inferred that the right place to put the washcloth was in the sink, since it was already full of other things waiting to be washed. Either way, it was a sign of independent thinking. Daigoro has begun to work things out for herself. This actually started a while ago, but I continue to be astounded by it.

She has lately become much more interesting in many different ways. This is a huge relief. As much as I loved her as a baby, and even though I am still enchanted by every baby I see on the street, when you come right down to it, babies are not all that interesting. Wondrous cute - but not interesting. They have a limited repertoire of tricks, which every caregiver learns by heart quite quickly. They require constant vigilance - I mean every single second - and you can’t talk to them. Well, you can, but the utter lack of feedback makes it rather unrewarding. “Googly-woogly-biggy-baggy-boo” can only sustain a conversation for so long before you start wondering what’s on TV and whether the cat thinks you are as stupid as you feel.

But now that she is capable of more interesting things, life is completely different for all of us. I can take her to the coffee shop to relax, now that I don’t have to hold her to keep her from leaping off the sofas or pulling the cups off the tables. I can go online and chat with my imaginary friends on E2 while she sits on my lap with a book. I can wash dishes with her standing on a chair next to me, playing with all the plastic dishes after I wash them. Of course, this means I have to wash everything twice, but it seems to take less time than ever, since I spend the whole time watching her play. She stacks the dishes, moves the silverware from drying rack to empty cup and back again, scrubs the cups with spoons, and spends a lot of time trying to put bottles and sippy cups together. She used to have an attention span of about five minutes, but now she persists in things for much longer.

She has begun to draw. The first time I gave her crayons, she tried to eat them, and watched uninterestedly while I tried to show her how to draw. Now she only eats them when she’s very very hungry, and she fills page after page with squiggles and loops. Matisse she is not, but I love her drawings.

Best of all, she can interact with other people just as capably. We took her to two parties around Christmas, and she actually talked to people and played with the children. She doesn’t worry anymore that the other children will steal her toys, and she’s big enough now that I don’t have to worry about the older kids breaking her. Two- and three-year-olds really need to be watched for this, as they always seem to think babies are just lifelike dolls. They mean well - I don’t for a minute accept the conventional “wisdom” that toddlers are evil - but they have no idea.

We still can’t take her to movies, but the selection of movies in our neighbourhood has never been all that great anyway, and we do manage to see the ones we really care about. In any case, missing a few films here and there no longer seems like such a horrible sacrifice. Once upon a time all of two years ago, I could hardly wait to see the newest sci-fi exploitation or Coen Brothers flick. Now, I can’t wait for Spring to come, so I can take my big girl to the playground again. The last time we were there, she was just learning to go down slides by herself. I’m betting she’ll be running up them the next time.

DAIGORO’S LEXICON AT SIXTEEN MONTHS:

  • Baby (bah-BEE) - she knew this one before, but has started to say it now whenever babies are in sight.
  • Backpack (bah-PAH) - got this one from “Dora the Explorer”.
  • Ball (BAW)
  • Bathtub (bah-TUP)
  • Bear (BEH)
  • Book (BOOK) - the child is an insatiable reader.
  • Boot (BOOK or BOOTH) - obviously, all items of footwear are boots.
  • Bottle (BAH)
  • Bowl (BOW) - every kind of dish is, apparently, a bowl. Cups, plates, Tupperware - all BOW.
  • Cat (GACK)
  • Chocolate (CHUK-luk) - she is an addict. I don’t let her have much of the stuff - if it were up to me, she would never have tasted chuk-luk at all.
  • Cow (CAH)
  • Daddy (dah-DEE) - a powerful invocation, used to summon the genie of the chuk-luk.
  • Dog (DUCK) - actually, all animals that aren’t cats or cows are ducks, including live bears. Who knew zoology could be so simple?
  • Eye (EYE) - one of her newest words, very useful in her new hobby of eye-poking.
  • Mommy (mah-MEE) - less frequently used than Dah-DEE, but potentially an even more powerful incantation. The Mah-MEE genie frequently grants wishes that Dah-DEE would never allow.
  • More (MOW)
  • No (NO or, when reading “The Very Quiet Cricket”, no no NO NO no no no...)
  • “No more...” (NO MOW and a shrug) - first and only sentence so far. I’m not sure she knows this is a sentence.
  • Paddington (PAH-ding-tun) - alas, she only said this once. It was her first perfect word, and was instantly forgotten.
  • Stitch (TIT-th) - the “Lilo and Stitch” alien, not the sewing technique. She has a stuffed Stitch that gets more hugs than Daddy.
  • Teeth (TIT-th as well) - she loves brushing her teeth.
  • That (DAH, sometimes DAT)
  • This (DIS)

I know there are more words than this, but I can’t remember them at the moment. Sometimes, you see, I forget the grown-up words and revert to googly-woogly. Keep in mind that gack lack bejum bam rum gaggle-aggle no no NO NO no no no.

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