Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Ode to Curiosity...and Learning...and Peregrine

Forgive the red eyes. And the goofy expression. But this was a fairly accurate representation of Peregrine from about five weeks to five months.

I noticed when it happened. It was a matter of days, maybe even hours. But when Peregrine was about five weeks old, he opened his eyes.

Not that they hadn't been open before. But something changed, really changed, around the five-week mark. It was like suddenly, he could see, and his eyes popped wide open, and he started looking at the world, and studying it, and eating it up, and drinking it all in.

Peregrine has the most insatiable curiosity of any child, and possibly any person, I have ever met. He reminds me sometimes of some little wild creature, all of his senses so incredibly keen and honed and alert. He'll be playing away happily and then just sit up, tense, his eyes huge and all his muscles ready for action. I will have heard nothing, but if I pay attention very closely I'll eventually find out what caught his attention. A dog barking several blocks away. A siren up the hill in town. A little bird on the deck. Andrew's car pulling into the driveway.
Maybe it's the teacher in me, but it absolutely fascinates me watching Peregrine learn. It blows me away with amazement. He has such a readable face, and he does everything with such intense zest and zeal, that I can all but see the wheels turning in his brain. He eats up every new experience and stores it in his memory, and hones it and refines it and figures out what it all means.

He's in a very steep learning growth spurt right now, especially when it comes to language. He's always been pretty vocal and verbal, and he has a substantial vocabulary, but it's his understanding that has amazed me lately. How does he do it? How can someone who has been alive for such a short time pick up on the things I say as quickly and eagerly as he does?

He absolutely loves "assisting" me with housework. I've always encouraged it, because I think the best way to teach children to work is to include them early and make it fun. So I give exaggerated thank yous when he hands me silverware out of the dishwasher or picks up stray socks from the laundry basket. And I always tell him what a wonderful helper he is, how much I need his help, and so on. Now all I have to do is say "I need your help!" and he dashes across the room, ready to save the day by closing a door or retrieving a fallen spoon. Yesterday he shut himself in the bathroom, and then opened a drawer in front of the door. He couldn't get out, and I couldn't get him out because of the drawer. I knew the only way he was coming out was if he closed the drawer, but I had no idea how to tell him this. Then I remembered that closing things (drawers, washing machine doors, etc) has been one of his favorite ways of helping lately, so I told him I needed his help--could he be my helper and close the drawer? He started hyperventilating with joy at coming to my rescue again, and the next thing I knew, the drawer was closed and he was free. A month ago, a week ago even, he would have had no idea what I meant. It floors me how fast he picks up patterns and learns what things mean.
He watches and analyzes constantly, and he is always making connections. When he hurts himself, he wants a quick snuggle, and then he immediately returns to the site of the injury and tries to figure out exactly what went wrong. When I tell him no, he wants to know exactly what I meant. No ripping the toilet paper? No touching the toilet paper at all? No approaching the toilet paper? And he never forgets anything. He knows every off-limits item in the house. (In fact, he can't get away with anything, because he tells himself no loudly, even when I'm not nearby). I took something away from him this morning, and explained to him that it wasn't for him, it would make him choke. He looked at me with big, earnest eyes, and then started coughing and gagging. Oh! Choke! I know that one!

He's noticed lately that I throw the compost off the side of the deck. So, helpfully, he's been carrying all the crumbs and dirty utensils he can find outside. He wants to know the system for everything, how it all comes together, and what we do when. He's always been very attached to schedules and routines, something I always have to remember and impose on my attachment to spontaneity and flexibility. And right now, it's to my advantage. No matter how mad he is about having to take a nap or stop doing something, he can't help but be excited at going through the ritual of whatever it is we're doing. And excited is putting it mildly. He pants like a puppy. He speed-crawls as fast as he can from one spot to the other, because he knows where teeth get brushed! and after that we read a story and he knows where those are too! It never gets old.
I know he's my first, and that's a learning curve for me, too. But it's one of my greatest joys right now, watching him learn. It's immensely satisfying for me as a teacher and as a mother (and, as a nerd in general). The human brain amazes me. Peregrine amazes me. I know he'll grow and change, and one day, the fact that shoes go on your feet and you put on one and then you put on the other!!!! will just be a fact, and not a reason to hyperventilate and bounce up and down with anticipation. But I hope he never loses this joy, this intense curiosity, this drive to know and do and experience and understand. I hope it's a part of him I'll always nurture, always revel in, always encourage. Because it's incredibly wonderful. I want to be like that when I grow up.

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