It’s early Sunday morning and T has climbed into bed. There is a box of Kleenex on the nightstand.
In a near whisper he says, “Papa the tissue is moving.”
“Why is the tissue moving?”
“I don’t know, why do you think it’s moving?”
He turns to look at me, “um-i-dunno.” Then he swivels his head up toward the ceiling. “Because of the fan.”
No one teaches those kinds of things to a three year old. It is innate, organic learning. Something that his little brain which is firing on all cylinders these days, figured out all by itself. I’m not sure if that makes him a physics genius or just an average kid. What I do know is that our theory still holds true. And I would sell a million books if I had thought of it first; had research to back up the claim (more than the anecdotal sited in this blog); and had had the time to write a book. In March we emerged from the down-side of a tough period with T. The terribleness of being two was at its pinnacle, though it was manifest in a more wily three year old. It was compounded by the attention devoted to Lucas throughout his hospital stay in February and then amplified by the snowboundness that we encountered throughout the rest of the month. It was hard to be around T most of the time. Then came the spring.
The truth is that we did not reach a new milestone, we reached another plane of existence. I would guess that the severity and duration of our rough period is equivalent to the astounding changes that have taken place in our little son. He is not the same child that went with us to the Monster Truck show in the fall, or the boy who rode in the car with us all the way to Rochester in mid-winter.
His imagination occupies him more and more. It lends itself to increasingly complex and independent playtime. He has several cars that he carries around the house in a small bucket. He knows all of their names (characters from Cars) and the role each plays (there are several versions of the main character reflecting different parts in the movie). He frequently can be found with them parked in front of him on his little table, helping them to interact with one another. While he sometimes wants me to be a part, I am not privy to the storyline so he gets frustrated. There are intricacies and nuances that Papas just don’t’ get. His imaginary play continues independently sometimes as long as fifteen or twenty minutes at a time.
Then there is his increasing appetite for books. The other night he took the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle and read it aloud to both of us all the way through. Though he technically can’t read yet, he knows the book so well, he was able to recite the lines from each page based upon the pictures. After he did it a second time, I asked him if he wanted to read to the kids at school during circle time. He said yes and began to demonstrate. He’d read a few lines and then ask me what animal did I see on the page (I was pretending to be one of the kids). It was unprompted and quite astounding to watch. He also has begun to try to understand the significance of individual words. He doesn’t study the letters phonetically, but tries instead to record them to memory as a symbol to interpret and read—like the sign that shows the way to the train station. He doesn’t know what it says but knows what it means.
He wants to know more; he wants to do more; he is venturing out intellectually. He wants reality, clarity, logic, sensibility. He likes to correct us when he thinks that something we’ve said is wrong, and he does it now in a more emphatic way. He is less toddler-silly and a little more, little-boy-serious. His humor has also matured. He’s a funny little boy who enjoys making people laugh as much as he likes to laugh himself. He plays with words and rhyming and tends to be more physical in play—preferring to be chased, frightened or tickled, than being still.
A few weeks ago, he and Darrow went to a Thomas the Train event. While I was traveling with Lucas I received one of the most amazing photos—T with an elaborate face painting of a dragon whose tail began along the ridge of his jaw and veered up along the side of his cheek, with the head and long fire-breathing tongue curling up around his eyebrow. Who is this little boy that was willing to sit long enough and still enough to have somebody paint this beautiful dragon on him? This is not the boy who lived with us just a few short months ago.
At age three, T has even managed his first social event—a sleep-over with one of his best buddies. Other parents marveled at the notion of having kids that age on a sleep-over—calling us brave. We were more curious about whether three year olds could handle such an event. His friend N came over a few weekends ago while his mommies had a night out. The boys little love/hate relationship flourished throughout the little slumber party. We were able to referee the few small spats that broke out. The real test was to come at bed-time. While they both had a bit of trouble with the sleeping arrangements, eventually the excitement of the day overcame them both.
His vocabulary has altogether changed—advanced. We were having a picnic in the yard one particularly warn spring night. While sitting on top of Darrow’s shoulders, T began to fidget. Darrow was holding his foot tightly to ensure that he would not suddenly fall from his shoulders. As Daddy and Papa were talking T kept interrupting, requesting that his foot be released. We continued with our conversation until the frustrated three-year old exclaimed, “Daddy! Papa! Can you let go of my foot? Is that possible?” Another time we were in the car having a little bit of a heated exchange, where he said stated that he was emphatically not going to do something that I asked, and before I could get in another word, he added, “and how do you like them apples.” It was dumbfounding.
His interactions with us have also changed. We have somehow grown even closer simply because he is capable of more complex emotions and communications. There are subtleties that emerge not only from what he says but more so in the way he says it. It is interesting that the way he loves us seems to be maturing. His affection now includes kisses and lots of hugs. He is more apt to apologize for his transgressions which are much fewer than just a few months ago. And there is real remorse—something we have never seen before, not at least like this. It seems like both a blessing and a curse—for as we all grow even closer, we approach what is likely to be the last few months of our life together. It’s all so poignant, and ironic and devastating.
His awareness is becoming more acute. We are more careful in what we say around him. The unfettered conversations are more difficult to hold in his presence. He is able to articulate and comprehend things much more complex then before. What I hope is that his current state of development will make it easier for him (and therefore us) to face the transition as he begins spending more time with his biological parents. I have to believe that if this was all meant to be, that the timing could not be by accident. Maybe the sad little fellow who fell into our lap over two years ago, was meant to flourish and grow in our care. And just as his brilliance reached its apex overshadowing his rough start in life, that he would be ready for the next stage—reunification with his family.
I have to believe that.