Isaac’s communication skills have really come on in leaps and bounds over the past few months. It wasn’t so long ago that the extent of any conversation you could have with him was “yes”, “no”, “I want” and a basic description of things. Now, though, he can understand fairly complex sentences and provide a detailed answer describing how he feels, what he sees, what he has done or why he wants certain things.
A commonly heard variation on a theme when in a car park or next to a busy road is something like:
Daddy, look – a yellow Mini convertible with hubcaps missing!
Or, completely unprompted as I was leaving for the office the other morning, he took note of my work clothes and laptop bag and uttered, matter-of-factly:
Bye bye, Dad. Have a nice day at the office. See you later.
And then there was the three-minute phone conversation he had, unaided, with his grandmother recently, when he described everything he had done on holiday and explained that mummy was out shopping. When I tried to take the phone off him, he shooed me away and told me in no uncertain terms that he was busy on the phone to Nana. (That told me!)
A child’s cognitive and language development is an amazing thing to watch, and it is clear that he is now able to process quite complex thoughts which allow him to, say, express a preference – “I love this” or “I don’t like that” – or provide a rational rebuttal to any request he doesn’t agree with, such as this increasingly common utterance:
No, Daddy, I don’t want to go to bed. I’m not tired yet. I want to play.
All this makes me wonder what he would say if asked to describe his father. Other than being a constant source of cuddles, bedtime stories and trips to the playground, what does he really think of me? Would he like me to spend more (or less) time with him? What does he really enjoy doing with me, and when is he just humouring me because he’s been told to do something? Am I pushing him too hard too soon in assuming that he is ready for integral calculus now that I have taught him how to do basic adding up on his fingers? (I know the answer to that one – of course he’s ready for calculus.)
Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to tell whether he genuinely likes doing stuff, or whether we are projecting our preferences onto him. I don’t think we are, but in all honesty it’s hard to be sure. How much is nature, and how much is nurture?
For instance, is his love of all things technological just ‘a boy thing’, or has it stemmed from him watching me spending countless hours using my iPhone, iPad and various other iAttachments – to the extent where he could easily assume they were merely extensions of my arm – and my willingness to spend time teaching him how to use them? What if I had indulged him to the same extent in some of the other things in which he has had brief but intense interests, like ballet?
I’d love to know, I really would. Partly because I want the best for him, and also because I don’t want him to turn out to be a carbon copy of me or, worse still, of what I wished I had been. He deserves the chance to grow up to be his own man, even if that is something completely different to I wanted myself to be. (Although I might have to draw the line if he wants to be the next Billy Elliot …)
The better I understand what is going on inside my little boy’s head, the better father I can be to him. That’s all I want, really.
Oh well. At some point in the not so distant future, I’m sure he will not hesitate to tell us exactly what he thinks of us, how we have ruined his life and how we are so embarrassing. At which point he can keep his thoughts to himself, thanks very much.