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Monday, June 30, 2008

Eureka! Moments

In general, I think one of the best thing about having kids -- after the full-body, full-speed-ahead, gleefully-shouting hugs of greeting when one walks in the door from work -- is watching them learn. I don't mean necessarily the skills we work so hard to teach, though it is of course wonderful to see them learning to swim or to use a spoon without soiling yet another shirt. I am thinking more about the conceptual learning that seems to happen without overt teaching. The ah-ha! light-bulb moments when they suddenly grasp a new idea, or use a hard new word correctly in a sentence, or master an etiquette milestone without anyone reminding them about the appropriate relative positions for fingers, noses, and kleenex.

Son, at four-and-a-half, has been having a lot of these moments lately. After working for a long time to contain his jack-in-the-box eating style (in the chair, hop out of the chair, in the chair, hop out of the chair...), he has begun to sit for longer stretches at the table. It is apparently too much to ask of his energy level and enthusiasm to sit on his bottom, facing the same direction, without squirming or gesticulating wildly even once during a meal, but he is now remaining with at least one body part on the seat of the chair at all times until he's done with dinner. For a child who, not long ago, was completely incapable of sitting there and eating without multiple interruptions to go get a toy (though they're not allowed at the table), to hop up and down on one foot between bites, to go get a project he did at school to show it to us right now, and so on, this is a major accomplishment. And lo and behold! as he has begun to be able to sit(ish) in his chair throughout dinner, he has suddenly recalled unprompted a lesson we were working to instill a month or so ago. For the last several days, he has sat nicely in his chair throughout his whole meal, eaten all the food on his plate, looked up smiling and said, "May I please be excused?" and then waited until we said "Yes" before getting up from his chair.

I was outside looking for signs of the spaceship too. I wanted to ask the aliens who'd abducted him what they'd done with my real Son, or at least thank them for the one they returned to me. But so far, I haven't made contact. So, this is my public thank you to the universe: alien manners are much appreciated here at Chez MommyTime; please come back for Daughter as soon as she's old enough to see onto her plate without having to sit on her knees in the chair. m'kay? (We would, of course, like her returned to us with her Improved Mealtime Politeness Chip installed as well.)

In other news of revelations: A few weeks ago, Son was watching Shrek the Third for maybe the fourth time, and I swear the power of his epiphany would have recharged my laptop battery for a week if I could have harnessed it. There's a scene towards the end of the movie where a whole slew of fairy tale bad guys form a menacing circle around poor Prince Arthur. They move in for the attack, at the command of the evil ringleader Prince Charming (love that he's a villain, by the way), when Arthur speaks up and asks them what they're all doing. They respond that they're doing what they always do: being bad guys. He gives a rousing little speech about how they don't have to follow along just because they've always done so, blah blah blah, change the pattern, etc. etc. It's inspiring in a canned-obligatory-moral-lesson kind of way.

I was tuning out the moral when suddenly Son sat bolt upright in his chair, held up his index finger in that classic Eureka! pose, and said (and I wrote this down the moment he said it, so it's verbatim), "Hey-yy...wait a minute! He has a point there! Maybe the bad guys are simply too bad. Maybe they don't need to be so bad. Maybe they just only need to be bad to bad guys, and to good guys, they don't need to be bad at all."

Apart from nearly falling over myself trying not to laugh at "He has a point there!" I was delighted to see him apparently internalizing an important lesson about machismo and unwarranted violence. It has, of course, not much dimmed his enthusiasm for playing swords or building mouse traps for invisible mice (his latest victims), but I am heartened by his ability to articulate the notion that badness just for badness sake really might be misplaced and excessive.

On the language front, his favorite new word is voracious. He pronounces it four-racious, but he uses it correctly, though he hasn't quite mastered its superlatives. He told me on the way home from school recently, "I'm even more four-racious-er than I was yesterday, Mama." And he proceeded to list about three entrees and five side dishes he was hoping to eat when we got home.

He did eat very well that night. But what has me even happier is his apparently four-racious appetite for consuming knowledge. I can't wait to watch what he learns this week.


Tracey said...

That is a STITCH. Four year olds are hysterical.

KD @ A Bit Squirrelly said...

That is awesome! What a little smarty!

Aimeepalooza said...

Your son reminds me of my oldest B. He continues to have those moments to the point that Aaron and I get quiet and scared of how smart he is. It's not just smart it's wise.

Twenty Four At Heart said...

Sigh ... I love those Eureka moments. It gives us moms one of those rare moments of feeling just maybe (?) we're doing something right after all! Precious!

All Adither said...

I love watching them learn and grow too. It is truly the coolest part of parenting.

Stacy (mama-om) said...

I am truly tearing up over here!

I have an almost-five-year-old boy and it is just so nice to read your description of dinner at your house. Because that's MY house!

And what a sweet story about the bad guys revelation. My son, too, is developing his understanding of good, bad and powerful, and all the accoutrements therein.

Great post! Thanks.

Lynnie said...

Wow, that's totally cool! And he's at the age where that kind of epiphany can actually be remembered in other contexts, like when he's playing with friends and things get rough, or whatever. I remember asking our neighbor with older kids if things are still fun as the kids get older and he said, "Yeah, the conversations get REALLY interesting." I guess it's true!

Mrs F with 4 said...

I LOVE this! Today's supper conversation was all about the birds and the bees - thanks to number 1 son's summer camp at the local wildlife rehabilitation centre. He was explaining it ALL to his 4 and 2 year-old siblings. It was very long, and very complicated and he was very serious. 4 year old was looking wise and nodding appropriately. 2 year old, too, until she couldn't contain herself any longer, and just BURST out with, "I LOVE eggs, they're SOOOO yummy".

MultiplesMommy said...

You got me giggling! Oh, and if you make contact with the aliens, give them our lat/long, will ya?

Lipstick said...

Love this post! My son says "actually" a lot and it always amazes me/makes me proud/freaks me out that he sounds so grown up.

foolery said...

Your son is already way smarter than I am. I need a good cry.

lattemommy said...

I love it. At four he's already trying to "build a better mousetrap". Destined for great things, that child! :)


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