Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Little Acorn and a Big Riddle

I don’t really remember the subtleties of growing up, and it is futile to attempt to piece together the experience of my childhood from the bits of memories I do have left, the faded snapshots in the recesses of my mind, and old photographs of what I used to be like when I was young. Did I laugh and play like my kids do today? I’m sure I did. Did I wonder about the changes I faced every day, and did I look at each thing in the world with excitement and exhilaration? Perhaps. Did I find joy in the smallest of things, things I now overlook and take for granted? I don’t remember.

Now that I'm a parent, I’d like to think the acorn didn’t fall far from the tree, and one of my joys is seeing the world again through Natalie’s eyes.

Today, I was at Target and I came across four white-framed colorful drawings of four different bugs, a butterfly (which I knew would be a hit), a dragonfly, a bee and a ladybug. The matting was an exact match of the green in the border around Gnat’s room, and it even had a healthy dose of purple accents. Of course, when I got home, I forgot all about them (I actually did some paycheck work today), and since I wanted to see her surprise when she first saw them hanging in her room, it was a made rush to get them up and straight.

You see, she likes butterflies, of course, and bugs in general, as long as they don’t come near her. A couple of day ago, I was on my hands and knees looking at a little beetle crawling along the ground. I called her over for a look; though fascinated, as soon as it started to move, she couldn't scramble onto my back fast enough.

Well, she came home, ran upstairs to see me and Kara suggested she go in her room and check out what daddy bought her. She saw the four pictures and her mouth dropped open, saying, “Ohhhh, they’re beautiful,” and she was at a loss for words, literally; she went through a few attempts, a word starting with C, then L, then she gave up and called them beautiful again. A moment later, as if she remembered what word she originally wanted to use, she gazed up at the four bugs and said, “Daddy, they’re so lovely.”

Guess who was the favorite? Yep, I got to play with her guys, help her organize them on her bed… I got to be the cat (it’s not my favorite “guy” to pretend to be, but at least I was in the game), and we cleaned her room together, empting her closet of a mountain of stuffed animals (there’s probably a hundred easily). All of that work (her room is usually a sty, a trait she clearly got from her mother’s genetic makeup) made us thirsty, so we went downstairs to get some juice (I grabbed some purple grape Gatorade for me and some heavily diluted apple juice for her), only with the promise to return to her room.

Once seated back on her floor, she snatched my Gatorade and said, “You can’t have your juice until you solve my riddle.” Where did she get that? I didn’t know that she knew what a riddle was, let alone how to make one up. It took me a while to figure it out, but on certain “Dora, the Explorer” cartoons she likes to watch in the mornings, they have a “grumpy old troll” who lives under a bridge, and Dora must solve a riddle to get across the bridge. I was impressed by her ability to comprehend the problem that Dora faced and then apply it to the current situation, all for fun too.

So what was Gnat’s riddle? Here is what she said: “What is a train that goes choo-choo, a train that has a whistle and is blue?” Please note that it even rhymes; her meter’s off, but it does have a excellent end-rhyme. Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe it was on purpose, but it sounded great. I’ve been impressed by her vocabulary many times in the past (she taught me a Spanish word the other day), but this was fantastic; I was floored.

Right before she asked her riddle, I noticed that her eyes quickly scanned the floor around her looking for something on which to base her riddle; this showed me that she made up the riddle right on the spot. On the floor, near the door was a pile of Thomas the Tank Engine trains in a pile she brought up a few day earlier. So, what is a blue train with a whistle? Thomas, of course.

Wow, if you’re going to pick up something from television, you could do a lot worse than emulating the adventures of Dora, the explorer and her good friend Boots. It is on several times a day, and if that isn’t enough, we’ve got a dozen or so episodes recorded on the DVR. At first, I didn’t think she would be able to relate to it because so much of it is in Spanish, but the more I watched it with her, the more good I saw it in developing her vocabulary, comprehension and problem solving skills. I mean, any two-year old who can count to five in Spanish…and I know she learned that from Dora… must be learning something. But don’t worry if you have to get up in the middle of the show, Gnat knows where the pause button is and she’s not afraid to use it.

So, when I was two years old, looking at the world around me for the first time, did I see it and decide it was best understood in a riddle form? And did I take it upon myself to make one up? Probably the best I could muster was a stick figured drawing with a crayon. I think this is an example that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, but instead, it rockets into the sky like a star.

Acorns like Natalie are never meant to let gravity decide their fate, and I'm seeing this more and more each day. Today, she declared, somewhat out of the blue: "Tomorrow, I'll be bigger."

And whether she will or not, she’ll always be a little nut.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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