When my daughter was born, she was brilliant. Her tender fingers and alert eyes explored her world eagerly, sweetly. Everything she did was the amazing predictor of future success. Mothers compare notes—especially and competitively among first time mothers. I remember a group of mothers with whom I shared her first words, her first steps, her ability to recognize and remember. Oh, that was at so long ago, and how I would love to look up that little circle of formerly new mommies and compare notes on the children that are now in their elementary school years. What I want to know is this: when did the brain damage set in? It’s a phenomena documented by Bill Cosby in a comedy routine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyMSc97UksM, but was never part of my graduate studies in child development. Ever. Here is a sample:
“Pick up your cup, honey.”
“What cup, Mommy? I don’t see a cup.”
“The cup on the floor.”
Picture a preschool age child looking past the green cup near her feet.
“That cup!” I said again, pointing.
“I don’t see a cup,” said my daughter, spinning in circles slowly, and casting her gaze about the room.
“By your feet!” I declared.
“There’s no cup by my feet!”
Exasperated, I reached forward and picked up the green plastic cup. I held it out to her. Silence.
“Oh--- that cup,” she sighed.
How could she not see that? Was the room suddenly littered with identical green plastic cups? Was the cup wearing an invisible cape? Did a fairy run out and hide it at the very moment little eyes would sweep that very spot of the floor?
Someone please tell me, is this universal? I hope it is at least a temporary state—but now that she is approaching middle school, I need to redefine temporary. After all, the human brain does not fully develop logic processing until the age of 25.
We still have brain damage moments, but they are different now due to new tactical maneuvers to evade direct questions and solicit approval. I recently asked her about the color of the sky and before she could even venture to say that it might be pink with a rising sun, she said, almost verbatim, “Well, I looked out the window. And I saw it. And then I thought to myself, I really should have Meg over to play, because, you know, it looked so nice. And then I was thinking—“
“No, honey, the color! What color!”
“Oh, well, that’s what I was saying. Because, well, what did you think it was?”
“No, sweetheart, I asked you to tell me what color it was. What was it?”
“Oh, it was pretty.”
We have these conversations more than I would like to admit. Brain damage is part of the charm of childhood. It certainly makes for funny stories. Maybe this is nature’s reminder to parents that children, despite learning to feed themselves and pee in a toilet, still need massive amounts of protection and guidance.
Either that, or these conversations are preparatory evasive tactics for budding politicians, but I digress.
I fear the same disability has begun to present itself in my son. His clots of disability seem to be extremely selective. My husband recently found him stacking multiple objects upon each other to reach a confiscated toy gun that we had placed at the top of a closet. Earlier this week, I heard grunting and crying from the bathroom. Tiny Man was trying to reach the toothbrush, which was sink level, and could have been accessed from the usual perch of the closed toilet seat or the plastic yellow stool under the sink.
“I tan’t weach it,” he said.
This is the child that once climbed the toilet seat to the sink, reached above the medicine cabinet where there is a ledge, and stole the blue toothpaste he so loves to eat. This child, that “tan’t weach” has also heaved himself onto the kitchen counter with use of upper body strength only and took items off the third and topmost shelf of a cabinet. And here he was, straining, whining, and dying—a toothbrush only 36 inches from the floor.
Sure. Brain damage, but a great excuse to pick up that not-so-baby-anymore and guide him to meet his needs. And when my friends connect to catch up on our lives and our children’s growth, I’ll still swear both the little people are brilliant.