Category Archives: child development

Day of the Dog

It was just before the holidays that I started to really take stock of my child’s vocabulary. Honestly, I was starting to get worried that he was behind in his language skills. Of course that would’ve been totally normal given that he’s being talked to in three languages on any given day. But still. I was worried that he was noticeably behind.

As it turns out, he’s progressing like any mono-lingual kid at this point. And by that I mean he’s totally soaking anything and everything in. While not everything he utters is intelligible, at 20 months, he’s really trying to repeat (to varying degrees of success) everything that is said. And that is really fun–and a little scary when you actually start to realize all the adult language that you are still using even though you don’t think you are.

But the coolest thing for me this week was that baby now has two words in two different languages for the same object–that object being our dog. Baby’s second word after gato (cat in Spanish) was chien, or dog in French. And that’s what he’s been calling a dog for months now. Until this week when we went to the dog park. As he was running around, chasing all the various mutts, he started yelling out, “Doggies! Doggies!” It floored me because no one in our house says doggies. I suspect it’s something he’s picked up watching television at the nanny’s, but I can’t be sure.

But the interesting thing to me is that, at 20 months old, he understands that doggy and chien mean the same thing. Althought it sort of seems like he’s using doggies to refer to multiple dogs and chien to refer to a single dog. (As an aside–that’s the other thing that’s new in terms of development for him; he can now pick the image of a dog or a cat out of a book or off TV.) But all the same, I’m fascinated by the fact that he’s somewhat grasped the concept of a synonym.

I don’t know if that represents a major milestone in multilingual development or not. I clearly haven’t ready enough books to make me knowledgeable about what I should be doing much less an expert in doing it. It does seem like it should be. But even if it’s not, it’s cause enough for some age-appropriate celebration around our house.

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Filed under bilingual baby, child development, language

The Art of Double Talk

My plan had always been to raise my son bilingual–French and English. I was going to handle the French (along with my mom, Mimi) and dad and everyone else would take care of the English. What I never factored in was an equal parts adorable and fantastic Salvadoran nanny.

After I pulled the trigger on hiring our nanny, one of her big initial questions was whether it was okay if she spoke Spanish to our son. I am very open to other cultures and super supportive of anything that would enrich my son in that respect, so I don’t think she even finished her sentence without saying, “Yes!” Selfishly, I also figured it would be a decent way for me to dust some of the cobwebs off of my high school Spanish.

I have zero regrets about my decision, but the results (so far) have been surprising to say the very least. Surprising is a lame word to use, but it’s hard to find a word that can capture the full range of amazement, excitement, joy, and even a little heartbreak that I’ve felt as our son has started to develop his language skills in earnest.

Baby’s first word–other than mom-mom-mom, which I don’t attribute to any specific language–was gato. Yup, Spanish for cat. There are a couple of weird things about that. First, I had thought for sure his first word would’ve been in French. After all, baby spends about three afternoons a week on average with the nanny and the rest of the time he’s parler-ing with me. Second, our cats don’t really hang out with us. Mostly because of the large dog we have added to our family. Most of the time they like to hang out in their lair in the basement, choosing to be little more than an occasional meow from the stairwell. So, how gato came out of his little mouth, I don’t know.

It made me a little sad. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy, too. Baby’s first words are baby’s first words! But somehow it felt a little like I had failed–and we hadn’t even really started yet. As stupid as it sounds, I wondered if my child loved his nanny more, if he had more fun with her, and if she was a better teacher than I was turning out to be.

Fortunately I was redeemed (and the dog, too) not too long afterward when the wee one decided that his second word would be chien. I felt like we were back in the game.

It’s a silly way to look at it. I’m just happy that our kid is learning. And I’m thrilled that he’s truly becoming multilingual. True, he’s likely going to be totally confused for awhile. And I might be, too. I’m hearing the French and the Spanish, but if he’s trying to say something in English, I’m not hearing it. I thought for a minute the other day he was trying to say “thank you,” but it wasn’t clear enough to be sure. So who knows when the English will kick in.

So, as our son rounds the corner to the 18-month mark, here’s a tally of his first words:

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Filed under bilingual baby, child development, daily life, foreign language

Born To Run, Not Just Walk

Baby crossed a few major milestones this summer. And while I’m sorry that I’m only now getting to catch up on them, the truth is I’ve not only been busy trying trying to enjoy them but also just trying to keep up with them. Literally.

When baby and I arrived at my parents’ house for July Fourth weekend, baby was a crawler. He was pulling himself up on furniture, creeping around the house from chair to chair, and pushing all his walker toys, but he was not what I would consider vertical. Then one day not too long after we arrived, he took the first step on his own. The next day he took three steps on his own. The day after that he took five steps on his own. And after that he was a walker.

I had no idea it would happen that fast. I thought it would be a much longer process, one where he would spend weeks only being able to take a couple steps before crashing. I thought for sure it would take a decent chunk of time to develop the muscle strength, coordination, and balance to be toddling around. Apparently not. By the time we were packed up Labor Day weekend to head home, baby could run. 

And as fast as his chunky bow legs can carry him is clearly his preferred mode of transportation. This of course means that I also am doing a lot more running than I’m used to–even with the training that I’ve been doing to prepare for the Army Ten Miler next month. (Remember you can still donate; just click here before Oct. 3!) My mornings should start with “on your mark, get set, go” followed by the pop of a pistol because, from the second my alarm clock rings, it’s off to the races, the finish line being 7pm when my baby goes vertical to horizontal in his crib.  

But as I say that, one thing occurs to me: My baby really isn’t much of a baby anymore. I’m not sure I like the sound of toddler–just yet.

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Filed under babies, child development, daily life, first year, holidays, play time, walking

Match Dot Mom

Back in my swingin’ single days, I used to spend all week waiting for the weekend to kick off with Friday night happy hour. Although I think it really should be called happy hours since many weeks I found myself still lugging my work bag around town at 1am on a Friday night. As a mommy now, obviously things have changed. But I still look forward to Fridays, but mostly because that’s the day I meet with my French mommy group. It’s a far cry from the happy hours I used to have, but it still is one of my happiest hour and a halfs every week.

But finding the right mommy group is hardly easy, as many of my mommy friends can attest. In fact, when I think about it, it’s kind of like dating all over again.

The ideal is to find a group of educated women who have laid-back personalities and a sense of humor, varied but complementary interests,  keep to a similar schedule, live relatively close to you, and, of course, have (at least) a kid around the same age as yours. It’s a tall order by any standards. I’m not sure I had as many requirements when looking for my last boyfriend. (Thank god my husband found me first.)

But where do mommies go to meet other mommies? The options are somewhat finite:

But let’s get real… chances are you’re looking for a mommy group because you don’t work at the moment, don’t go to church (or at least aren’t active in the community), don’t get to the gym as often as you’d like to admit, don’t have time for volunteer activities, and don’t want to shell out anywhere near $70/month for a membership to a baby club. And if you had friends with babies who lived in your neighborhood, you’d already be hanging out with them.

I lucked out and found a mommy group on the Internet, through http://www.meetup.com. (I totally get why people Internet date now and would admittedly be going down that road if I was single, as it’s an efficient and economical way to meet people.) I had to give on some of the said requirements–I drive roughly 40 minutes (although it’s probably less than 10 miles from my house) to get there–but the French connection outweighed the distance.

I think I lucked out, too, in that I’m sort of an inaugural member of the group. I found out about the group and was able to show up for the first meeting, and that likely made all the difference. It’s so much easier to try something new when everyone is new at it. I definitely think it would be much harder to jump into a very established group.

With that said, I always look forward to seeing if there are any new people at our weekly meetings and even if it’s a bit awkward and forced, I feel like my group’s organizers really try to make everyone feel welcome. But I can tell almost immediately who is never going to come back. In our group’s case, it’s usually someone who realizes the second she walks into the room that her French language skills maybe aren’t as good as she remembered them being in college.

But even as one of the regulars, more or less, I still find myself trying way harder than usual to have these women like me. I literally get up a half hour early, so I can spend extra time on my hair and make-up. I also spend an abnormally long time (for me) deciding what I’m going to wear; I always feel like I want to look fresh and chic and not the strung out and underdone that I usually am. I even stress a little over what baby is going to wear.

That’s when I know this is so like dating. Only minus the drinks and the free dinner.

And perhaps that’s why I find mommy groups, at least the one I’m in, a little awkward. Basically we sit around and watch each others’ kids play and make small talk about breastfeeding, nap schedules, and our husbands’ jobs. We don’t even have coffee or donuts, which makes me think that maybe I should bring some next time. Then again, everyone is currently thin, so maybe that wouldn’t go over so well, if it became a regular thing.

Maybe this whole blind-date, first-date feeling lasts for so long when getting to know other mommies because everyone sort of knows that they either (a) would never have crossed paths or (b) never become friends, if there weren’t babies in the picture. That fact is just sort of the Barney in the room. No wonder so many of my mommy friends who have tried some mommy groups have never gone back to them; that’s kind of a hard thing to get over if the chemistry just isn’t right. And seriously, when you have an infant, who has time to make an effort to spend time with women they don’t necessarily like?

But for as awkward as it can be during some of our meetings, I’m so glad that I’ve stuck with the group. Of course, I love getting the chance to practice my French, but every week, I get to know the women, at least the regulars, a little better and I like them not just a little but a lot more every week.

I just hope they feel the same way about me. I don’t want to have to try to pick up another mommy group any time soon.

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Filed under babies, bilingual baby, child development, daily life, foreign language, infants, mom style, mommy care, moms, parenting, play time

Tuesday, I’m in Love

I love Tuesdays. Tuesdays are the days that baby goes to music class. But before I claim the title of Super Mom, I’ll just put it out there that I don’t actually take him to music class. Baby’s nanny has that joy.

And in fact, it was her idea. She came to me and asked if it would be okay if she signed him up for the free class, which is held in a nearby school. I think she thought he needed more musical exposure. I remember one of the first weeks she was working with us she took him to a children’s concert. If this tells you how sweet she is, she brought me back a CD from the concert, signed by the artist Jose-Luis Orozco with a personal note to me. I have no idea what the note says and cannot understand much of the lyrics, as everything is in Spanish, but baby loves the music. (There’s this one part in the beginning where the singer says, “Eye-eye-eye!” sort of Speedy Gonzalez style and baby always looks up and smiles when he hears that; it’s hilarious.)

I guess maybe she thought it was strange that all she ever heard in my house was the blare of two TVs–one tuned to CNN; the other to MSNBC. (Okay, if I’m being honest, occasionally she’d find one of them on Bravo, if it was a slow news day.)

At any rate, of course I said yes–Lord knows I would’ve paid for it if it weren’t free–and then Tuesdays became all about his music class.

Weirdly enough, I like how the class gives us some structure in the week. See, the first time baby went to class, he cried the whole time. The music teacher told the nanny that it was pretty typical for babies to scream their lungs out until they got used to it. But I had a sneaking suspicion that part of it was that 11:30am class feel within his normal nap time, so I was pretty sure that exhaustion led to the meltdown.

So, I started switching things up and trying to get the wee one to nap earlier, so he’d be in a good mood for all the singing and dancing. Amazingly enough it wasn’t that hard to make the change. Of course it meant my day went at a different pace–showers now were on hold until after the nanny picked him up–but it was a good move, as the next week the nanny reported he didn’t cry once and had a ball.

While I love that our nanny is enterprising enough to seek these types of activities out, I have to not-so-secretly admit that I’m a little jealous. I wish I was taking him to music class.

I feel a little selfish saying that because I get to do plenty of things with him. Baby and I, we have our gym routine and its requisite play group friends and we have French group and all of its fun times. But it’s that mommy-ness in me that makes me always feel like I could/should be doing more. Or at least not feeling as guilty about not doing it, even though I know it’s not only good for baby to have his special things he does with his nanny but it also affords me the time to work uninterrupted, which is key when your job requires you to be at least a little creative.

A few months ago, I was telling my mom about baby’s music class when she asked me what the babies did during the music class. I’m sure my guilt showed through when I told her that I didn’t know. I mean, I assumed that the group listened to music and did sing-alongs and such, but I had no idea what type of music they listened to, whether the group was mostly babies or toddlers, or even if they were speaking English or Spanish. All I really knew is that occasionally I would find the dog with one of those multicolored plastic Easter eggs, stuffed with dry rice and taped shut–a make-shift percussion instrument.

I broke down and asked my nanny to video baby during class. I felt a little strange asking her to do that even thought all I wanted was like 2 minutes of video to be able to send my mom. But in asking her to shoot a little video, I wondered if she thought I was checking up on her. Or ‘if the other parents or nannies in the class were going to look at her askance for taking video of the class. Some people are really funny about that kind of stuff even though it is innocent enough. And really I just wanted to see my son have a good time.

Fortunately, when my nanny asked if shooting the video would cause any problems, no one said it would. So, here’s an inside look at what happens on Tuesdays when I’m not around.

I don’t know about you, but I think that kid’s got real musical talent. While he may have appeared to be more interested in the other people than the music, I know I saw him shake a castanet a couple of times and do one clap. 🙂 So, here’s to Tuesdays!

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Filed under babies, bilingual baby, child development, daily life, fitness, infants, mommy care, parenting

10 Months and Counting

Today, baby turned 10 months. (Well, technically, yesterday because it’s past midnight as I’m writing this.) We’re closing in on a year quickly, and it’s happening almost too quickly in some ways. Because as much as it’s amazing and fun to watch babies grow up, I’m finding it a little bit sad, too. They just change so quickly at this stage that you feel like you missed it even if you’ve been paying attention all along the way.

Take, for example, the past 10 days. Ten days ago, baby and I were en vacances in Chamonix, France. He was trying to crawl, but if I were to convert his skill to ski slopes, he would’ve been on a green circle rather than a black diamond. I mean, he was sort of getting places, but he didn’t really have much control or direction as to where he was going.

But a week and a half later and it’s a totally different story. He’s crawling–and he’s standing. That’s right; he’s pulling himself up on everything and even daring to let go with one hand–and occasionally two, if only for a couple seconds. Check it out:

(As an aside, here’s a thank you to Linkin Park for writing “Crawling.” Although it’s a little intense for all things baby related, it couldn’t be more appropriately named for just such things.)

I’m not going to lie. I watch this video and a little tear or two escapes. I wish I still had hormones to blame it on, but for tonight, I’ll blame the waterworks on the couple of glasses of box o’wine that I’ve had while waiting for these videos to upload.

But there is something really sad in watching a wee one become less “wee.” Part of it for me is that it happened so fast. In a week and a half, my baby went from scooting on his bum a few inches at a time to standing (much less bouncing) in his crib.

Another part is knowing that I’m a little bit alone in watching this change, which feels so big in this little life. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love where we live and how we live, but it’s a a fact that we don’t have any family close to share some of this excitement. Not to mention that daddy is often tied up with military stuff. (I’m sure watching this video makes him sadder in some ways than I can possibly know.) So, sometimes it seems as though these big developmental moments are almost happening in a vacuum.

It’s funny how for all these tinges of sadness, I can still be totally proud of how baby is growing. With every developmental milestone, he’s closer to the man he’ll eventually be. And I so long to know that person. Sometimes I watch him and I see a spark of something–curiosity, intellect, humor, drive, sensitivity, what-have-you–but it’s hard to call it a defining characteristic at this point. And I wonder how his experiences will change–for better or worse–those characteristics.

But for now I’m going to just be happy that he’s not moving fast enough that I can’t catch him. Which will give me the tiniest bit of time to finish baby proofing.

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Filed under babies, child development, crawling, first year, walking

Two Windows into One World

Sometimes I wonder how my life would appear if it was played out on a big screen. I think tonight’s scene would’ve been best captured with a split screen.

First, the good stuff happening upstairs…

Baby was getting very close to figuring out that whole crawling thing. Guess mom needs to get going on baby proofing.

Meanwhile, the not-so-good stuff happening downstairs…

Sadly, that was after we’d been to the dog park. I guess he was excited to watch the Westminster Dog Show.

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Filed under babies, child development, crawling, daily life, family, infants, pets, Uncategorized