There are so many fantastic things about being a parent. It would be impossible to choose a favorite thing, but I certainly love snuggles, hugs, kisses, smiles and bathtime. I am also constantly thrilled, amazed and overjoyed as I watch my kids learn new things and develop new skills.
In such a fantastically short span of time, our children go from sweet but helpless tiny creatures to young little people who can walk, talk, ask for what they want, figure out solutions to problems and outsmart their parents — even the ones who think they’ve got everything covered. (And then you have two, and they start to work together, and then it’s really all over. Liam definitely getting in to the outsmarting phase — waiting until our attention is diverted to throw his dinner on the floor, waiting until I’m engaged on Skype to climb into the chair he knows he’s not allowed into, waiting until Benjamin is distracted to grab the toy they’ve been “sharing” all afternoon, running for the hills at the first mention of a diaper change.)
And then they get a little bigger, and they start to figure out how to do “stuff”. Not just biologically driven master skills like rolling over or walking or saying “ah-gu”, but more nuanced stuff, like riding a bike, singing the ABC song, or doing differential equations (ok, we’re not QUITE to that last one yet, but it’s really the same principle).
Over the past few years, I’ve watched Benjamin learned to more-or-less sing his ABCs (in English and in German). I’ve watched him learn to count (he’s always adding new numbers, not necessarily in the right order, and who taught him to count BACKWARDS from 10 to -10?!?). I’ve seen him learn to read numbers, most of the capital letters and many of the lower case ones. He can read his name, and Liam’s. I’m not saying this to brag (although I do think he’s super duper wonderful and incredibly brilliant) but because watching him add these skills to his repertoire is marvelous. Just 3 years ago he couldn’t even walk. It’s astounding.
Today, we were all coloring on the chalk board. Even when he was very little, Benjamin wasn’t particularly interested in writing or drawing. He’ll scribble for a bit, but he’s not usually drawn (ha ha) to that kind of activity. I think he’s too much of a perfectionist (and I took too long to tone down my own perfectionism in front of him). I’ve been trying to work, gently, over the years, to entice him to enjoy art projects for more than 30 seconds at a time, and to work on some skills I know he’ll need eventually (drawing vertical lines, making circles) but other than color identification (which he’s been all over since he could talk) he’s not really in to that kind of thing.
Or, he wasn’t, until Liam came along. Liam LOVES to draw, paint and color. Whenever he has the option of doing art, he’s likely to choose it (unless there’s a really cool car or truck to play with) and he’s got a good bit of skill (and a desire to color on the walls and furniture that, with Benjamin as my only example, I am still taken by surprise by, much to the detriment of our tables, chairs, filing cabinets, screen door and floors.
Liam has been able to make a vertical line for months. He could do it before Benjamin could — not relative to their ages, literally before. But Liam’s constant attraction to the chalk board, the most readily available art surface in our house, has been given B lots of practice, too. He’s been spending a few minutes during each of Liam’s coloring sessions making lines, circles, mountains, bugs, cars, people (which often look very similar to each other, but he can tell them apart). I’ve noticed a ton of change in Benjamin’s dexterity in his writing and drawing lately.
So, today, when Liam walked over to the chalkboard to make an array of lines and dots in a variety of colors, Benjamin and I joined him. B drew for a while, and then I drew a few lines, and asked him if he could make some lines, too. I drew some circles, and he practiced with me, too. Then I drew his favorite letter (B, of course) and asked him if he could trace it. He did. And then, he drew me an E. And asked me to draw him an e to trace. So, I took the hint and then added n, j, a, m, i and n after, and he traced each one. (He did an amazingly good job.)
I got to see him do something entirely new. He wrote his name. Something I didn’t know he could do. He was very excited and proud of himself (I’m pretty excited and proud, too). It is so fantastically cool to watch them learn to do new things. At lunch time today, he’d never done this before, and now he has. He could do it tomorrow, and the day after that, and then FOREVER. That is so neat.
And, I really believe that Liam helped him get here. Liam, with his love for drawing and coloring, brought Benjamin back to the chalk board, again and again. Benjamin so often would have chosen something else to do — something that’s more “his thing”. But, sometimes we do what he likes, and sometimes we do what Liam likes, so we draw a lot. And B gets to practice a lot more because of it. And today he wrote his name. And even though neither one of them know it, Liam helped. And that makes me ridiculously happy.