The biggest area of development for Charles these past months has been physical: the kid who lost his balance while walking in grass last time I posted is long gone, and in his place is some kind of toddler trail runner and mountain climber. He loves to run to “get” someone (chase) or to run away from us as we pretend to “get” him. I’ve kept him out of all kinds of trouble and tantrums by distracting him with a little game of chase. We’ve walked into a room (or just turned around) to see him standing on top of the kitchen table, the coffee table, and the couch, or to be all the way up the stairs way faster than we thought he was capable of moving. He's also super strong. Charles can lift a heavy bag of wooden blocks to the table and attempts and succeeds at picking up bulky, heavy things that we didn't expect he could handle.
Thanks to this new physical prowess, he’s had his fair share of tumbles, but this kid is TOUGH. He’s walked right into table edges or face-planted while running on hard floors and just bounced back like nothing happened. We usually try not to react to a fall or potential ouchie (except to go, “Boom! You fell down! You’re okay! Way to go!” as enthusiastically as we can), and if he does burst into tears (which is rarely), we calmly pick him up and pat his back, reassuring him all is well rather than feeding his tears with too much coddling. I’d like to think that’s one reason he handles uh-ohs as well as he does, but maybe he’s just been that cool from birth.
Charles can also interact with objects much more physically than before as well. He really does get into everything, checks it out, and uses it to imitate what we do or does something new and creative with it. He’s gotten to be a pro at propelling himself (see what I did there?) on riding toys. The one we have here is actually a little wooden Radio Flyer that I had when I was a toddler. (He's also attempted to use it, among other things, as a step stool, which didn't end so well.) He loves to throw, roll, bounce, and kick balls of all sizes, but especially Trevvor’s full-size soccer ball. He’s learning how to hold out his hands to play “catch” (though he doesn’t really catch it well yet) and is pretty good at throwing it back in our general direction when we open up our hands to do the same. He’s always loved balls and handled them well, but recently it’s gone from merely a fascinating activity to a more competitive game.
I’m starting to see a glimmer of competition in a lot of areas with Charles now--he is DEFINITELY all boy. I can sometimes motivate him to do/eat things by seeing who can do it faster/first. The other times, well, that’s just his super-strong independent streak showing (which I guess I had coming to me). This kid… this kid has a mind of his own. I thought (hoped) maybe it was just normal, but my mom and grandmother have commented on it too, and my grandmother raised and kept a LOT of little ones. Charles always prefers to do things himself, often forcibly removing our hands from his desired object of control. It’s been neat, though, to see him reach a point where he realizes his own limitations and knows how and when to ask for help.
Charles has never been a risk-taker and has always been a more cautious baby (and now full-fledged toddler). He doesn’t dash headlong into anything, which is nice. We don’t have a gate at the top of our stairs, and whenever he gets to the top he will wait for however long it takes for us to get to him to hold his hand coming down. In crowds, he explores, but not too far. He has always been respectful of hot things, whether it’s food or the oven or sun-baked pavement.
Charles loves movement, and he loves things that move. I’ve already mentioned his riding toys, but he’s also a huge fan of swings, and if you turn on some fun music, he is more than likely to move to the rhythm. He is just always on-the-go and moving his whole body at every opportunity. His boyish nature is also coming out in his excitement over cars, trucks, trains, planes, boats, and bicycles. He can identify them all in books, among his toys, and when we’re out and about, and loves either naming them or making their sound.
So vehicles are some of Charles’ favorite words and sounds, but some of his other favorite words are “buuhhhhh” (bug), “raahhhhh” (rock), “suuuuuu” (shoe, to mean he wants to go outside), “nunuhh” (thunder), and “BUUMM” (boom). Again, all boy. He is a fantastic onomotopeaia-maker and can imitate almost any sound, animal or mechanical (like the vaccuum-cleaner or the water-hose). When Trevvor was grilling last week he told Charles, "Careful! The fire is hot!" and Charles made the sound of a fireman's water-hose like he'd seen in his book! The mental connections he's able to make astound us all the time. Charles isn’t really into coloring or puzzles yet; he mostly loves to “buhhh” (book) and “baaa” (bath), representing two of his favorite activities, reading (Curious George is his favorite) and water-play. (We just got him a sand-and-water table for the back-yard that he would spend all day at if we let him. The messes are so worth it.) So he enjoys grander play than the kind that requires fine-motor skills, but he did surprise me the other day by threading a wooden bead onto a string! I’d bought the toy earlier and figured it would be a while before he figured it out, but he proved me wrong!
Charles hasn’t started making sentences yet, or even having very many two distinct syllable words, but he signs for his basic needs (for “eat,” “drink,” “more,” “nurse,” and “down,” “diaper”), and uses grunting, tone of voice, pointing, and other body language to express everything else. We’re trying to encourage him to use more spoken words, but we know he will when he’s ready. The kid understands seriously EVERY CONCRETE (as in, non-abstract) THING WE SAY. We have taken to spelling all the content words in a sentence on a regular basis, which is confusing for all of us. It’s really holding us accountable about our speech and our tendency towards couple-gossip (you know, because when you gossip about someone to your spouse, it doesn’t really count… right?). When I’m on the phone and start to wrap up the conversation, he waves “bye-bye” to the person before I’ve even said good-bye! He can just tell from our tone. Isn’t it incredible what a one-year-old has already absorbed in his short life??
Ever since he was eight or nine months, Charles has had a signature wave. It’s just been his thing, and it still is. He loves to blow kisses, give high-fives, and participate in fist-bumps. He’s a very social kid, but he definitely likes to be the approacher rather than the approached. He’ll observe you (and wave at you) for a while before cracking a smile. We’ve noticed that when other little kids stare at him, he gets a bit defensive and barks at them (not like a dog, just like a highly displeased, disgruntled sound in their direction). He doesn’t do that with adults, just other littles. With the lucky few, he is very quick to give kisses (right on the mouth--all or nothing kid), hugs, snuggles, and just generally “gives love.” When he’s feeling rather pitiful, he’ll snuggle on my shoulder and then rub and pat my arm with his hand, just like I pat and rub his back when he’s needing some TLC.
Behaviorally, my serious baby has turned into a super silly toddler, if at times prone to throwing screaming fits, whether at home or walking through Target. (Yep--I was that mom with that tantrum-throwing toddler walking through the supermarket.) He cracks up at a game of peek-a-boo, chase, “creepy mousie,” pokes and tickles, silly sounds, or silly faces. Sometimes he’ll be laughing and kind of lean forward and put his face in his hands, like it’s just too funny to handle. His eyes get all crinkly and he goes from a deep chuckle to a delighted shrieking cackle in an instant. Charles loves to play games and has even started initiating play, like running a ways and turning to wait for us to chase him, or taking us by the hand and leading us to blocks or a ball.
He also leads us to the refrigerator. One of us, possibly me, made the mistake of letting him pick his own snack from the fridge one time, and that was it. Charles used to eat every vegetable we put in front of him, now every meal is something of a battle as his preferences change bite-to-bite. After picking what to eat, he sometimes wants it in his chair, sometimes not (though I try to enforce the chair), with or without bib, with spoon or with fingers, in bowl or on table or from my bowl, or from my spoon. And after all this, he decides he really wants something ELSE from the fridge. I shoot for consistency, but at the end of the day the most important food-thing is that he ate healthy food, and if he wants to eat healthy food standing on his head rather than something not so healthy in his seat with his bib out of his bowl with his spoon, I’m going to focus on getting him to eat the healthy. The past several weeks have been tough because we are doing a family Whole30, so all his (non-gluten) grain snacks that filled him up are off the menu. So he wants to eat every half hour on average. Which is fairly typical toddler behavior, but it gets exhausting. I’m on the hunt for a nibble tray that I can set on a chair and let him much a few things whenever he gets the urge between meals. I’m also more conscientious now of what I keep in the fridge. Fruit is fine, but when we have it available that is ALL he wants to eat, so now we buy very little fruit. And success! He’s staying fuller longer because he’s eating more fats, proteins, and veggies. Baby steps….
We’re also taking baby steps in teaching him responsibility and how to help. At this age, he naturally wants to do exactly what Mama and Papa are doing, so that makes it easy to get him involved if we can frame it the right way. We have a few little songs we sing for tidying-up, and he’s responsible for helping us pick up his toys before bed and wipe off the table after a meal. I feel like I’m getting my first glimpses of character training in these moments, and it’s humbling and terrifying. It is at those times I am teaching him how to be a little adult (or at least a little kid on track to becoming a big adult). As we train him to be responsible, to be helpful, to be kind, to be loving, to be grateful, we are more and more aware of our responsibility to train him up in the way he should go, that he is not just a toddler but a future man, husband, father, and warrior for Christ.