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Letters and Numbers

Thought I’d write some of this down before I forget, or it gets too old to be relevant. For a while now, Jason’s had fun with letters and numbers. He recognizes all the letters of the alphabet on sight, upper and lower case, knows the sounds they make (T says “Tuh…”) and in many cases, words they begin (“T is for Truck”). He’s also noticed the similarities among some of the characters and likes to twist them around to see what happens…an inverted M becomes a W and vice-versa, a 7 turned 180 degrees is an L, a backwards and upside down 2 is a 5 (sort of) and so on.

Field trips to the store or the doctors office, etc are always fun because of all the new signs. Exit and Stop signs are special favorites, as are the big numbers on the check-out lines at Target. (He also enjoys helping us drive by spotting the traffic lights and reporting them…green is go, red is stop, yellow is “Watch out!” How did we ever get anywhere without him? Daddy can relax now, since these back-seat instructions cover the only details Mommy doesn’t include in the pointers she offers from the passenger seat).

Last Thursday Laura showed Jason his name on a banner in his room, as she’s done many times before, but this time it “clicked” for him and he realized letters make words. J-A-S-O-N is his name (“Mame!”) and he delights in pointing it out wherever he finds it. He also knows the words “Free,” “Zoo” and “Stop” and even tries to spell them out of the magnetic letters on the fridge (he usually gets the right set of letters, but seldom in the correct sequence).

In the last few days he’s gone from counting to 5 to counting to 10, and now he’s up to 13. We showed him how to assemble a 12 and 13 out of the numbers from a wooden puzzle and when I asked him what a sixteen would look like, or an 18 or 19, he caught on that adding a 1 in front makes it a teen (not sure if he’d get 15, though…it doesn’t sound right).

I never know how to record these milestones because I always swore I wouldn’t be the kind of parent who brags. I’m not sure it’s bragging, though…it’s more a case of being fascinated by how his mind works, and watching the lights come on in his little head. I also have to confess to worrying what conclusions people will draw when they hear this talk…will they imagine us to be the kind of parents who spend hours drilling their toddler with flash cards? Because we’re not. Jason is excited about each new thing he learns and more often than not he moves ahead before we’re ready. What we teach him is a response to his demonstrated interest.

There’s also the very real possibility Jason will regress when the baby arrives…it happens a lot. He may see the attention his more dependent sibling gets and decide to act like an infant himself to compete. If so, I want to record his progress now so I don’t forget later.

More than anything, I guess I find it fascinating to speculate on what’s behind Jason’s progress. How much of what a toddler does or does not comprehend has to do with natural-born intelligence and how much is the result of encouragement and a supportive environment? Is it normal for a kid of 21 months to know the things he does and if not, does that really mean he’s “special” or does it just mean that many parents either aren’t interested in working with their kids, or just assume their efforts would be wasted on one so young (I know I read Jason his alphabet books a million times on demand, always thinking I was wasting my time, til the day he pointed to some of the letters and told me what they were)? It almost seems like self-fulfilling prophecy to some extent…you assume a kid can’t comprehend something, so you don’t present it to him, and sure enough he ends up not knowing it!

I think if we’re doing anything right, it’s not letting Jason watch TV. He has an even temper, a long enough attention span to focus on one task for 20 minutes or so, and a keen interest in books. I have to wonder how many kids prone to tantrums, bad behavior and the like are ones who had a TV for a “babysitter” for hours on end. Certainly I think the increase in cases of “ADD” (don’t even get me started on that pseudo-science claptrap!) are often the end result of staring at TV shows and video games for too long. And like so many things in this country, we’d rather medicate it than fix the root problems. Turn off the TV? Take away the Playstation? You must be joking! Just give me the Ritalin and everything will be okay.

But that’s another rant. Still counting down to baby. Laura goes in today for another update from the doctor. We thought it was on the way Thursday when she had regular contractions 5 minutes apart, but then they became erratic and finally tapered off. Just a scary reminder to get our house in order ASAP…it won’t be long now.

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