Imply, infer or, What! Me worry? (Letter #043)

Make way for the Purple Toddler!

Dear Baobao,

According to both Grandpa Carl and Grandma Bea, I walked early, two or three weeks past nine months. You, on the other hand, didn’t successfully get up on your hind legs (and stay on them) until almost a year ago, when you were pushing the edge of “normal” at 15 months. At which point, November 21, 2020, you never looked back, of course.

Similarly, you’re coming late to talking. Over the past few weeks, you’ve been making more and more sounds that are clearly meant to be specific words, but without context, we are often at a loss as to what you mean.

At your last in-person visit with our GP (six months ago now? I think so), she told me not to worry, unless you still weren’t talking by the time you turned two.

Well, two is rushing up on us like a runaway scooter going the wrong way on a sidewalk crowded with old people, but I’m still not worried.

“Baobao, you know Papa is a lot bigger than you are, don’t you?”

Why not?

Simply because it’s clear — and has been clear for many months now — that you understand an almost scary amount of what’s said around you.

It’s not just that you are, and have long been able to, understand and respond to direct commands (yeah, I know: like a dog), such as, “Please put that book back on the shelf,” but that you are also able to infer desires based on the implications of things I say.

The first case in point that I can recall actually happened at least a month ago, and maybe two. [Edit: Meaning all the way back in May or June. – Papa Z]

You’ve long been hesitant about crawling under things; presumably you bumped your noggin (noggin: a word Mama hates, which couldn’t possibly be why I’m using it here — could it?) one too many times on the way back out from under the couch or a table, or your high chair, even.

Anyway, there you were some weeks back, playing with one of your dollar store tennis balls, when it rolled under our fold-up clothes-hanger and out of reach — unless you would be willing to crawl beneath to retrieve it.

Why no, I'm not an aging goth, my pants just tend towards black.
I actually thought I had had Baobao pose for a re-enactment, but I’m damned if I can find the photo. This, much less interesting, shot will have to do.

Which you didn’t want to do. Instead you called to me and pointed towards the ball until I figured out what you wanted.

To which I replied, “Baobao, you know Papa is a lot bigger than you are, don’t you?” You looked at me for just a moment or two, then looked back at the ball and came to a conclusion: Papa makes sense! And you got down on your hands and knees, then crawled under the rack and came back with the ball.

Then, just this morning, I was coming downstairs following a quick visit to the bathroom, only to find that you had set up shop at the bottom of the stairs, completely blocking the gate.

I asked you to move a couple of times, but you were enjoying the exercise of power far too much to comply with that request!

Still blocking the stairs ...
Screenshot from a video of Baobao “reading” Winnie the Pooh.

Then it occurred to me that I’d mentioned earlier this morning that, since it was raining and we were not going to go out today, I was going to clean the kitchen floor, I tried another tack.

“Baobao,” I said, “remember Papa needs to mop the kitchen.”

And that did it. You stood up and started to gather the things you’d set up at the bottom of the stairs: play-tarp, any number of stuffed friends, a toy car, and then got yourself and your entourage out of the way.

So, as I said at the outside, it’s clear to me that you’re comprehension is first-rate; your ability to articulate your own words will come when it comes. (And it is coming.)

That you can not only understand the implication of something as apparently unrelated as a comment on our respective sizes — that it would be easier for you to retrieve a ball than it would be for me — amazed me a month (or two) ago, and amazes me still. But not quite so much, since it wasn’t just a one-off.

Keep on thinking, brilliant one!

Love always,

Papa Z — July 29, 2021 (with some light editing on November 15, 2021)

P.S. November 12, 2021: And I was right not to worry. Four months later (four months since my last letter?!? Good grief! And not even a note to acknowledge your birthday – yet!), you’re not only talking intelligibly, but you’ve been making sentences for a while, in English and Cantonese; you’ve been “reading” books like The Cat In the Hat and chapters from Winnie the Pooh. You can count to 13 (last time I checked) and can identify most of the letters of the alphabet when asked. I could — and should — go on, but not in a post ostensibly dated July 29th.

Hey there! As it with young Hobbits, bringing up young human children takes a lot of provender. Since you’re reading my daughter’s correspondence, why not …

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