I’d always heard the phrase “a child’s brain is like a sponge, soaking up everything.” But it wasn’t until I had a kid of my own that I began to truly understand just what that meant.
Their brains are, indeed, little sponges. Little, tiny, thirsty sponges that soak up any and all knowledge. In particular, any knowledge that may be left in the dwindling juices of their parents’ sleep-deprived brains.
It’s all very sudden. One day they’re just lying there like adorable lumps of leaky clay, completely uninterested in Mr. Cloppity McHoover that you keep jangling in front of their face. They downright ignore your Oscar-worthy reenactment of “On The Night You Were Born” (complete with your dead-on impression of a tap-dancing polar bear). And as for peek-a-boo? Forget it. They couldn’t care less that you freaking DISAPPEARED for three seconds and then came back using nothing other than the power of your hands (which, let’s be honest, is a little hurtful).
And then BOOM. Suddenly they wake up and want to know EVERYTHING. What does Mr. Cloppity McHoover taste like? Let’s bite his face and find out.
What is the symbolism and literary merit of dancing polar bears? Let’s gnaw on this book spine and find out. Where does Momma go during peek-a-boo? Let’s bite her finger and make her yell because it’s the funniest thing in the world.
Before you know it, they move onto the big questions. What’s that? And then there’s what’s that? And, of course, perhaps the biggest question of all, what’s that?
Yes, my son, who at 16-months still can’t (or more likely won’t) call me Momma (and instead refers to me as “Eh”), can say “what’s that?” so clearly and distinctly that it would make even poor Professor Higgins* weep with joy. I mean, granted, he’s had plenty of practice considering he’s asked me this question no less than 683 times a day, every day, for the past two months. But still, being that I’m his Eh, it makes me proud.
Oh, so exhausted.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that my son wants to know all the things. But when I say “all the things,” I really mean All. The. Things.
He doesn’t just want to know what a tree is. Or even what a leaf on that tree is. No, he wants to know what every single leaf on every single branch of that tree is.
And even that would be hypothetically doable, this game of naming everything in the known universe, if it weren’t for one teeny tiny detail:
He never, ever remembers a thing.
Yes, toddlers have horrible, horrible memories. Oh sure, he remembers the important things. He never forgets that 5 a.m. is TIME TO WAKE UP. Even if he stayed up until 4 a.m. the night before. Doesn’t matter. Cause 5 a.m. is TIME TO WAKE UP. No exceptions.
He also remembers that he’s not supposed to pull Mommy’s books out from the bookshelf. This, of course, doesn’t mean he doesn’t do it. He does. All the time. He just knows he’s not supposed to be doing it while he’s doing it, which is why he runs drunkenly on his tiny legs every time he snatches my copy of “The Hobbit” and hides oh-so-cleverly behind his playpen, which is made from 100 percent see-through mesh.
And he also remembers with startling clarity who Elmo is, which is why if you dare to even whisper the “E” word in our house, he will run drunkenly and directly to the TV and point and cry until that little high-pitched red demon is on the screen.
But as for anything else, WOOP! In one ear and out the other.
And that is why I just spent the last hour with him looking through all the pages of his “Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site” book. Not reading it, mind you. But slowly turning the pages and stopping every time we came to a page that had the moon on it so he could point to said moon and ask “what’s that?” while I answer “the moon…again.”
I’m sure, developmentally speaking, this is a very good sign. Of something. I have no idea what. My college childhood development classes** were many years and many, many beers ago.
So, I’m not complaining.***
Because in the end, curiosity in children should always be nurtured. No matter how brain-dead it makes you.
*Old white dude from “My Fair Lady” who has a fetish for Spanish weather.
**Oh yeah, in addition to my journalism degree, I have a teaching degree. So, sleep tight tonight knowing that someday I could be the one in charge of your child’s brain…Muah-hahaha!
***Ha! Just kidding! This whole thing is pretty much one long complaint.