"I Am Not What I Am." -Iago

      I’ve had one of those weeks where I realize how strange and unfamiliar language can be. Yesterday I told my daughter, “when this is half-way over, you can have a snack.” My statement was met with a confused expression. “What’s half-way mean?” I was stumped. I tried to explain using my hands about a foot apart, and then pointing to the middle with one of those hands, but I’m pretty sure this just confused her more. Last week she heard me tell my mom, “just throw the baby into his highchair,” and exclaimed: “Don’t throw him!” Another hard one to explain. Figure of speech….hmmmmm…let’s see. These breakdowns in communication have been happening visually too. A few months back, I was working on one of the baby books. My daughter found a picture of her ultrasound and asked what it was. After I explained that it was a picture of her when she was just a baby in my tummy, she looked pleased with the answer and walked away. No follow-up questions. I thought we were done with that. A few days ago, she was rummaging through my desk – one of her favorite pastimes – and found a card I’d bought at the Globe Theater the summer I studied Shakespeare at Cambridge. It’s a woodblock printing of Othello and Desdemona embracing. The picture is only created with black, white, and a rust-colored paint; the images veer toward abstraction. If you squint your eyes a bit, it might not resemble a picture at all -more of a Rorschach. My daughter held it up, “Is this from when I was in your tummy?” My mind was reeling from this visual connection she’d made (or not made, depending on how you want to psychoanalyze this). I think we (or at least I) constantly take for granted how limited their language and experiences are. In one of my first posts, I wrote about a booked called The First Picture Book, in which the author explains (in the introduction) that it’s important for babies to be exposed to real objects before seeing pictures or representations of them.

     “Its is unwise for a baby to get his first experience of an object through the picturization of it. This    may lead to a fantasy habit, or the formation of an incompleted image of that object, even when this is finally met. Reality is of the prime importance in the first three years of life. If the baby really knows the world around him with all his five senses, whit his feet planted firmly, and with a sureness of the solidity of things, a good foundation for his future adjustment to life will be laid.” -Mary Steichen Calderone

She sums up her argument with the simple fact that babies like to recognize what they know. And aren’t toddlers the same way? Don’t they prefer routine, for the most part? While I am all for introducing different cultures, imaginary places and people, I am reminded by this experience to return to basics when I can. I went to the library yesterday and picked out a handful of new books. Some I carefully searched for based on readers’ recommendations; others, I let find me based on their visual imagery or accessibility on the library. My daughter’s favorite from this stack is called: Shhh! – a book about a little boy who tames the loud “noises” in his life while his baby brother sleeps. Not surprisingly, this is a very REAL issue for my daughter. She is constantly being told to “shhhhhhhhhhh.” In the book, when the baby brother wakes up, the little boy can be as loud (and happy) as he wants. There are sweet images of the baby brother (when he’s awake) sitting on the floor earnestly grabbing on to one of his own feet and looking up while his big brother marches around with a cape and a sword. The other book I’d grabbed off of the “new arrivals” shelf at the library is called Grandpa Green. What initially made me gravitate towards this one was the cover image of a hedge sculpted into a whale. We’d admired these together during our walks last summer in Rhode Island. I also saw a little Caldecott stamp next to the author’s name, and figured it’d be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, though the book is beautifully written and illustrated, it’s away above her three-year-old head. The story is a history (told through artistically trimmed green hedges) of a man, now a grandpa, and his time in World War One, meeting his wife, having kids and grandkids together. I suppose if you have a precocious preschooler, they may be able to follow the story or at least enjoy the images, but my daughter’s mind wandered and she closed the book herself about half-way through. I think it’d be a great book for a grade-schooler particularly when they begin to understand the significance of history.

What we’re reading now: Touch and Feel WILD ANIMALS (with my eight-month-old)

Why: He can’t get enough of the BABY ANIMALS version of this book,  and I was sick of reading it, so found a new one!

What I’m looking for: more baby book recommendations – for nine-twelve months-old

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