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An Unfolding Writer Perhaps December 6, 2007

Posted by emsgeiss in education, parenting & family, toddlers, Uncategorized, WAHM/WAHD Stuff, writing/editing/blogging.
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Unfolding. This is what my toddler is doing. I watch the process daily, and sometimes, much in the way that I used to spend the early days of his life, I just watch him—stare even.  I watch the wheels turning as he thinks about something. I muse over the things that I realize he understands and tries to master, like one of his latest obsessions with “writing” with me, where he insists that he must write with me on my manuscript paper, each of us taking turns with the pen.  Sure it’s a bit of a distraction, but most days, I don’t mind, and I know that if it’s something at a super important stage, I don’t do it where he can get to it.  

This unfolding has become most noticeable in the last few days, both when his cast was on and since having it removed this past Tuesday. He now must wear a giant elastic bandage to keep his arm secured to his body in order to keep it still as the bone continues to heal. Watching him renegotiate his world has been a study in determination. He will not be thwarted by an uncooperative appendage.  He colors and draws with much more enthusiasm than before (almost making me wish I’d gone into art therapy to see if there’s any correlation with the injury) and runs circles around the house as if preparing for an Olympic event. One-handed building is his new forte and he as figured out how to place a bowl between his legs while seated so that he can stir with his good hand while pretending to cook. This last one baffled me entirely the first time I saw him do it…nobody had to show him how. 

This week, my dear boy is into the alphabet and is trying to identify letters on his own, even without prompting. My husband noticed the interest too, and started showing him the letters above his changing table that spell out his name. He made up a little song. “M-I-C-H-A-E-L! What does it spell? Michael!”  Since then, the boy has been on a letter expedition, trying to identify letters where ever he finds them, which in our house, means on books.

On one hand this is a great thing. As a writer (and one with a degree in Developmental Psychology) I am stoked that my almost 22-month-old is taking an interest in the building blocks of language. On the other hand, my books may be in peril. Could they speak, they would surely register multiple complaints about their displeasure with becoming among the latest obsessions of The Toddler.  Once greeted by an eager reader, loved beyond recognition like the Velveteen Rabbit, now, they are often greeted by sticky or wet fingers pointing to their spines forcefully and accompanied by loud, piercing suggestions for what their spines bear.  Could they, they might smile slightly at the sight of the tender pair kneeling before them with Mama chanting as offspring points to each letter; Mama prompting the toddler to say the letters too.  But for those poor, poor books, that tenderness is fleeting, as once Mama’s attention is no longer upon them, some of the poor volumes find themselves removed from their perches to be cradled lovingly by sticky, gleeful toddler and transported to a new location.  Sometimes he just plops down with them, looking at the pages or covers. Other times, he decides that they’d make great blocks. Sometimes they end up taking an unwanted journey off to one of Michael’s bookshelves—Nelson DeMille hanging out with Eric Carle and Sandra Boynton; the AP Manual set to converse with A.A. Milne and precariously close to the crayons.  Nikki Giovanni transported to chill with VanGogh. Sometimes the books are transported to an area bereft of literary company, discarded on the floor in favor of a ball, an errant goldfish (the edible kind), at the sound of the start of Blues Clues or for a snuggle with Mr. Bunny Rabbit.  (Clearly, “toddler” trumps any signs of “genius.”)

But it seems as if my darling boy is figuring out that there’s something about these things called books and that they have a relationship to those letters of the alphabet and that thing Mama does called writing. I watch him study those spines. I watch him plan and think about what he is going to place on the paper before executing his marks. Today, as we were drawing and writing, I spelled out the letters of his name. As I wrote each letter I said them aloud: “M-I-C-H-A-E-L,” but I didn’t do the song. Still, he smiled as he watched his name appear upon the paper and by the time I got to the “L,” he said, “Miiii-chael.” My heart swelled with pride, and we both let out a victorious “YAY!”

Hopefully his interest in books, words and writing will continue, and maybe just maybe, my husband and I are breeding a future Pulitzer Prize winner or National Book Award recipient? 

Eh, Mama can dream, can’t she?

Copyright © 2007 Erika-Marie S. Geiss



1. weirdits - December 9, 2007

That’s wonderful! Absolutely, dream of an award-winner, or dream of a little Stephen King who could support you in the way you’d like to become accustomed. Either way, it’s always a thrill to see little ones captivated by writing.

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