The Clap heard ’round the kitchen

posted by Josh Conley

050313dev-featureBub and I were sitting at the kitchen table (actually, it’s the dining room table, but relocated for functionality to the kitchen—still a sore subject with my wife), finishing lunch the other day. HP eats much faster than Bub, and, in strict adherence to our No Toys at the Table policy, had been released to the floor to shake a container of coriander seeds. You know, a toy.

So Bub and I sat there, ruminating on the whereabouts of Bobby and Doughy (his imaginary friends), him popping the individual beans out of the green bean pods, me silently cursing my crossword.  Pretty standard lunch scene, I’d say. Then Bub casually looks over and says:

“HP’s clapping, Daddy.”

I looked down at the quilt on the floor, my daughter sitting atop it like the queen of applause, going at it like one of those toy monkeys with the cymbals. And she couldn’t have looked happier, prouder of what she could now do, which of course made me outstandingly happy. Bub and I quickly joined in, and we all had a big-old time, clapping and singing and laughing.

Of course, they don’t all get your attention, at least not the second time around. With Bub, we always had a checklist handy of the developmental milestones, got really excited about things like him moving his toy phone from his right hand, to, wait for it, his left hand. Wow. Magnet schools all the way.

We couldn’t wait to tell the doctor and any poor souls who made the mistake of asking us how he was that he could now roll from his stomach to his back. He was on the preemie adjusted schedule, so we were probably overly attentive. But, man, did we really have that much free time?

So I get it, you want to make sure your kid is on track, not a slacker, putting in his/her tummy time. And, let’s be honest, we’re human. Our kids are a reflection of us, right down to their crude pinscher grasps. They can never develop too early, yet we want them to grow up slower.

But, objectively, you have to admit that some of these things are just not that impressive, come on. A few from Baby 411! include: “lifts head,” “reaches for objects,” and “responds to a loud noise.” I mean, define ‘responds.’ Does it mean she hits the deck, runs for cover, phones the authorities? Or just kind of half-looks in the general direction of the noise, drool spilling out of her mouth? Perhaps a blink, perhaps not; depends on her mood.

She’s been doing that stuff for a while now, largely unheralded by us, but this one seemed momentous. We all assign our own meanings to things, I guess. I had a SIMILAR MOMENT with Bub, when I walked in to get him out of his crib after a nap and he was sitting up. Freaked me out a little; until then he’d always been prone.

Like the clapping, though, it was one of those moments that jolt you from your exhausted, parental fog and slap you across the face with YOUR CHILD IS GROWING UP RIGHT NOW, PAY ATTENTION. It’s a weird, scary, beautiful feeling. We all need it once in a while; it feels good, like we’re doing things right. We can’t stop them from growing up, but it’s nice to stop and notice sometimes.

 

***Epilogue to TOUCHING…Again, I was out in the stroller and an older lady approached us. As we got closer, my spidey sense started tingling. I wouldn’t quite put her in the bag lady category, but I could tell something was amiss. Maybe it was the portable radio she was listening to. Um, yes, that was it, call me judgy. And sure enough, she started touching Bub. So my question is, what IS the proper protocol here? Should I carry a ruler and just start whacking any unwanted hands? I feel like I’m being too nice, maybe because I don’t want a scene with my kids. But I also don’t feel like this should give these people free license to let their paws run wild. With stroller season about to be in full bloom, I’d appreciate any input!

 

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