Our weekly shifts with Lo are all encompassing , 10-hour experiences. Akin to observing wildlife in its natural habitat, we watch her very closely in order to catalog the subtle nuances of her innate behavior and to keep her from climbing atop high surfaces. In light of our scientific investigation, I am happy to provide you with this field guide to one particular 2 ½ year old human.
1. Dietary habits – though the toddler is definitive in her likes and dislikes, she is fickle and unpredictable. A previously adored pea is now declared “pleh, ucky .” She had a fondness for sauces, especially guacamole, hummus and ketchup all of which can used for dipping or straight up spooning. All meals are further appreciated if they include singing. It is not uncommon for the toddler to take a defiant stance and refuse all offers or even swipe rejected items to the floor. With a new focus on independence, the toddler will ask for specific items or even attempt to acquire them. Her foraging skills have improved and wayward goldfish crackers are fair game . Her favorite food is anything eaten from someone else’s plate.
2. Physical prowess – besides running, jumping, skipping and dancing, Lo has been working on some subtle, but important body control: potty training! Lo might resent this documentation in her later years, by there is something truly rewarding in hearing your toddler urgently proclaim “Potty Time!” For certain acts, she can be rewarded with “m-m’s” of which she requests “1-2-3-4-5-7-9.” And, for the distinctive sound of pee hitting the pot, she points to her ear and proclaims “my hears it!”
3. Self-image – Lo has finally learned to answer “Logan” when asked her name. However, she refers to herself as “you” instead of “me” when viewing pictures of herself.
4. Language development – this might be the most interesting part of our fieldwork. Each day, each hour in fact, brings new words. She can now describe things she did “Soccer. Run fast, kick ball.”, pretend to read the classic children’s books Are You my Mommy? “You mommy? NO! Duck.” Lo can tell you what she wants to do. Watch TV is “watch TT.” Watch a DVD is “ watch DDD.” She asks questions, notably “where Robbie go?”when wondering why my daughter’s boyfriend (and Lo’s crush) is not participating in the family video call. She will also repeat the last word in any sentence you say. So don’t mention that anything sucks.
5. Socialization – famously outgoing from the get-go, she continues the woo the hearts of all adults. When you are greeted by clapping and jumping up and down and extended hugging, followed by tears when you leave, it is hard not to feel you are the favored one. But then again, she hugs her soccer coach, chases the mailman and would trade us all for an encounter with a dog. With children, she is friendly to the point of aggression but has been nailing her preschool auditions with her ability to walk into a strange classroom among older, unknown preschoolers and immediately join in the activities.
6. Imagination – Lo’s play is a window into how she views the adult world. Which is evidently an endless cycle of food prep and eating along with shopping, either to the grocery store (to buy “apples and cheese”) or Target, which for some reason she dons a hat. Everyday, she gets into her Little Tikes car, turns the ignition key and goes “to doctor.” And what does she plan to do at doctor? “Play games” and “get shot.”
If you are fortunate, as I am, to observe a toddler in her environs, and you take the time to marvel at her many skills and mysteries, you will be enriched, not only with scientific knowledge, but with an appreciation for human nature in general. If you are really fortunate, as I am, and get to observe the force of nature that is Lo, you will have to be careful as she is likely to steal your heart.