Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sept. #1: Breakthrough

This has been an amazing weekend.  Our little family has gotten some serious downtime together, which is exactly what we've all been needing.

I've noticed that it's always on days like these that Sammie seems to experience his biggest development milestones.  This isn't all that surprising since he's an introvert and processes better in small groups or on his own, but it is always an amazing thing to witness as a parent. 

While Sammie isn't "behind" in any milestone other than speaking, he definitely seems to go about them very differently.  He doesn't mimic the way that most babies do.  You won't catch him 'perfoming' on demand by waving or blowing kisses when we ask him to, and he seldom uses toys and objects in imaginative ways.  He's always been much more focused on reality than he is on creativity and imagination.  As such, I've never seen him play with a baby or a doll, a stuffed animal or even little figurings of people or animals. I've never heard him mimic the sounds of a cow or horse, or even acknowledge them if they are pointed out to him. (Of course, as soon as you aren't looking, his curiosity with these animals gets the best of him and, almost in spite of himself, he begins to show interest.)

I've been told by expert after expert, this isn't a cause for concern.  Sammie's imagination simply works in different ways, and his ability to "figure things out" is as valid a form of creative expression as anything else.  I try to focus on all the areas in which he excels, some to the point of being years beyond his age level. I try to remember that "norms" are only comparative measures, not definitions of one's actual abilities. I remind myself that Sammie, from the day he was born, was always a unique and free-spirited being who marched to the beat of his own drum...

Still, when I am comparing him to other children his age, it's hard not to wonder why my child is so very different than the rest. 

So, I'll openly admit that I rejoice maybe a little more than one would expect or justify when Sammie accomplishes milestones that- on the surface- may appear to be mundane or unimportant. 

Today is one of those days where I'm rejoicing. 

No, it's not because my 26 month old toddler is now able to swim in a life jacket for over 5 minutes, completely unassisted, push himself from back to front, and doggie paddle across the pool over 10 metres. (This, by the way, is HUGELY advanced for his age level).  

Nor is it because Sammie built a block building that reached up to his shoulders and would have impressed even the most talented Jenga players, and then carefully balanced a train on the very tip of the structure without making it fall. (Again, off the charts in terms of fine motor skills...)

Nope, today was a special day in a completely different way.  Today, my two year old connected. With a stuffed dog.  For the first time ever. 

Two days ago, Andre and Nancy (Sammie's Uncle and Aunt back in Quebec) sent us a care package with adorable PJs and a little stuffed webkin that looks like their dog Spike.  Sammie loves real Spike. He can't get enough of him.  So, I was thrilled to receive this little momento of the beloved pet who lives so far away. 

At first, Sammie showed very little to no interest in Spike the Stuffie.  After all, he doesn't have wheels, and he doesn't stack nicely with blocks.  While Sammie was successful in balancing Spike the Stuffie in the back car of one of his trains, it was clear that the puppy was simply too big to last on the toy forever.  What was one to do with this strange, soft little fellow?

The simple fact that Sammie was even trying to find a way to play with the new toy was remarkable, an unquestionable first for him.  The fact that he chose to take him from room to room and explore different ways of integrating Spike into his play made the Early Childhood Educator in me squee with joy...

But it wasn't until his nighttime snack that the real leap was made.  

Sammie was wrapping up his meal of apples and grapes while sitting in his high chair.  I was tidying the toys off the kitchen floor when I saw Spike.  Just for fun, I decided that Spike should give Sammie some kisses.  So, I barked my way up the chair and peppered his chubby cheeks with soft, pretend puppy kisses.  

Sammie laughed out loud. 

He didn't turn his head. He didn't push him away.  He laughed. Out loud. 

I decided to push this even further. 

"Spike is hungry too!" I said, as I held an apple to the mouth the fluffy toy. "Nom Nom Nom! Can you feed Spike too, Sammie?"

And then, as if on cue, Sammie took Spike from my hands and began to "feed" him. He did apples, and grapes, and even tried to make him drink from the sippy cup.  Sammie's grin never left his face, and you could clearly see him relishing in his pretend game. 

This was the very first time Sam had ever used pretend play to engage a non-human toy in human like behaviour.  For those of you who may have done some reading on early childhood learning, this is huge.  And it's something that I've been waiting to see for over a year.  

Sammie took Spike to bed with him tonight, and I guarantee you that I am going to do my best to make sure that Spike goes to bed with him every night from now on.  My son has found a friend- a pretend friend- which at this age is one of the best kind!

I am an over the moon proud Mama.  

And yes, I'm also pretty proud about the unassisted swimming too. It was kind of nice to see the lifeguards pointing and whispering excitedly to each other.  My little fish can swim, all on his own.  :P

This post is part of my September Blog Challenge. I will be posting a new blog post on (at least) every other day of the month, for a total of no less than 15 posts throughout the month.  The purpose of this challenge is nothing more than to push myself to continue using writing as a way of releasing energy and opening my mind. 

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