Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Schlepper

Filling and emptying. Filling and emptying. Over and over. She carries her treasures, one at a time, from a box to a cabinet or bag. Seventeen months old, and her sense of purpose is strong and amazing—she definitely knows where she’s doing. Her face is serious and determined, and even the sound of the dishwasher or the pantry cupboard opening does not change her course. Efficiency is not her strong suit, and why should it be? She’s in no hurry. Her entire agenda consists of the “now,” of carrying her dolls and spoons and cups from their original cupboard to a new bag. The latest? A paper grocery bag, recently emptied of some bigger clothes from the garage. She discovers the empty bag, and in goes her most precious possession—Baby Jeff, followed by four pairs of her shoes. Poor Jeff. Next a few assorted Tupperware cups and lids, the spoon from her tea set, and some stolen action figures from her brother.

I love watching her. She carries things one at a time, scurrying across the floor on her quiet little feet. If she has a bag, it’s slung over her shoulder and she carries it proudly, even if it reaches down to her feet. Pick up item, carry over to new cupboard. Open cupboard and put item in. Walk back to original pile of items, choose a new one. Pick up item, carry over to new cupboard. And so on, and so on. Dear God, please let her be organized and neat like her father. I seem to have inherited my mom’s piles and perpetual intentions of “getting organized” but 10 years with Pat hasn’t changed my evil ways. Audrey makes a huge mess in seconds, but she seems to like putting things away, so we’ll try to encourage that one.

What’s going on in her brain with all this organizing? She has great fine motor skills, and can pick up tiny pieces of stale food or lint from the ground, put them in her mouth, and then retrieve them with a “blech!” and run them to the garbage. Another favorite activity—finding bits of trash and running over to the garbage, demanding that someone open the cupboard for her, and flinging her trash into the garbage can. She’s getting better at leaving the trash in the can, although yesterday Pat did utter the words, "Did you get that out of the garbage?” I turned to see her “Who, me? look” and her hands full of crusts from her brother's leftover jam sandwich, sneakily pulled out of the garbage when I forgot to completely shut the door. She was quite insulted and let out a loud protest when we took the crusts away. Maybe she was telling us that should have gone in the compost and not the garbage.

She must be building synapses and connections and pathways with all her organizing. She learns what fits inside what, and how much you can fill something before it overflows or becomes too heavy to carry. (Note to Bitty Girl: You can fit inside the biggest soft-sided cooler if you squeeze sideways. Your brother and Mommy are too big.) She learns how deceiving clear plastic tote bags can be—why can’t I grab what’s inside, since I can see it? She learns about zippers and how you have to pull the sides of the bag apart to make the top opening big enough to put things inside. She learns just how quickly Mommy responds when she whines. Hopefully she’s going to learn the words “help, please” “open,” and “cracker” soon—we’re all getting a little frustrated with the “eh, eh, eh” whining. We're making progress with the signs for help and please, but I think she secretly likes to see how far she can take us, whining and fussing, while we say, "Audrey, show me 'help, please' or Do you need help?" over and over. She only relents when everyone is frustrated, then she does the "help please" sign with an amused smile, like she just gave in because she took pity on us poor speakers.

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