Scarlett bounces on my knee like a lively plate of jelly. She babbles like a goon and once in a while takes a stab at trying to get her mouth over an object just out of her reach. I’m sitting there, supporting her so that she doesn’t topple forward as she works hard to get her foot close enough to eat. I’m drinking in her wild-eyed curiosity and her every gawky, spontaneous movement. Then, all at once it really hits me how much Matthew has grown… I mean, really, really grown since he was this small.
I looked down at him, playing with Power Ranger action figures at my feet, maneuvering noisy, impossible back-flips out of them… remembering a time when getting his fist into his mouth was an achievement all it’s own. I thought about the events of this week, - all of the fences he’s climbed, the friends that he’s made, the milk carton projects we’ve thrown together, the vowels he’s learned to identify… and what a testament they were to all of the growing this boy has actually done.
For one, the boy is plowing his way through our Stepping Stones Together reading program. This week I mounted his progress chart onto a bright piece of scrapbook paper, dolled it up a bit with some Hot Wheelz stickers, and posted it onto the side of our fridge so that he could help me to put the smilies on it himself the next time that he finishes a book. I realized after looking over all of the smiley face stickers running down the section reading Series A, that he’s read 23 of these books. Not completely without guidance, but ultimately on his own.
Wow, I thought. My boy did that.
We spent a lot of time splashing through puddles this week, learning and experiencing the cycle of rain as hands-on as we could for our pre-school matter. We flew kites to watch the way the wind behaves just before a heavy rain, we pulled up weeds and ran our fingers along the dusty roots to learn about how the plants sip rainwater from the ground. We watched the birds flutter into their little wooden houses and squirrels bounce into their trees to get out of the rain; we picked up twisty, knotted worms that washed up on the curb and drew them in our field journal. We played computer games that taught us the sequencing of plant life and we did science experiments to make our own clouds inside of a plastic water bottle; blew bubbles to make our own rainbows; popped balloons to create our own thunder with the rapid movement of air pressure. While other children that stormy night were taught that angels like to bowl above the clouds, Matthew was gaining a basic understanding of how water molecules in the clouds hold small electric charges that build to create the bolts of lightning we see during a thunderstorm -- not because I planned it into his curriculum, but because this boy just DOES NOT STOP asking questions. And because of that, he knows that the air pressure inside of a dark storm cloud can be strong enough to tear the wings right off of an airplane. He knows that pipes can carry electricity from a bolt of lightning right inside of your house.
My boy knows that.
Then, I thought about how a few months ago for the first time, my son took a crayon to his bedroom wall. If I’d have caught him in the act, I’m sure it would have been a different scenario, but (luckily for him) I happened to stumble upon it one night after I’d carried his heavy, sleeping body off to bed. I stood there for a quiet moment before shutting off the light, following these loopy, jumping angles he’d brought to life in green and blue just above his building blocks, in a space on the wall between his dresser and the rocking chair his pop-pop painted for him just after he was born. And I loved what he created on that Crayola covered wall more than anything I’d ever done myself. A little bit of practice later and it wasn’t long before he was puling on my jeans with one hand, holding a sheet of paper in the other last week, telling me and Daddy to look at what he drew:
“Holy shit,” we said, exchanging glances of total disbeleif, “Our son drew that.”
I could see the drawing on the fridge from where I was sitting on the couch, and I looked back to Scarlett after smiling for a minute, trying to imagine all of the wonderful things this daughter of mine is going to do before she ever, even turns four.
Then all at once my heart stopped for a minute when suddenly my mind wandered into the idea that four years old is so only the beginning. That their accomplishments and their knowledge and their creations won’t stop at milk carton crafts and crayon drawings on a wall. Their potential is limitless.
And that at the rate these children are growing, their imprint on the world is shaping up to be a mighty, mighty beautiful one.
Scarlett let out a pitchy, exasperated squeal as one of her feet fell out of her grip, and Matthew dropped what he was doing to answer the call. He made a few silly faces and kissed her on the cheek, taking her tiny little hand in his and helping her grasp a Power Ranger toy. “You don’t play with your feet, my silly girl, you play with a toy -- like this.” Scarlett promptly chewed his head and giggled in gratitude. To which Matthew giggled back.