Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Day I Knew My Baby Was Smarter Than My Dog

When Audra finally decided she felt like moving somewhere instead of just waiting around for us to carry her there, she chose to scoot instead of crawl. In fact, what she does to get from point A to point B can be more easily likened to a kind of backwards crab-walk than it can to true scooting, but hey... whatever gets you where you're going (that doesn't involve me carrying 25 lbs of baby around all day) is good enough for me.

Jason and I tried to keep her in her room or in the living room, where her myriad of colorful, wonderful, sing-songing and light-up toys lived. She has toys coming out her ears. Toys from Illinois family and friends, toys from South Carolina family and friends. A giraffe she can ride on, a Fisher Price classics TV that sings to her, a wooden Animal Rescue shapes sorter that she loves... just all the toys.

So she, of course, was far more interested in making it to the kitchen, where no toys lived... but where the dog's water bowl is.

It called to her.

I would no sooner take ten steps away to start working on dinner than I'd find myself trying to catch Audra's hand as she splashed happily in what she wholeheartedly believes is a whole silver dish of Splashy Splash just for her.

Like her bath, but cold and with more of me making those hand-flappy motions she thinks are so funny.

We don't have a baby gate; we just haven't really prioritized picking one up, since our house isn't all that big and there aren't that many places she could go. There's the living room, the kitchen, and her bedroom - all the other doors are closed. If she figures out how to turn doorknobs at 13 months old, I won't even be mad; I'll just be impressed.

Still, it seemed like a good idea to try to corral her in one place, so we lined up chairs on one side of the living room, where a large cutout separates it from the kitchen. At first she would scoot right up alongside the chairs and kind of watch us and babble happily to herself. She never noticed that there was another cutout on the other side of the living room, where she could easily have just gone in a circle to get to us the other way.

The dog knew this, however - so often he'd be in the living room with her, and she'd look up in confusion to find him suddenly on the Other Side of the Chair Wall drinking out of his bowl. It never occurred to him that the chairs were anything but some strange new force field that he had to obey. He could escape by going the long way, but never by going through. Audra remained trapped by how easily distracted she was and her inability to notice what was on the other side of the living room. She simply could not figure out how the dog was getting over there.

A couple of months ago, though, the tables turned.

One day I was working on dinner, sort of humming to myself. I'd put the Chair Wall in the way so Audra would stay in the living room and I could hear her talking to herself happily while she tore a magazine into shreds and then sat on them. Indy was in there with her.

I stepped over to check on her briefly, and she held her arms up to me to be picked up. I shook my head. "No, honey, Mommy's cooking."

Indy, who can't figure out 'roll over' or 'please God stop jumping on everyone' or 'you are licking me to death', nonetheless knows every single word in the English language that might possibly be a reference to food. He might know Spanish, too. He's a complex dog.

His ears perked right up at 'cooking'. He looked at the Wall of Chairs, decided this strange new range of mountains was insurmountable, and went around the long way to trot into the kitchen and starting making his 'begging' face.

Audra let out an insulted wail and kept her arms up.

"No, honey, I'm sorry, I'll be there in just a minute," I said, and stepped back away to stir the onions.

Audra let out a frustrated growl.

The dog sat right by my feet. He doesn't know what onions are, but if we ever need someone to eat onions for us, he is there to save the day.

After a second, I heard a weird noise.

"Indy, quit it," I said, and then realized Indy had not moved. He was still sitting right next to my feet. In fact, one of his paws was on my foot.

His eyes, however, weren't looking at me or the stove any longer.

The strange scraping sound continued.

I looked over at the Wall of Chairs.

Slowly, inexorably, as though pushed by the slow movement of a flood, the Wall of Chairs was beginning to break apart. Befuddled, I stood there while my onions caramelized and watched my nine month old daughter very, very slowly push a chair out of line so she could get through. This obstacle was no longer simply a piece of the environment, immovable and eternal. She no longer had to stay behind it or go around.

Audra now saw it as a challenge. The look on her face was similar to the way you might look at a mountain when you're trying to dynamite through it to make a road.

For the very first time, she realized things didn't have to stay the same.

She could change them herself.

I continued to just stand there and stare as she crab-walked sideways to get through the small opening she had made, scooted triumphantly across the tile towards me, and showed me all five teeth in a huge smile as she held her arms up to me again.

Helpless to do anything but reward her for her accomplishment, I swept her up into my arms, told her how smart she was, and gave her a big hug.

So that's when I knew Audra was smarter than the dog.

It's also the first time Jason came home to find me researching books on parenting stubborn children "because we should probably get ready now".


  1. I remember that moment with my little guy. And it also involved getting into the kitchen to splash around in the cats' water bowl (and then put all their kibble in it). We switched the cats to wet food and put the water bowl up on the counter. Damn kids being all adorable and smart!

    1. She's been leaving that water bowl alone since we're pretty consistent (and kind of loud) on the "NO" but I know it's a matter of time before she moves faster than we do!


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