It’s a battle of wits and sleep deprivation has left me unarmed.
In one of the many iconic scenes in Jurassic Park, the Velociraptor’s claw bangs against a door handle until the door opens. The prehistoric predators have miraculously learned to operate doors and, with suspense building, the humans are in even more peril as the creatures get more and more intelligent! This is pretty much what raising a toddler is like; the little monsters keep getting smarter and every person and object in their path is basically doomed. Indeed, we had that exact same moment the first time Eliza opened a door. We heard the handle rustle, spin a few times, and finally open. My wife looked at me and we knew another threshold had been crossed and new measures needed taken.
It’s almost a bittersweet development each time a child crosses a milestone. On the one hand, of course any parent is going to be pleased to see their child becoming more intelligent. On the other hand, however, this intelligence comes at a cost. I’m happy my daughter is growing like one of the 6 million weeds in our yard, but not quite as pleased with all the new drawers and cabinets she can now reach. I’m thrilled the six month-old is crawling but not all that excited to re-babyproof the house. My panic attacks at the sight of anything tiny and remotely qualifying as a choking hazard were finally starting to cease as the oldest passed the stage of “stuffing everything into her mouth like her life depended on it”; now her baby sister started crawling and everything in the house less than 18 inches off the ground will find a few baby teeth indentions.
Learning is nice, but so was the ability to shut a door and not have to worry about a toddler intrusion. It’s a wild ride of ups and downs while your young children progress at rapid speeds. It isn’t simply about learning tasks and movements either; children are constantly probing their parents’ limits and behaviors. The glass half-full side is that kids are learning cultural and societal norms from their parents’ behavior and that this is nothing more than the fundamental development critical to a kid’s progression. The glass half-empty side would say that the little brainiacs are wasting all of their intelligence figuring how far they can push their parents before they lose their mind. The delicate borders of manipulation, I suppose.
With all this talk about intelligence, it’s worth mentioning how selective the little munchkin brains can be when it comes to learning. Eliza can maneuver past a child safety handle and climb up drawer after drawer to sneak in an extra snack, yet her knowledge of potty training comes and goes based on her whims. Some days she uses the potty perfectly and recites the routine with ease, other days she rips off her diaper and pees on the floor while squealing with delight. She can recite her ABCs in Spanish, yet somehow cannot understand an instruction to pick up her toys. This selective intelligence may be the most aggravating part of a child’s progress, as the ornery nature grows just as exponentially as the aptitude.
My daughter may not be a carnivorous predator, but it often feels like she’s just as dangerous to my sanity. I thoroughly enjoy my front row seat to witness the miracle of her brain’s development, but it certainly comes at a cost at times. Whether true or not, it often feels like my little girl’s intelligence grows as my own diminishes. I can hardly keep up with the mind games she plays and the behavior she experiments with, even if it is just a natural part of her development. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to maintain a pinch or two of patience while my little Raptors push their boundaries.