Thursday, June 30, 2005

Four's a Fun Age

I'm finding four to be a fun age. Sure, there are a lot of times that Ki will stomp on my very last nerve, but that's the definition of "child" isn't it? Recently, however, he's really started to be interesting to talk with.
For one thing, he's trying out all sorts of new phrases. I guess it's the next logical step after vocabulary building. Some of these phrases are things he's picked up from his more-than-it-should-be-but-hopefully-still-not-too-bad movie watching. Several nights ago as I was drawing him a bath, I suggested that he pick out some toys; "I'm on it!" he replied. And yesterday he said to his Mom "Has anyone ever told you you have beautiful eyes?" Sure, it's really not a line you'd use on your mother, but still endearing that he's experimenting.
Other phrases he's been trying on are things he hears his mother or me saying. Aside from the things that you really wish he hadn't heard from you the first time, it's a real kicker to hear him utter not only the words, but use the exact intonation that you'd use too. It's particularly amusing when he mutters them to himself while he's playing. The hard thing is that all this is so charming that you want to laugh, and often do; but that only serves to annoy/confuse him and make him self-conscious. How do you express your joy at their attempts without making them think you're laughing at them?

One corollary to this new verbal stage --– and to those that preceded it --– is that his aural comprehension drops off a bit. I suspect that before now he'd just ignore the words or constructs that he didn't understand and assemble the meaning from what was left; now, however, he's trying to make sense of all of the words and how they fit together. The net result of this is that the most frequently word in his vocabulary is currently "what?", said so quickly it's almost "wht?"

The other fun thing about age four is his growing curiosity about the world around him. What things are, and why, and how does it work? As a science/engineering type, I love the challenge of trying to answer his questions truthfully but at a level that he might begin to understand. More intriguing than answering his questions is listening to him state his hypotheses. I'm sure there are many that would say I should use that opportunity to "correct" his assumptions, but my own curiosity into how his mind works (not to mention the fact that I thinking learning reasoning skills is more important than learning rote facts) causes me to ask him probing questions instead. Sometimes, probably most of the time, he finds me annoying and will simply ignore my questions. But other times, he'll answer. And I'll get a brief, treasured glimpse into the wonder that is the developing human mind.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Kids really do say the darnedest things

The whole family went for a drive this weekend to check out a piece of property (more on that later). It actually can be a rather enjoyable experience as long as no one is getting overly upset. When he was younger, I think Ki would feel left out from the conversations as he'd just interrupt for the sake of interrupting. He's pretty much outgrown that, however, and his contributions offer a fantastic glimpse into the world according to 4-year-olds. On this particular drive, two instances stood out in particular.

Ki's school is introducing letters by way of phonics -- in other words they call the letters by the (most common) sound they make, so "B" is "buh", etc. At one point during the drive*, Ki asked "What begins with 'Lake'?" Understanding his question and not wanting to diminish his curiosity, I ignored the logical/grammatical transposition and replied "Well, let's see if we can figure it out. Say the word very slowly." Without a pause, he followed my instructions (as understood by a pre-schooler) and said "very slowly".

Later in the trip, and in reference to an earlier conversation about barns, I pointed out a dilapidated structure and jokingly said to my wife "There's a barn for ya." From the back seat, Ki asked "What barn? Barn and Noble?" I think someone's got your number, Mom.

*More than seventeen years into our relationship, La and I frequently have conversations that hop all over the map and only rarely is the other person not able to follow the unspoken train of thought that links everything together. This was not always the case. Early on in our relationship, I would often be baffled by the speed and complexity of the connections that La would silently put together. I'd frequently stop the conversation to puzzle out exactly how she got from A to B. That said, I am completely befuddled by the links between the things uttered by our son. The inner workings of the four-year-old mind are apparently well beyond the capabilities of this tired old man to decipher. ;P