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It would be too much to say that we are seeing an explosion of language, but we are certainly noticing a distinct increase in what Simon understands and how he can communicate with us in recent weeks.

The only real new words he says are baby, bunny, Bubbie, and bus. Added to the old repertoire (yes, no, mama, daddy/yagi/papa, cat, dog, light, ball, what’s that? and a few others that enter and exit his lexicon), we have a regular rotation of about 15 words. Probably average for a boy his age in terms of expressive language.

His receptive language, though, has developed much faster. About a week ago, Matt had Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? open to the back page, where the gallery of animals described in the book all appear. We read this book pretty often, but it’s not a daily standard like Goodnight Moon or My First Mother Goose. So when Matt asked Simon to show him the sea turtle, I thought he was joking… until I saw a little finger hover over the sea turtle. In turn, Simon showed us the black panther, the red fox, the panda bear, and the sea lion, then got stumped by the water buffalo and began pointing at random.

Wow! My boy has been paying more attention than I gave him credit for. In fact, once I started to pay attention myself, I could see that Simon is increasingly absorbed by the details in books. He loves the butterflies in Peter Rabbit, the little house on the hill in Each Peach Pear Plum, and the glowing embers in Bear Snores On.

It’s not just a matter of adding vocabulary words, either. He’s clearly got a better memory and a better grasp of grammar then he did only a few weeks ago. It used to be that when someone made for the door to leave, Simon would wave bye-bye. Then he began to wave as soon as keys and coats were picked up. But last week he began waving at my mother as soon as she said she should get going and before she got up or did any of these things. Matt and I also made the terrible mistake of mentioning Molly and Grandma by name on days when Molly wasn’t coming and Grandma was off on vacation. Both times he went to the window and looked out, eagerly awaiting their appearance coming up the front sidewalk and visibly disappointed when they were absent. The age of spelling out key words has dawned.

Simon also getting better at telling us what he wants using non-verbal gestures. Last week, on a day that Simon slept in unusually late, I told our sitter Laura (Molly’s replacement last week while she was away at camp) to expect to him to eat lunch late. As Simon has been cutting his two-year molars, Laura didn’t think much about the fact that Simon had his fingers in his mouth. After waiting for Laura to take the hint, Simon opted for a more direct route: He pulled up on Laura’s jeans, dragged her into the kitchen, walked (holding on to her pants-no news here) all the way to the high chair, then turned around and lifted his arms to be picked up. That got his point across quite effectively!

The very next day, at nap-time, my mom sat down in the glider with Simon to read some bedtime stories. Simon fussed, so mom reached for a different book. Again taking matters into his own hands-literally-he leaned against the glider’s footrest and pointed up meaningfully to his crib. He didn’t want to read; he just wanted to sack out. A point made all the more clear by the fact that his afternoon nap stretched to three hours.

These advances, small though they seem on the surface, are making our days together easier and more enjoyable in equal measure. It’s less of a strain when Simon can tell me what he wants and when he understands more of what I say. And as someone who finds beauty and interest in the small details of nearly every aspect of life, it’s enthralling to be able to share some of these with my young son.

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