The naming of things

As I write this, I’m puzzling over what to do about Laurel’s very first fear. For a long time I’ve wondered what it would be, and now I know: the garage. What I don’t know is: what about the garage scares her? She won’t walk around in it anymore, like she used to. When one of us takes her down there, she clings and whimpers and refuses to be set down. If we do set her down, she screams. Today I tried asking: “Are you scared because it’s dark?” “Is it the car?” “Is it the neighbors’ dog?” (who once barked at her in there and startled her.) I got no conclusive responses. Nevertheless, I want us to learn how to alleviate her fear, to help her overcome it. Right now I’m stumped, but I’m working on it.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of good stuff going on. Laurel’s range of expression has really snowballed. She’s using many more two-word phrases and some three-word phrases, which makes communicating with her much easier. Of course, one of her favorite phrases right now is “have it?” As in, “can I have it?” (whatever object she’s just pointed out.) She also uses the word “help” a lot to request help doing something — we’re not quite to the point where she insists on doing everything herself and her own way, although I thought for sure I heard her say “[I] do it” today. She has caught on to my limiting certain objects — such as tissues or food items, so often she will hold up her index finger and ask for “one tissue,” “one wipe,” “one fig,” etc. It’s cute, until you realize she doesn’t understand the concept of “one” yet and will ask for one again — once she’s already gotten her hands on one. We’re working on counting, too. :)

Laurel went through a recent spate of learning all the names of everyone in her life. She can say mine and Devin’s names, though when she does it, she usually calls us “Papa Devin” and “Mommy Beth.” She also likes to talk about Grandma, Poppi, Grandpa, Gram, Nana, and so on. She recognizes all of her friends and knows their names, and many of their moms’ names as well. It started with Arlo and Kate and blossomed from there. She also learned her babysitter’s name early on. I think she’s happy and relieved to know the names of the folks she sees all the time, and she loves reciting them. She also names all the local shops as we walk from our house to the train station and back — our neighbors’ house, the grocery store, the library, the frozen-yogurt shop, the taqueria, the coffee shop, etc.

We had our second Halloween. Laurel wore a skunk costume and I dressed as an animal-control officer. On the day of Halloween we took Laurel trick-or-treating with a couple of other friends in a nearby neighborhood. At each house, she would get a piece of candy in her basket. Then she’d squish it in her hands until it was unrecognizable. Devin would take it and we’d give her a single M&M for the “treat.” She was very sad when we stopped after about 10 houses, and requested “walk treat” several times in the weeks after Halloween.

She seems to be a natural climber. At the playground, she loves any climbing structure — yesterday, she really mastered a ladder made out of chains that leads up to a small slide at the park. Then she would hoist her leg over the side and slide down. (She surprised me in another way: when another girl was climbing up, Laurel pointed to her and said “turn.” I said, “Yep, it’s her turn, but she’ll be done in a moment and then it can be your turn.” Laurel waited, then when the girl had gone down the slide, started climbing up.) In the kitchen, she loves pushing chairs around and then climbing up into them to get at things on the counters, or attached to the refrigerator. This has made the kitchen almost unbabyproofable, but it’s amazing to watch.

Laurel is very into giving hugs and kisses lately — to us, to her friends, to random toys. It’s cute and sweet, and I’m trying to enjoy it because I know it won’t last forever. She’s also somehow gotten into the idea of having her feet rubbed while she nurses. She will press her foot into my hand and, if I use my fingers, will correct me and ask me to use my thumb. Occasionally she will pause and say, “tickle,” asking me to tickle the bottom of her foot. She giggles, squirms away, then presses her foot into my hand again and resumes nursing. She’s not spoiled, right?

Devin and I have started the task of learning about preschools in San Francisco, as well as when and how to apply. Laurel isn’t eligible until the fall of 2012, but given that there are 150 preschools in the city and we need to apply a year ahead of time, there’s some work ahead of us. We recently took a class on the topic, which ostensibly helps us sort out the Montessoris and the Waldorfs and the play-based and the child-centered and so on and so forth. It’s overwhelming and intimidating — and one of those topics that drives everyone’s blood pressure up. It’s tough to predict what kind of school will be right for your child one or two years up the road, when toddlers change so much in the span of a few months. But we’ll do the best we can.

— Beth