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Now We Are Three
(June 26, 2009)

Theron has just had his third birthday. Actually, that was a couple of weeks ago. I'm behind.

What surprises me most about this age is that he's still developing in sudden bursts. I'll look up, and he'll have started a new behavior, or he'll suddenly understand something that used to be invisible to him. His growth is following the same pattern: a few weeks of no visible change, and then he wakes up one morning and he's taller.

He has also, for the last two weeks, had a particularly nasty head cold (triply nasty, because his mother and I have been sharing it with him). He's getting better - finally - and can actually breathe through his nose again, but he's still... not 'tired', exactly. He's got most of his energy back. It's just that when he runs out of energy, he's out. He goes from Happy Running Bouncing Boy straight to Inconsolable Meltdown Boy with only a moment's notice.

This is a difficulty for us.

Added to that, for the past two nights he's woken up at about three in the morning. I have no idea if this is because he's stuffy, or hungry, or lonely. I'm not generally at my best when awakened unexpectedly, and right now I'm still trying to finish recovering myself: I need more sleep, not less. My wife is in much the same boat, except that - generally speaking - she has more trouble going back to sleep than I do. But he's awake, and we have to deal with it.

There's a surprising amount of crossover between trying to resolve these sorts of things, and troubleshooting computers. You use a lot of the same techniques; a lot of the same rules apply. For example, probably the most important question in troubleshooting is this: "What was the last thing you changed?" But sometimes, with either computers or small boys, there isn't an obvious answer. And sometimes, like now, you just end up trying things and noting the results... Until either you see a pattern, or something happens to work.

Developing Grammar

Theron talking about colors

About three weeks ago, Theron's language abilities made another big leap. Until now, his sentences have been pretty basic. (I have some samples in one of the earlier chapters.) He'd ask questions, and he'd use possessives, but the structure was still pretty simple: subject-verb-object, mostly. Nouns only received one adjective: "Is a red truck." Verbs were always in the present tense. Oh, and everything was in the third person: "Daddy's controller." "Theron's controller." "Daddy falls down." "Kitty Cat is silly."

About three weeks ago, he started using first person and second person pronouns. He will now, for example, identify "my controller" and "your controller" instead of "Theron's controller" and "Daddy's Controller". (He has also recently protested that a particular box was his, when in fact it was his mother's and she was trying to put it away. I think that has more to do with testing boundaries than learning grammar, though.)

Multiple adjectives have also made an appearance: "Is a tiny, red truck." "Is a big yellow digger." His sentences are getting more complex: "I think I can do that." "Daddy wants to sleep in Theron's bed.*"

And, finally, he's using more plurals: "Those are friendly Dark Elfs." (Daddy's response: "Yes, they are friendly. That means we can't bonk them." Theron: "Is a Wingy Monster. We bonk Wingy Monster? No! Black Monster wants to bonk the Wingy Monster**.")

Oh, and he can spell his name. I'm pretty sure we can attribute that to his Mother's Day Out program. It wouldn't even have occurred to me to start him on letters, yet.

Beating us at our Own Game
I mentioned in a previous entry that it's sometimes difficult to tell whether Theron knows particular words and/or how to use them correctly. Generally, we just ask him questions (or ask him to do things) and if he answers (or does them) correctly, then obviously he understands. Another trick we've used is to offer an obviously wrong answer, and see if he corrects us. "Theron, is that a blue firetruck?" If he corrects us ("Nooooo. Is a red firetruck.") then he already understood. If he doesn't, then we correct ourselves and/or explain the difference to him.

Recently, though - I'd say within the last week - Theron has turned our cunning plan against us. A sample of dialogue:
Daddy (pointing to a picture of a boat): "Theron, what is that?"
Theron (studying the book judiciously): "Is a bulldozer."
Daddy: "What?" (points again) "You think that is a bulldozer? That's a sailboat."
Theron: (A brief pause, then) "Is not a sailboat. Is an airplane."
Daddy: "Arrrgh!"
Theron: (giggles)

Names for this age
We have passed the Terrible Twos (at least in theory - it's not like they start at two and end on the third birthday; also, for boys the threes can apparently bring more arguing, tantrums, and misbehavior than the twos ever did). Being an English major, I am now looking for an appropriate title for this next stage of development.

So far, I'm inclined to use "The Age of Bargaining." Theron's reasoning and language abilities have reached a point where we can talk to him, explain things, and even postpone things. (Me: "No, that was the last book. We can read more books in the morning." Theron: "Otay.") However, this is also the age of Tricycling, and the Age of the Swim Ring.

Both the tricycle and the swim ring were actually introduced last year. Neither was terribly well received at the time. Theron's legs weren't quite long enough to really make the tricycle go, though he was certainly game to try. He hated the swim ring, and wanted our arms instead, which kind of limited his activities in the pool.

That was last year. This year, he's grown into both of them. He can zoom the tricycle around with skill and aplomb (and the occasional crash), and has actually developed races and chasing games with his grandfather (who uses an electric wheelchair for these activities). The swim ring finally fits him, and he'll float around in it when we're in the pool. This is a great relief to his father, who likes to have his arms free. He's even learning to move himself around by kicking his legs; I'm looking forward to watching his progress over the summer.

In the Swim Ring

Theron tricycling

Just a few days ago, Theron started speaking for some his toys. He doesn't do it for all of them, just E.R. The Doggy (a gift from one of our trips to the emergency room), and a small stuffed Cthulhu whom the Podling refers to as "Octopus Monster." As it happens, E. R. The Doggy and Octopus Monster are great friends, and spend most of their time together. Sometimes they even read books to each other.

Interestingly, he usually speaks for one of them himself, and hands the other over to either me or my wife. (I get E. R. The Doggy, while the Beautiful Woman*** gets Octopus Monster.) His scenarios aren't terribly sophisticated; as an example, Octopus Monster likes to tell E. R. The Doggy about how he can fly, because he has wings, so I have E. R. The Doggy tell Octopus Monster about how he can run very fast because he has four legs and paws. But, it's good to see the imagination at play. I suspect we'll get to see a lot more of this kind of storytelling-play as time goes on.

Understanding the World - and Making Jokes About It
Theron has also come to understand the concept of stoplights. He knows that red means stop, and green means go, and yellow means careful. For a week or so, we couldn't drive anywhere without hearing him editorialize from the back seat: "Is a red light. Red light means stop."

A week ago, while riding in his Nana's car, the Beautiful Woman asked Theron if he had a poopy diaper. Theron said, "No." Then he said, "Red poopy means stop," and he grinned. My wife asked, "Really? What does green poopy mean?"

And Theron sagely replied: "Green poopy means stop."

...Which, if you think about it, it probably does. I'm going to end this month's entry with Theron's poopy joke, and go on to the usual assortment of pictures and videos:

Napping Bear helps him sleep
 at his grandparents' house

He finished his nap in time
for his birthday party

Blowing out the candles

Theron and his buddy play in
the alligator pool
(Best $20 I ever spent!)

Floating in the pool...

Walking in Daddy's Shoes

Bouncy slide at the music

Our boy's first tattoo
also at the music festival

On a ride at Six Flags
(no idea who the girl is)

Playing with the front-loader
in the sandbox

A sandbox and a bubble
machine - does life get any
better than this?


* Daddy does not want to sleep in Theron's bed. Daddy wants Theron to sleep in his own bed, alone, for the entire [expletive deleted] night. However, Theron wants Daddy to sleep in his bed, and hasn't quite figured out how to phrase that as a question or a command, yet. So he makes it a statement and hopes for the best.

** Loosely translated, this means that in Daddy's Game (Morrowind), the boy has spotted the kind of monster known as a Winged Twilight. He now wants daddy to conjure another kind of monster, called a Dremora (or Black Monster, in Theronese) so that the Dremora can bonk the Winged Twilight. That's not to say that my character has no role in the battle; I pretty much stand there and let the Winged Twilight attack me while the Dremora pounds it into the ground. Fortunately, my character heals almost as fast as he's injured...

*** My wife and the boy's mother, who prefers not to use her real name online. Or at least she didn't, until she succumbed to the lure of Facebook...