My daughter is an extremely clever little girl.
She's not 15 months old yet, but she's learned a lot in those months. She's become adept at things that probably would take an average adult longer to learn.
For instance, she's very adept at alerting you to her needs. Her needs. She's learned that all eyes in the room -- or the building, depending on the situation -- will invariably lock on her location if she screams. And scream she does; it's not an ear-drum vibrating, rattling sort of scream; it's an avian, high-pitched caw of a scream that races from the top of the illiac crest up the spinal cord and lodges like a rusty iron spike in the base of the brain. The sound causes an involuntary response in the nervous ambulatory system and adults move toward the sound immediately. The sound itself is issued from the front of the mouth, echoing through the nasal cavities and reverberating in the chambers of the skull, then pushes forward like a sonic pulse from a Sperm whale. The tone is something like a tight, clear operatic note with the flatness of the wail of a murder victim.
The screaming doesn't normally begin until after I go to bed. The rules of the game seem clear to me; as long as daddy's awake, there's no sense in screaming. There's no fun in watching the angered reaction of someone irritated by the sound. It's much more amusing to wait until he's likely drifting from hypnagogic states into delta realms, when the adrenaline impact will be greatest. The sound is clear, high-pitched and piercing; it's like living with a pterodactyl.
She's also learned a thing or two about getting the necessary nutrition her growing body requires. For instance, she's still a nursing baby, so mommy is still supplying much of her nutrients and vitamins, along with those vital immuno-defenses that only breast milk contains. But she's also got a mouth full of teeth, and likes using them, so things like hot dogs, pretzels, potato chips, crackers and other sundry items of varying texture and taste are mostly fair game at this point. However, there is no treat greater than that food which is on mommy's fork.
The rules of the game again seem clear; whatever mommy's eating must, by virtue of her eating it, be better than whatever she has on her own plate. This is true even if the items are identical.
In order to ascertain whether mommy's food is or isn't better, the child has learned to position her mouth on an intercept course between the plate and mom's mouth. She can lean impossibly far forward, mouth agape, and never have her eyes leave mommy's face. The fork or spoon, therefore, cannot pass from plate to diner without being placed into baby's mouth. The decision can then be made as to its superiority or inferiority to her own food; equality is simply not an option.
Climbing is also a new-found and oft-exercised skill. It began with a soft, foam-based "princess chair" that daddy bought her so that she wouldn't take brother's miniature plastic patio chair from him. The princess chair is ruffled and pink, made entirely of foam rubber, and coated with a silky fabric that's pleasant to touch. But, sitting on the chair was boring after a fashion, so toppling it and climbing on, over or around it was much more amusing. She then graduated to things like the bed; not climbing up so much -- no need for that when a simple issuance of the "hiccuping frog" sound causes mommy to lift one to places too high to climb -- but climbing down. She turns her feet to the edge of the bed, lays on her tummy and scoots backward by pushing with her arms until gravitational assist kicks in.
Now, however, the chair is passe. The walker she once needed for mobility has become a tiny jungle gym, offering thrills and excitement as someone that still has a large soft spot on her skull spiders precariously about on an unstable, light-weight plastic device meant for sitting while poised dangerously close to coffee table corners and breakable lamps. And of course, the real challenge, which has not yet successfully been overcome, is to sit in the walker and then get out of it again. Instead, she usually drops only her glutei into the walker's bucket-like seat, with her feet ending up beside her cheeks and her arms lacking the necessary muscular development to lift her body weight sufficiently to emerge from the turtle-on-its-back position. No matter -- a few frog hiccups or perhaps a pterodactyl screech should do the trick.
She's also learned the value of drama. Nothing that goes against her will can be allowed to occur without notifying any and all that this is upsetting; the solution? Simple -- fling yourself upon the ground (GENTLY - that lesson came hard and often early in life; floors don't give like mattresses do) and bury your face in your arms while crying to demonstrate the degree to which you are disappointed. If this doesn't illicit sufficient sympathetic cooes, or better yet get you what it is you sought to begin with, no problem -- pterodactyl it. That always works, but save it as a last resort or its effect may be dulled.
Yes, the cognitive powers of my toddler are astounding. I'm sure that one day I'll remember those subtle behaviors with great fondness. That is, if I don't perish from an adrenaline-induced heart-attack first. For now, however, I'll simply deal with them the way that I've been dealing with them. Unless, of course, my neighbors complain about my bellowing.