Sam turned two a month ago, and as with last year, when he started walking unassisted shortly after he turned one, he has made leaps and bounds in his development since his birthday. Above all I note a deeper philosophical consideration of things. Among other tangible effects, this has led him to be very affectionate with everyone. He’s always been a sweet boy, but I feel that just recently he has started to have a more conscious appreciation of people. Sometimes he’ll be hit with an all-encompassing love, and will give lots of hugs and kisses to whomever he is enjoying his time with, and look at them with a surprised admiration and recognition of how great the person is. If there are lots of people about at the moment, he will make the rounds of each one, parceling out hugs or kisses. When he sees family pictures, he enters into a sort of ecstasy as he recites everyone’s name, and sometimes even tells unintelligible accounts of how the people are related to one another. This usually happens with his mother and me, with orations like, “Mama bssbrshhbao Papa,” also frequently inspired by a toy car he has that somewhat resembles our real-life car.
Most of all, he seems to be becoming a bigger fan of me. He’s always liked me, but now he gets really excited and yells out, “Papaaa,” when I am in another room, or especially when he and his mother are driving toward our town to visit me on the weekend. Sam cries less and less at being separated from his mother. It’s all very flattering, and I enjoy more than ever the time we spend together, alone or with others. I’m reminded of my mom’s musing with my father, “This is my favorite age,” at various moments as I grew up. That’s how I feel—each moment in Sam’s development just seems like the coolest thing to me. It must be an evolutionary strategy of our race so as not to lose interest as we raise our kids (until they’re irritating adolescents, when we’re supposed to start letting go anyway). The culmination of this admiration of his father is his now saying something that approximates, “Te amo,” when prompted, which means “I love you” in Spanish. It is one of the first abstract concepts he’s verbalized. Up to now his conversation has consisted largely in pointing out cars and animals and making the corresponding sounds.
Another pensive, abstract turn Sam embarked on with me the other day was reading poetry. I’ve read poetry to him before—he has heard a good deal of Robert W. Service, and when he was a helpless, immobile infant I inflicted things like Chaucer and Alfred Lord Tennyson on him. For a long time one of his favorite books was a bunch of illustrated Mother Goose rhymes. But the other day I read to him “Sing a Song of Popcorn”, a collection of children’s poems that a good family friend gave us a year ago but that I’d never gotten around to reading to Sam (what with its being buried the better part of the year under mountains of moving boxes and construction dust). Sam was transfixed. He didn’t follow along in the book with me, but rather sat next to me doing other things, looking at the ceiling and such. Initially I didn’t know if he liked it, but every time I stopped he would keep pushing the book towards me and saying “Mas”, which means “More” in Spanish (he has a few go-to words that he usually says in Spanish, though I always prod him, usually successfully, to say “Daddy” or “more” instead of their Colombian equivalents). The most impressive part is that he can now say “poem”, and he later explained to his mother that we were reading poems together. Again, this is one of the first abstract things he has named. It seems like a real leap to me to go from saying words for tangible, visible things, to words that describe intangible nouns or complex concepts.
Coinciding with his new intellectual feats, we have finally found a new preschool for Sam for when he and Caro come from Bogota to live in our small town at the end of this month. It is where Caro went decades ago, and where my nephew Manu went as well. It is perhaps not quite as alternative and free-form as Sam’s Bogota school, and certainly not as flashy (the toys are more worn, as befitting a small town in the high Andean plains), but it seems like a great place for him to learn and be a kid. There is a big outdoor patio to play in, classrooms for each group (though the sit-down paperwork is limited to painting and things, which I like better than the “tiny scholar” focus ofanother school we visited), sessions of music, English (which obviously isn’t a priority for me, but I don’t mind it), playing outside, lots of focus on sharing—in short, all the stuff you’d expect at a normal preschool. Not rigidly structured, but not just running around like goofballs, either. I especially like that it costs about half of his Bogota school!