Babies and small children change so quickly - it is actually a bit scary. Over the past week especially my little boy has come along so much, it has made me really reflect on how his own little personality is starting to show. You can see this in the little quirks that he is developing, and as he starts to show clear likes and dislikes. How, when offered his sippy cup, he will promptly chuck it across the room if he doesn't want it. How when he reaches into his toy box, he prefers a book to a cuddly toy. But in no place can you see this development more than in what seems to be a sense of will coming to the surface.
I first began so see it a few months ago when I tried to him down in his cot and he would arch his back and stiffen in protest (this later started happening with the pushchair and it still does.) It also happens when I pick him up to move him to another area of the room and he stiffens his legs so that I can't put him down. This has built into the absolute refusal to sit down, which is the stage that we are at at the moment. He is unable to stand up unaided, so if we wants to have a walk we need to hold him by the hands and walk him around (he very often prefers this to his walker) and he enjoys doing this quite a lot. He is now trying to get up on his own and although he doesn't crawl, he can shoot across the room on his bum with a speed that is quite terrifying at times. When he wants something he finds a way of getting it. This escaping across the room has helped him to fuel his new sense of independence - as he shoots towards the stairs (the stair gate will be going up this weekend) and I pull him back. He will turn round, give me a cheeky grin and then charge back towards the stairs.
He is certainly testing what he can do and what he can't. He has a particular facial expression that we wears when he knows that he is doing something that he shouldn't, or is about to. He gets that same cheeky little grin on his face. He is definitely more aware of the nature of what he is doing and whether he can get away with it or not. When he is doing something he shouldn't and I tell him 'No', he does that little smile again and I find it hard to keep a straight face. This makes it harder to show him that I am being serious and he really shouldn't be doing whatever it is that he is doing. He seems to be aware that it has this effect. Is my child an evil genius? Hmmm...
Along this same vine, Bobby has also started with what some 'baby experts' call manipulative crying; beginning to cry when something is taken off him (generally something that he isn't allowed) and stopping the second it is given back to him. It is really amazing to see how a child's personality and sense of self develop, as they become aware of the world and how to get what they want out of it. It is at this point that many parenting experts would say that discipline is needed, having little patience for this stage of a child's development. But we should be more forgiving of our children's behaviour. It is true that at this time they are starting to figure out what they can do and cannot do and we should start teaching them right from wrong - but disciplining a child right off the bat for simply learning doesn't really sit well with me. There are tantrums yes (and that's just the adults), as our children have so far been given what they want whenever they wanted it. Although what they wanted to begin with was milk and not the tv remote. As our child's personalities come through and they realise that they can push the boundaries that we have set and assert independence, we should try and not lose our rag. What was once a helpless little baby is now a little person who is discovering new things pretty much every day - that is bound to be exciting for them and let's be honest, we would probably want to test what we could do and how far we could push our new found independence as well.
So the next time he giggles to try and distract me or flash that cheeky grin when he is about to speed-shuffle to the front door, I'll try and keep a straight face. I'll be persistent in pulling him back. I'll persist in my efforts to keep him safe while he explores the world and keep my cool when I have dragged him back from the stair case for the tenth time in two minutes. And I will feel excited with him as he discovers his own little personality and sense of independence. Even if he is a cheeky monkey.