You never know how much you really know until you can teach it to someone else. Or, alternatively, sometimes you don’t realize how much you take for granted until you need to explain it to someone else.
Working as a mentor with high school and college kids proved to be a very good lesson in just such a dynamic. But, even that is offeset by being a father to a toddler!
Thankfully, Padawan is a great learner. And, a great teacher.
Me, on the other hand? You can still teach an old dog new tricks. So to speak.
Several weeks ago when playing the shoes & socks game to help Padawan learn to get themselves ready for daycare I stumbled upon the idea that they were already comprehending aspects of pretty complex sentences.
Follow this string of consciousnesses for a second: I talk aloud to myself anytime I am working through any kind of routine checklist so I don’t miss anything. The process helps me internalize the process and externalize the results. With so many things to keep track of getting Dexter, Padawan and myself ready in the morning, it’s a fairly long, drawn out affair. Over the last few months Padawan picked up on the idea of “daddy’s shoes” always being picked up from the same place, going on at the same time in the process and so on.
So, one day recently, I’m mumbling to myself about “Daddy’s Shoes” and lo-and-behold, Padawan by themselves goes over to the door, grabs one of my Doc Martins and brings them over to me. Before the boot even hits the ground they are grabbing for my foot and trying to force me into the leather hull. Given a little effort “we” got the first on. Testing the theory, I asked “please get daddy’s other show” and before I could even finish the phrase Padawan is off in a tear toward the door dragging it back with a “tank you, tank you” in tow.
Fast forward to the great room re-arrangement of 2017. We are disassembling the miscellaneous furniture that currently constitutes my home office space, the sunning space of Statler & Waldorf (our pet turtles), the daytime den of Dexter, the “library” and storage space to a bunch of stuff that should be somewhere else. Padawan beings the long, argeous process of moving books and vinyl from the shelving I’m taking apart in that room to the shelves being assembled in the other room. It began rather innocently at first mimicking daddy moving them to following full on, somewhat complex instructions to put certain stacks from one area to another. It was fascinating to see the process play out as they began to recognize the patterns in the piles and deduce what should be brought next without being told.
And, then most recently, we were working on putting furniture together for their newly revamped room. I talked aloud through each thing I was doing. As with any toddler having the attention span of a gnat i figured they weren’t really paying attention while putting their grubby grubbies on every free thing in the room. Reality is they were observing all along. When I began working on ratcheting in the bolts they came over and grabbed the handle to try and turn as I turned. More fun, the rhythmic clicks of the ratchet became almost a danceable ditty for them to participate in while pushing the handle along. Before I could grab for the next bolt they’d already grabbed it and began shoving it at the structure. Granted, it wasn’t in the right spot, but the concept was spot on. As I explained the circle needs to go into hole they slowed down and took a good, long look at the situation and determined kind of how to put the bolt end into the slot. And then, finding the next bolt to fit the next slot all on their own.
The process began over the summer pulling weeds, where I noticed Padawan mimicking the process arbitrarily ripping at grass and putting it into their bucket. And, later, their mimicking the measuring, mixing and stirring that went into making things like pancakes and rice as they were playing in the kitchen next to me.
The difference these last few times were it wasn’t mimicking, but here being the quintessential response to instruction and ability to deduce next steps through deduction. It was great to experience on so many levels.
And, it reinforced something the family has been trying to be consistent with from day one — using full, adult sentences (rather than babyspeak). That forced a process of thinking about how and what I say and has begun to make me a better speaker — albeit after a complete dumbing down process of going from being a good speaker to a completely shitty one that couldn’t put a coherent thought together as I was relearning to cultivate clarity myself.