When Niko was first born, a tiny, sleepy bundle, I remember Aaron saying, “This is the best stage, isn’t it? We can just hold him all the time. I love holding him when he’s sleeping.” And I agreed. It was definitely the best stage.
Then Niko started holding his head up, making eye contact, smiling. And one of us said, “This is definitely the best stage. Look at that smile!” And so on. Each stage was the best stage ever. Each time he changed, had a developmental leap, learned a new thing, it was the best thing ever. Every time. But to me, there was one stage that really, really was the best: learning to talk. I loved hearing his tiny voice saying new words, completely unaware and uncaring that his pronunciation was imperfect. It was absolutely amazing.
With Sofie, it was a little different. She hit her developmental milestones appropriately, no concerns. But it wasn’t until she was about four months, nearly five months, old that she really became enjoyable. The one thing that united all her stages up to that point was the constant crying, the nightly screaming, the continual need to be held. So we didn’t talk as much about how each stage was better than the last. Until, as I said, around four and a half months. Suddenly, she was smiling, making happy noises, trying to sit.
Now she’s a month past one year old, and she’s walking, running, climbing… and working so hard on talking. She’s evolved in her attempts at Niko’s name, from “O” to “Ko” to, today, “Geeko.” Cody, the puppy, was first called “Co” and now is “CoCo.” When we give her something, she says “Tah toooo!” for thank you, and she greets us with “Hey youuuuu!” Today, her newest word came trilling out when we went into her room to get her when she woke up this morning: “Wake!”
Yes, without a doubt, Sofia is in her best stage yet.
I just love the learning-to-talk stage. I remember when Niko was about 15 months old and was learning to say “fork.” He couldn’t say the “r” sound — still has trouble with that one — so it came out, in a loud, excited voice, “Fuuuuck!” We had to explain to servers and fellow diners at restaurants: “He sees a fork. A FORK. He’s very excited about that FORK!” It was pretty funny. We have a lovely video of him saying this, getting more and more intense in tone, until the fork he’s holding suddenly pokes him in the eye. The video cuts out as we rush to comfort him, but there’s a subsequent one from a few minutes later, in which he eyes it soberly: “Fuuuck.” The tone fits the situation so perfectly that I can’t help but laugh till I cry, every time I see it, despite the pain I know he experienced.
But the best part about the learning-to-talk stage? It doesn’t really end, not for years. Niko, at age four, loves words and is constantly trying new ones and asking for word meanings. He actively explores the language with joy and pleasure. He loves the feel of a new word in his mouth. He’ll say it repeatedly, in different settings, trying it until it feels right. Most recently, he attempted to say the name of the delicious new nuts he was trying: “Spidacheos!” It made us laugh, but it fills me with a sort of pre-nostalgia, too. I know that one day we’ll look back at this time of exploration and learning and say, “This was the best stage ever.” And it will be true.
(You can see videos of Niko saying “Spidacheos” and “Fuuuuuuck!” on my Facebook page; apparently my blog doesn’t have video enabled right now.)