Yesterday my grand-niece visited my apartment for the first time. Not quite two years old, she was accompanied by her mother, father and grandmother. My adult son also joined the family gathering. In preparation for such a special visit, I did what all of the baby books recommend, I baby-proofed the place. This activity included taking small fragile items from low lying tables and placing them out of the reach of little fingers, spreading plastic under the chair where the little Miss would eat her lunch and gathering together several empty boxes which little hands might stack, knock down, stand or bang on without fear of frightening the adults surrounding her.
The last time that I saw this niece for any length of time, she was three months old. Our interaction consisted of my entertaining her with finger dancing and airplane motions. She entertained me with waving arms and kicking legs. In only a few months time, my grand-niece had now become a little person who understood anything said to her and who communicated her likes and dislikes through signal words and gestures.
It delighted me to watch her interact with the boxes I provided for her use and amusement. For the most part, self-sufficiently she invented activities which included stacking boxes, climbing into boxes, and drumming on boxes. At one point, she climbed into one where upon her father leapt off the couch and began pushing her “box car” around the entire apartment!
My niece subscribed to the letting-baby-feed-herself school, which involved cutting up small pieces of food and placing them before baby who used her fingers to put, or on occasion, shove them into her mouth. While the adults dined on a table cloth with cutlery, dishes, napkins, etc., baby picked food from a foil covered tray, put bits into her mouth and chewed as best as her few teeth would allow. To my delight, the child ate everything placed before her – string beans, rice, chicken and pineapple with enthusiasm and joy!
After lunch, baby’s mother took her out on the balcony of my seventh floor apartment. While out there, baby discovered a play-ground a few stories down and a few yards away. When mother and baby came back inside, my niece began a one -word matra, “Play”. Her mother was delighted. She said, “Let’s take her down there and wear her out so that she will sleep in the car on the way home.” My niece’s comment so boringly practical did not diminish the excitement of the little one.
And so, after a brief luncheon visit, my guests departed. The little red headed, blue -eyed vixen left me with a desire to see her again, even though she gave me cause for great jealousy.
In spite of her coloring, my great-niece looks more like a boy than a girl but she suffered no confused gender identity. With the encouragement of her parents, I did get the perfunctory kiss and hug from her. Without prompting, my great-niece gave my son a sweet kiss and a prolonged and close giant hug!