At first, Gabe just wanted to flip them around the living room floor with his right hand. Then he started to pick them up. And then came the banging, the endless, eardrum-shattering, breath-shortening, stomach-churning banging. And now, I’m sitting on my couch watching my 11-month old son grab one, crawl across the room clutching it, and deposit it on the shelf of a Fisher-Price kitchen oven.
I’m talking about this, the Green Toys Stacker tower. When Gabe was three months old, we would set it up for him, standing perfectly upright, and watch his fascination, his realization of cause and effect, as he’d swat at it with his tiny hand, knocking it to the ground. The world was different for him then, he was only able to interact with items we selected for him, only able to experience the world from his belly.Gabe’s left hand was called the Smacker, and his right hand was the Flipper. He’d swat, smack, and bang at anything he could with his left hand. With his right hand, he’d keep his fingers tight together, as though he was ready to meet someone’s acquaintance, and he’d bend his fingers at a right angle, like he was a traffic cop waving on a line of cars. Armed with the Smacker and the Flipper, his Stacker tower didn’t stand a chance. We’d set it up, he’d knock it down. But piece by piece, it wasn’t enough.
Before long, as Gabe’s skills grew, he would pick up a level of the tower, and he’d inspect them thoughtfully. He’d turn it over in his hands, pass it from Smacker to Flipper, look at it and try to understand what he was seeing. His brow would furrow, staring at this tiny piece of colored plastic, and working to figure out its and his own place in the world in relation to one another. We were bystanders on our son’s journey to self-discovery, we got to sit on the floor with him and watch him problem-solve, block by block.
With more independence came the ability to independently manipulate items in each hand, and then the Green Toys Stacker became a set of cymbals, startling us from the living room as we cooked in the kitchen, a huge crash followed by two seconds of silence, and then the tiny laughter of a baby who knows too well what he’s done. We’d notice Gabe turning a big Stacker block upside down, picking it up, then putting a smaller block inside. Building skills by building a tower, the simplest of toys teaching more and more complicated lessons for our little guy.
And then over the weekend, in his pajamas, Gabe took a block and crawled with it, away from us, over to his upright Fisher-Price oven. We watched as he set it down on the floor, opened the door of the refrigerator, and stopped. Watching our son think, problem-solve, and make decisions? It is one of the most fascinating parts of parenting. Gabe had made up his own mind, and decided that the green Stacker block belonged on the middle shelf. And so, having worked it out in advance, he executed his plan.
Every day, Gabe gets bigger and bigger. He challenges himself to do more, to learn. And as Dads, we are so lucky to help this little guy build his tower, block by block.