Last week while I was in Houston, I drove to Dallas to see the new grandson, Dexter and his big brother Maxwell. There is a nature trail near to where Dexter and Maxwell live with their parents so Maxwell and I decided to take a hike. I walked and Maxwell rode his Razor Scream Machine.
It is so wonderful to be a grandparent. You have time to listen, to just enjoy and you are seeing the child with older but wiser eyes. You are seeing them with the experience of having raised your own children so you relish the family traits and differences.
Maxwell and I walked along and he showed me how he had discovered that doodlebugs curl into a ball when you touch them, and how buttercups will leave "butter" in your hand when you turn them upside down, and how you can pull the stamen from honeysuckle. Did you know that the yellow honeysuckle is best? Maxwell knew that. Did you know that you need to look to see if a snail is still using his house before you run over it with the Scream Machine...of course, you shouldn't pick up a snail that has ants on it. We saw the biggest lizard we had ever seen and he had a pink head. We thought he was dead but then he scampered away in the tall grass. We saw a water snake in the creek. He swam from one side to the other and started to come out on the bank but then maybe he felt our presence and he ducked back in the water. Another small snake crossed our path and we sat and watched him as he leisurely made his way in zigzags. We gathered some small sticks and Maxwell pulled some muddy slime from the edge of a tiny waterfall and then threw it back into the creek. We went through a tree tunnel.
We talked. As a grandmother, I realized the wonder of all this child has learned in 5 years. His knowledge of the world, his ability to use his strong little body, but most of all he has learned a language. I started wondering at the miracle of this when Maxwell said something like "I have 'aten' it before." I eat, I ate, I have eaten. Irregular verbs. He didn't have it right yet, but how do infants and children learn them. It happens long before they are taught verb conjugation in school. Several years ago, there was a series of articles in a magazine about how infants acquire language. I didn't recognize how miraculous this process was with my own sons but now with the grandchildsons, I have time to hear it and enjoy.
I'll let his parents tell him that he should say "I have eaten." I'll just keep our nature walk and conversation in a special place in my heart and treasure it as a wonderful snapshot of Maxwell in May 2005.