Thursday, February 5, 2015

Gabriel: 18 Months


The last time I hashed out specifics about Gabriel's growth and development was way back in August when he turned the big oh-one. Six months have flown by, because as of today he has officially hit the one point five (1.5!) mark. Sometimes I question how and when our little baby transformed into a full-fledged toddler, but if I'm being honest with myself it happened several months ago already....

SO much has happened in the past 6 months! When Gabriel turned one we were a family of three living in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Now Gabriel is one and a half, our family has a second little boy on the way, and we're living near Boston (down the road from some family, no less!). Throughout all the changes, Gabriel has continued to grow, learn, and play in new ways all the time. He has transitioned from being a baby that eats solids and nurses multiple times a day to a little boy who is fully weaned, can communicate hunger with specific sounds, words, or head nods, listens attentively and does prayer hands when we say grace, and can joyfully proclaim that he is "Done!" with perfect pronunciation at the end of each meal.

Now that he is 18 months old, Gabriel babbles incessantly, telling us all kinds of stories with gestures, facial expressions, and various intonations of his voice. He dances happily in his high chair when he's particularly content with a given meal and boogies in his own way whenever we turn some music on. He is still obsessed with instruments, but my favorite musical development is that he now uses his increasing knowledge of his vocal sounds and intonation to sing...not just by joining in as I sing him a song, but often when I'm doing chores and he's playing by himself. There's something about hearing that boy humming or singing his own, made-up melody as he dances or concentrates on whatever else he's doing that has yet to keep me from pausing what I'm doing to listen and How sweet it is to witness such simple yet happy milestones as we watch our boy grow!

Beyond the physical growth and cognitive developments, Gabriel has continued revealing to us more and more throughout the past 6 months about who he is as a person. We've known for months that he tends to be calm, happy, social, observant, and playful - but these traits manifest themselves in new and more complex (and often entertaining!) ways all the time. I adore his playful tendency to make games out of whatever he's doing and I always get a kick out of watching him soak in new people or surroundings. All children are curious and constantly learning, but Gabriel takes this to a whole other level - hanging back in new social settings not because he is shy, but because he wants to first scope out the lay of the land and get a feel for how other people are acting or what possible next actions are available to him. Once he collects and absorbs the data he's looking for, he jumps in and happily inserts himself into whatever the scenario may be. He is a busy little boy always on the go and exploring, but that doesn't mean he can't slow down and sit to complete puzzles or entertain himself with a more complicated task (nor does it mean that he's always getting into trouble like many boys his age! He is, thus far, shockingly non-destructive and peaceful compared to most boys I know). He also loves books so much that by the end of each day I know I've read to him for a total of well over an hour (or two).

Honestly it's hard to fully remember what life was like when Gabriel was 12 months old. Currently we're deeply immersed in his young toddler days, which are filled with his ever-growing sense of independence. I've heard from so many moms that they don't find this age as enjoyable - because that sense of independence can easily turn into stubborn, nonsensical tantrums, but so far I'm still loving it. The best way I can describe our daily lives is by saying that we simply need to pay attention to what Gabriel wants to do and give him opportunities to do it (assuming it's safe). If I pick out all his meals without any thought about his preferences or carry all the things over to the table without letting him help carry a spoon or a bib it's not surprising that this could lead to frustration on his end! He has preferences and he really wants to help out, so by giving him options ("do you want this cereal or this cereal?") and asking him to help where he can keeps him happy and feeling like he has more and more control over his own life. In my (limited) experience, 18 months (and several months prior) are all about finding the right balance in our parenting in order to keep harmony in the home. We have to know when to step in and help and when to sit back and give Gabriel the room to try things and learn to do them for himself - which is really just a precursor to the rest of our lives as parents, right? In any way, gone are the baby days of utter dependence on Mommy and Daddy for everything...but the thing I love about this age is that we're still very much needed (and will be for many years to come!) and around to see every little change as he discovers more and more about the world and we discover more about him. It's all a balance of letting him go but being right there when he comes running back for reassurance.

I love Gabriel's current age (what age of his haven't I loved??) and there's no doubt in my mind that our family is in the midst of a wonderfully blessed season. These past 6 months have brought forth many changes and I can't wait to see where we'll be at in another 6 when we have a two-year-old and a newborn on our hands!

A few specific milestones that jump out at me from Gabriel's ages 12-18 months:
  • 12 months: he began walking on his own right before his birthday, and really took off with it about a week or so later.
  • 13.5 months: he fully weaned from nursing and transitioned to solids 100% of the time. 
  • 14 months: all of a sudden I began noticing that he understood some key words and basic commands beyond the "not food", "not for babies", or simple yeses and nos he already knew (like "close the door, please", "go get your shoes", or "put it back", etc.). What a great, new chapter in our lives.
  • 15 months: he started singing!
  • 16 months: somewhere around this time I wrote down all the words and phrases I knew he understood - and the list contained upwards of 75 separate items! By that time he was also saying about 6 words.
  • 17 months: because of the timing of our move, the holidays, his molars getting ready to break through, and possibly other factors he went through a nasty couple of weeks of separation anxiety filled with lots and lots of tears any time he wasn't clinging to me and/or my husband...but settling into a routine, staying home a lot, and narrating exactly where we would be at all times helped immensely. For months he never called me by name (any name! Even though he already used both "Da-da" and "Daddy" for Michael), but this was the month he finally started calling me something ("Mama").
  • 18 months: he says about 15 actual words and makes almost just as many animals including those would put him somewhere near 30 words already! He's also been showing early signs of potty-training readiness...but we aren't crazy enough to jump on that boat yet. 

"Isn't it funny how babies laugh a lot? I read a toddler, a young child laughs 300 times a day. The average adult laughs, like, four times a day. God put it in them. He put the laugh in us, but I think sometimes we let life get us down, you know, have bad breaks, and we lose our breaks."
-Joel Osteen

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