Thursday, September 24, 2009

Learning by Example

I love to hear Ryder talk, and I get plenty of opportunities to hear him because he talks all the time, whether someone else is around to hear him or not. The most amazing part of Ryder's conversations, however, are the things he tells us that we haven't directly taught him. I stay home with Ryder, so I hear and see most of his daily activities, but he still manages to surprise me with new songs, new words, new expressions that so far, I can usually tell where he picked it up from. Sometimes, however, I am amazed at the source of his new knowledge.

Ryder's first communication was inspired by Aprilia. Although dada was Ryder's first recognizable sound, dog (although pronounced gogga) was the first word that we were sure he knew the meaning of. He loves Aprilia, and Aprilia tolerates him wonderfully. He steals her toys, climbs over her while she's sleeping, takes attention from her, and she endures it all patiently. She is a wonderful dog, and I think that even more so after seeing her with Ryder. I love watching them play together, and I love going on walks with them. Ryder holds her leash, but she really is the one leading Ryder. It works out well because he has fun, she gets a walk, and she helps keep him focused and moving in the right direction. I know it looked pretty comical to see our first walks with the 65 pound dog, followed by the toddler holding her leash, followed by the Mommy holding the leash of the backpack on the toddler. Aprilia and I were quite a team, as she kept him moving forward, and I held on to him to make sure he stayed out of the road. Now, Ryder no longer wears the backpack, but Aprilia still keeps him moving at a desirable pace and in the right direction.

Aprilia does have her quirks, like the rest of the family, but most of her behavior is normal for a dog. She very rarely barks, but if she sees people or dogs outside the window, she will stare at them and growl. She doesn't bark, and I've never noticed her doing this if we're all outside, and I consider it normal behavior for a dog, and never really thought much about it. However, I began noticing it more when Ryder would be standing at the window beside her....also growling at the neighbors as they walked on the sidewalks through the neighborhood. But Ryder doesn't have the social grace to only growl inside the house. Nope, if he's outside and a neighbor walks by, then it's likely that my beautiful, sweet little son is going to emit a low toned growl at the neighbor. And if I ask him what he's doing, then he will say, "I growl, Momma, I growl." I have always heard that kids learn quickly, but seriously, does that have to apply to learning social interactions from my dog?

This has been going on for a while, but tonight we were at Cracker Barrell, and Ryder was playing and screamed. I told him not to scream, and he said, " Ryder not scream, but Ryder can growl?" I wasn't really sure about what he said when I said "Yes," (which is incidentally, a very, very bad Mommy move. Never say yes if you do not fully understand the child. If you have to answer when you don't understand, then always, always go with no), at which point Ryder is growling in middle of Cracker Barrell. While I suppose growling is preferable to screaming, I'm pretty sure that social standards don't encourage the growling of toddlers. I suppose I will have to explain to Aprilia that she needs to be a better example of good manners to Ryder because we never know what new surprise waiting for Ryder will bring.

(Top photo taken by Denise at Ryder's 1 year session.
(Bottom photo taken by Cody when Ryder was about 6 months old)

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