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Tommy’s uncle Robert bought him a new playpen, useful in its high walls and portability. Tommy liked it because it was comfortable. I liked it because it was covered with monkeys.|
Around this time, Tommy started learning to roll and sit up, though it would be a month or two before he really figured it out (he could remain in a sitting position, but he couldn’t really get into it himself). Some were eager to see him make this new development—along with crawling—but I was less than excited. After all, once he started rolling around and crawling, there’d be no stopping him. Luckily, when it came to the mobility department, Tommy was not a fast learner.
He started interacting with the dog in the house, Elle. Elle’s a licker, and Tommy found getting licked to be a source of endless amusement. Amelia, on the other hand, was disturbed by the constant licking and foolishly attempted to disuade the dog from such behavior. Eventually, Amelia gave up, only pushing the dog away when she went for Tommy’s face.
Elle was a mixed bag, too. While she and Tommy got along great, Elle had a surprisingly loud bark and a hair trigger for when she’d let it out. Despite the efforts of everyone in the house, we could not control Elle’s constant barking, and that became a sore spot for the tired parents. It seemed as though Elle’s favorite time to randomly bark for no reason was moments after Tommy had fallen asleep.
But Elle was not Tommy’s only playmate. His cousins—Noah, Luke, and Ben—loved being around the baby. At Ben’s birthday party, they fawned over Tommy like he was the greatest person on the planet, and Tommy, of course, revelled in the attention. On the rare occasion when Amelia or I would see the kids without Tommy, they’d inevitably ask about Tommy before even saying hello to us.
At home, Tommy found new amusement in colors and mirrors. It became clear that red was his favorite color, and the easiest way to get him to laugh was to put him in front of a mirror. Developmental psychologists talk about the mirror effect—the moment when a baby realizes that the baby in the mirror is himself—and I can report witnessing that firsthand.
Having a baby has changed a lot of my views when it comes to developmental psychology—something I studied in great length when I was younger—because knowing the theories is very different from having a child of your own. I made a determination before Tommy was even born that I wouldn’t look at him from the point of view of an academic in psychology, but sometimes, it’s hard not to. There’s something fascinating about watching his mind grow, and it makes all the psychological guesswork and statistics seem terribly meager as adequate descriptions for how a child develops.