lessons in messing.

Dorothy: You know, I've always wanted to teach an honors class, but now that I am, well, the kids are making me feel stupid.
Sophia: Dorothy, I'm gonna tell you something I never told you before. When you were about twelve and we lived in Brooklyn, they called me into the school to tell me you had the highest IQ in the borough.
Rose: That's a coincidence. I was told I had the IQ *of* a burro.

Golden Girls, "Even Grandmas Get the Blues"

Our garbage can is this homemade wooden thing that I picked up at an estate sale several years ago. It was painted white, and I had grand plans to strip the paint and refinish it, restoring the luster of the hidden wood underneath. I got about as far into the project as I usually do; I attempted the first step and then gave up because it was harder than I thought. So now I have a half-stripped, half-painted garbage vessel. I'm hoping it just looks worn. In any case, it fits right in.

At the bottom is a drawer, where one could store garbage bags. I always mean to do so, but somehow they end up under the sink and the drawer ends up empty and forgotten. The baby, who is now crawling, likes to open the drawer by pulling on the handle. This is the only compartment in the whole house she has managed to open, so I guess it's for the best that we didn't store a bunch of suffocation hazards inside. The first time she managed it, I'm sure her little baby heart was filled with pride and wonder, until her little baby fingers were filled with pain because she had closed the drawer on them.

She still likes to play with the drawer, but has learned about ceasing to push when her fingers start to hurt. These are the things that a baby must learn for herself, that no one can teach you. We have accordion doors to the laundry room, and I'm always closing them up when she's playing in there, because they are ripe for pinching. But I know that my precaution doesn't teach her not to put little baby fingers into hinged areas, and that one day, my vigilance will lapse and she'll just have to learn that lesson the hard way.

Since you really can't teach babies anything, it's fun to set up a puzzle for them and watch them figure it out. So I put a measuring cup into the garbage can drawer and closed it up, knowing that she would discover it when she next passed through. She's been scoot/crawling for nearly two months now, but she's honestly not that speedy, because she stops to mess with something every couple of feet. I wasn't there when my husband was a baby, but this seems like the kind of baby he would be: a messer.

The next time she scooted by on her way to pull the kitchen towels off the rack, she paused to open the drawer. Seeing the prize within, she reached in and grasped it (grasping being another thing that babies must learn on their own). Unfortunately, the opening of the drawer was not large enough to relinquish the hand clamped around the cup.

I read one time that raccoon traps work this way - you make a hole in a log and put something shiny inside. The hole has to be big enough for a raccoon paw, but not big enough for the paw clasped around the shiny thing. And then you just stroll up whenever you get around to it, because a raccoon is so dang stupid it'll just stay there with a clenched fist trapped in a log.*

She pulled harder. She cried, but not pinched-finger-cry, just that whiny cry of general frustration that she has picked up in the last month or so. Babies must learn to crawl and grasp. Mamas must learn to let the baby learn, even when she cries.

She dropped the cup, scooted around looking at the drawer from different angles, pulling on it. She reached in to get the cup, failed to get it out, cried. Repeat a few times until finally she had her prize. My baby is smarter than a raccoon. I didn't even teach her that.

* I may have read this in Where the Red Fern Grows, so if it's made up and raccoons are way smarter than that, apologies to all my raccoon readers.

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