Sunday, August 24, 2014

6 to 9

This is my beautiful daughter...over a decade ago. In conversations with other moms it seemed many moms had their "favorite" age or stage to experience with their child. My husband used to tease me because every summer I would gush about how, "THIS was the best summer EVER because our kids are the PERFECT age."
     "Teres, you say that EVERY summer!" I had to concede that was basically true, and maybe because each age grew to be my favorite for different reasons.  The cocoon cuddling of my newborn baby contentedly sighing asleep on my chest, to the lurching marionette arms of my infant asleep in the crib, to my baby giggling and arm flapping in excitement as I would read board books, to my toddler teetering about exploring the world on herky-jerky legs, to my pre-schooler asking "Why?" to just about everything encountered, to my school ager thinking independently and forming opinions of what is just and unjust in the world. All these ages and stages a glorious continuum of splendor. If I were truly pressed to select just ONE age or stage that was my favorite though, it would have to be six to nine months. According to Women and Children's Health Network, there are some amazing milestones that little ones at this age reach. Along with rolling over front to back, swapping toys from one hand to the other, scooting, crawling, sitting up, discovering hands and feet, working out food and textures, there are some big social and emotional pieces as well. The six to nine month old begins to realize that he or she is a separate individual with certain concrete physical boundaries and that his or her parents are separate individuals as well. With this realization sometimes comes apprehension of whether or not those favorite individuals will be there or return when absent from the baby's world.  The six to nine month old also begins to differentiate specific feelings and communicate his or her desires. This wonder emerges due to the former responses of caregivers to the baby's needs.  Recognition of familiar and favorite individuals occurs, and the baby of this age is very sociable and babbling. Women and Children's Health Network

I can freshly recall this stage for both of my children. These two pictures of my daughter beautifully capture her in the midst of the mentioned milestones.  Her aquamarine eyes frequently were sparkling with surprise and wonderment from anything to a story or song I was sharing with her to the newly blooming crocus in our front yard. Her hands and feet were also a sheer delight to her.  She would watch in awe as it dawned on her she could not only wave those pudgy little hands on the end of her appendages she could actually use those phenomenal phalanges to obtain a better look at the terrific tootsies on the other end of her little body. As long as she was at it, may as well give them a taste

because how else does a baby experience the world?
I made a connection the other day when someone asked what grade level I was teaching this school year. I have taught pre-school, kindergarten, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. I also was fortunate to instruct undergraduate and graduate level education students at university.  Like my biological children's ages and stages, each of these levels were my favorite instructionally for different reasons. However, if pressed, I would also choose 6 to 9 (grades, not months) as my favorite years of students with whom I share learning.  When I made the move back to middle school this year, many friends and colleagues had commentary. In unjustified sweeping generalizations too many were inclined to give middle schoolers a bad rap. I heard terms like "gawky," "awkward," "armpit of adolescence." My response was always to advocate for these my favorite aged students. Like 6 to 9 month olds, the grades 6 to 9 can be a bit encumbered when attempting to do things more independently. In moments of self-realization as independent beings they may balk against (or cling to) adults closest to them, all the while wondering if that adult will keep showing up for them. Six to nines are finding out who they are as individuals and honing the words and communication to reveal that to the communities in which they find themselves.  Despite any glitches along the journey, overall though these brilliant 6 to 9s are discovering themselves and their world in new and wonderful ways.  If the right loving persons come along side them to encourage them and point out magnificent elements along the journey and within each traveller, what a joy and excitement life and learning is for EVERYONE involved. How fortunately blessed am I that I have an opportunity to BE one of those persons for these 6 to 9s!


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