So we watched a lot of Diego, but in an effort to keep things in check I wouldn't let us turn the TV on until 5 o'clock. In the mornings, I would have to get creative.
So one Tuesday, in an effort not to plug into Diego at 10am, I decided to take him to the beach (we still lived in LA). We drove to Santa Monica and trudged right up to the end of America. It was February, so the weather was cool and grey, but still beach-able.
We went to the beach often enough, but two things happened that day, that made it more memorable.
First, I let Jake wander down the beach, and I didn't go with him. I watched him and started after him when he'd gotten a little too far away. I wanted to see how long he'd walk before turning around and looking for me.
And he didn't turn around. Not once. He walked for like a quarter mile. He was heading for the lifeguard jeep, and thus my experiment was pretty much doomed from the beginning.
At the time I just thought Jake liked his mother with a healthy side of chopped liver, but I've since been trying to rebrand it as "healthy independence" that resulted from my excellent attachment parenting. Yes. That sounds just fine.
Then another thing happened. A little later - after I carried him unhappily away from the lifeguard jeep and back to our beach towel - I was letting him play a few steps away from me in the damp sand near the surf when a slightly larger wave came in. It wasn't dangerous, just enough to knock him over and get him soaked and freak him out a little bit. He looked for me instantly, and I ran to grab him. He clutched at me.
Wrapped in a big towel, he was then content to sit in my lap for five minutes and watch the ocean with me. I kissed his soggy head about two dozen times as I blissed out in one of the most peaceful parenting moments I'd ever had with my toddler.
He talked about it all day - and then all week - in his little halting speech: "I fall down ocean. I fall down ocean." And together we would remember it. "And mama came and picked you up, and wrapped you in a towel, and then we watched pelicans." "Uhuh. I fall down ocean."
He told anyone and everyone his ocean story. It was his first story.
Lately I've been reading The Whole-Brain Child, and I think this would qualify as a classic example of a little brain trying to integrate a pretty terrifying experience - trying to understand what happened, giving words to it.
Still to this day, Jake asks us to tell him "Ocean Stories."
Every night when he goes to sleep: "Tell me an Ocean Story!!! ...Umm...Please you may tell me an ocean story?" I wish he would just let us read books, but instead I have to dream up some kind of story, and I'm really bad at it, but I do it, and Jacob does it. We lie our heads next to his on his "fuzzy blanket" and weave epics involving fish birthday parties, and he listens transfixed.