The Things He Has Learned

by Ruth Dawkins
Originally Published: 
Angela Waye / Shutterstock

First he learned the basics: how to smile and then laugh.

He learned how to sleep, to sit, to hold a spoon. To grab his own toes, to stick a fist in his mouth, to clutch a blanket tight when he needed comfort. He learned to crawl and walk, and then run, jump, stretch up high like a tree and crouch down low like a lion. He learned to make noise with a ladle and saucepan, to build towers and knock them over, to roll a ball and then throw it.

How foolish I was to think that was it. It does not stop at one year or two. The learning continues, every day, forever.

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He has learned about buttons and Velcro, about cleaning teeth and flushing toilets, about pulling on socks, brushing hair and how to close a door without trapping your fingers.

He has learned about kisses and crying, about yawns and burps, about blowing his nose. He has learned how it feels to bruise and bleed, to break something you love, to tear the page of a favorite book. He has already learned how to heal.

He has learned to write his name, to draw houses with curls of smoke puffing soft from the chimney, to play dominoes and Monopoly and to snap. He has learned to spell mum and fun and sun and van and leave a finger space between them.

He has learned that fishing requires patience, that washing the car is not a one-time deal, that cookies taste better when you bake them yourself. He has learned that sunburn is worse than sunscreen; that face paints can be fun; that dogs can be gentle, birds can be beautiful and squirrels will likely not steal his toys.

He has learned that there are few things in life better than stickers, that every bath is big enough for two, that any party worth going to will have sausage rolls and jelly. He has learned which herbs to snip from the garden, that the fork goes on the left and the knife on the right. He has learned that sometimes it’s not his job to worry.

He has learned that Googling pictures of poo is a really bad idea. He has learned that manners and a big smile are always well received, that saying no is okay, that living far away from someone doesn’t make you love them less. He has learned that dinosaurs are more interesting than scary and that pulling lemons off your own tree never gets tired.

He has learned the joy in dancing. He has learned about ladybirds and dragonflies, about spider webs and snowflakes, about harmonicas and tangerines and salt. He has learned that on difficult days you should always go outside, that no sea is too chilly for paddling, and no day is too rainy for ice cream. He has learned that a closed door means privacy and that you are never too young for a notebook by the bed.

He has learned to find Tasmania on a world map, that haircuts are faster if you don’t fidget, that tomato soup is the best cure for a cold. He has learned that sometimes the best gift is one you’ve picked up on a beach, that postcards are not just for holidays, that there’s no such thing as too many books.

He has learned that peas grow in pods and babies in bellies. He has learned about fireflies and thunderstorms. He has learned about Santa and heaven and rainbows and hiccups. He has learned that sad and angry are OK things to feel, but that a friend can usually chase them away.

He has learned that all the best days start and end with a hug in bed. He has learned that making people laugh is a great feeling, that fizzy drinks are overrated, that writing poems takes a lot of effort. He has learned, much to his disappointment, that most people do not marry their kindergarten teacher.

He has learned that wood floats and stones sink, that telling a good joke is harder than it seems, that coloring inside the lines is just one way of doing things. He has learned that some challenges—wobbly teeth, insomnia, long car journeys—must be dealt with alone.

For just six years, that is a lot of learning.

He is still working on zips and scissors, on swimming and skipping, on erasers, shoelaces and kiwi fruit. He is working on hard cheese and celery and on putting capital letters in the right place. He is learning to share attention and affection with others, to ride a bike without training wheels, to figure out the ethics of standing on ants.

Sometimes when he is tired, he will miss his mouth with a spoonful of yogurt. He will flub the lines of his home reading book and hurl it across the table. He will stomp up the stairs and mutter curse words at me under his breath.

He is a work in progress, with plenty still to learn.

But so am I. So are you. So are we all.

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