I started writing this post on Sunday night and, well, we know how that turned out.
This past weekend I made Joshua a lab rat. A specimen. An experimental subject.
(Don’t call the cops, people.)
At Joshua’s 18 month and 24 month well-baby visits, I’ve signed the paperwork that allows him to participate in child development studies should a child of his age be needed. I’ve had hesitations at both of those visits because what if something’s not right, you know? What if he’s “behind” in some areas and I don’t know it because what do I know about anything anyway? What if I miss something and I don’t get him help when he needs it?
(He’s never shown any signs of being delayed in any way, but I’m neurotic.)
A few weeks ago, a local college conducting toddler development called me and said they had an opening and a need for a male 2 year old for their imitation studies and asked if I was interested in bringing Joshua down to join their study.
As a teacher, this was not something I could say “no” to, you know? I mean, this is neat stuff here and I’m all about research and learning.
As a mom, this was not something I could say “no” to, you know? What if my child’s results help another child, or help a teacher help another child?
Saturday morning we woke up and got dressed and Joshua and I headed out. I was…nervous? Yeah. I was definitely nervous.
I made sure to leave early because I am notoriously bad at driving anywhere in town. Especially when I’m nervous.
I always get lost.
Dan always drives us anywhere we go. Always.
Because did I mention I always get lost?
But guess what? I didn’t get lost
on the way there!
We got to there and the psychology/child development student was waiting for us so we walked through the campus to the building.
On our walk over the student asked if he was shy and I said “Yes, usually. It might take him a minute to warm up.”
I was completely prepared for Joshua to stick to me. Just like he normally does when we’re in a new place with new people, but when we got into the “waiting” room he jumped at the toys. He was yelling “MAMA RAYCAR!” and “AWPWAY” (airplane) and had pulled every toy in their cabinet out into the floor within five minutes.
Clearly, he felt comfortable there.
The study he participated in was one on imitation. Essentially, how long would it take for him to imitate the student’s actions when he was presented with a new object.
The whole time she was explaining this test to me, I was picturing the episode of House where House teaches Cuddy’s daughter so she can get into preschool. I had a moment of panic where I was all “WHY DIDN’T I TRY TO FIND THE TOYS!!!” And then I realized that this was research and calmed down. Mostly.
And then she said “you can help direct him, Mom, but don’t give him the answers…” Clearly, she saw the same episode I did.
And clearly, she sensed that I was nervous that he wouldn’t perform the tasks like he was supposed to.
We went from that room into another room and he sat in a big boy chair at a table and she turned on the video cameras. And he spotted things he wanted to explore in the room. Like the video cameras. So he kept climbing out of the chair by way of going through the armrest.
(Ahhh, toddlers. Not so different than herding cats.)
There were two “tests.” The first, and the one in which he participated, was straight imitation. With little fanfare he was shown a series of items or a task and was expected to manipulate the items in the same way or complete the task.
(The second was called “emotionese”; in that strain, the tasks were done in extremely exaggerated ways to see if the children would respond in a like manner. That’s not the one we did. But it is the one that I have to think makes the researchers feel most ridiculous.)
He completed all of the tasks. Eventually.
On a few of them, like the sorting tasks, he became sullen toddler child who fiddled with the objects he was supposed to sort, stared longingly at the other thing he wanted to play with, and then sorted the objects, reluctantly, and promptly slid through the armrest once again to go play with the other thing.
On a couple of the other ones, he said “Eff that noise!” and found a different way to do it.
(For instance, during one task, he was supposed to use this fork looking thing to lift a lid by its handle to get to the slinky. He just grabbed the handle. I feel like the phrase “don’t reinvent the wheel” is appropriate here, no?)
After he’d completed all of the tasks, we went back to the toy room and he played while I filled out some questionnaires and she said “Your child is exactly where a 2 year old should be.”
And I beamed.
Because, I mean, how could I NOT?
I DON’T SUCK AT THIS, PEOPLE.
Ahh, Saturday was lovely.