Monday, November 30, 2009

The Remarkable Incident of the Button

A new set of pajamas is on the top of the Christmas list for Oliver. He is now regularly wearing an old, old pair of PJs that he inherited from Resident Teenager. (It is so hard to believe that Oliver, now seven, is wearing clothes that RT wore ten years ago!)  The pjs are a comfy flannel, green and white checks with teddy bears. And the button up the front.

Buttoning was never on my list of things to teach Oliver -- the same with tying shoelaces. That's what pullovers, tee shirts and velcro are for, after all. But one night a couple of months ago, I noticed Oliver paying particular attention as I buttoned up his well-loved pjs. Here, I said, you try it. He gave it a go but couldn't quite get it. The next night, however, he brushed my hands away as I started to button. He'd never done something like that before. Normally, he prefers for me to do things for him even when he can do them perfectly well on his own. It's a least amount of effort thing that I totally get, being that way a little bit myself now and then. But THIS time, he wanted to figure it out and I stood back.

In the moment following the one in which his fingers grasped the button and slid it through the hole and into place, Oliver raised his face to find mine -- beaming. And I was so happy for the next four buttons because I got to see that gorgeous look of accomplishment each time. That look that said: "Hey Mom! Did you see what I just did! What do you think of that?!" I looked forward to bedtime every night for a week after that, knowing that I would get to watch it over and over again.

It took him about a week longer to master the un-buttoning, but master it he did. The really incredible part of this, for me, is that I just didn't have it in my mind to teach this thing to him. But there he was, ready to learn and ready to take charge of the process. I've wondered aloud to Nik a couple of times since about what would have happened if I had tried to teach him last year. Or last Spring. I think it would have been hard. I think he would have struggled and I would have gotten frustrated.

I tend not to worry too much about Sami. He is four and a half and can't name all of the letters of the alphabet if they are out of order. And I don't really care because I know that when he is developmentally ready he will get it and if that doesn't happen until he is six or seven then so be it. I have confidence in his ability to learn and grow and that he will do it at a rate that is appropriate for him.

The Remarkable Incident of the Button kind of reminds me that the same is true of Oliver.

It's good to be reminded every now and again.


  1. Such a lovely and timely reminder. Thanks for sharing his successes with us. :-)

  2. I love your description of him beaming up at you!

    I remember trying so hard to get the twins to pass some milestone... any milestone...back when they were about two. Now that they are turning five and I've chilled out a little, they are starting to use spoons and drink out of regular cups. I think you have a great attitude.