Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Growing Mind

I was at a family get-together tonight with my girlfriend, and among those there was a four year-old son of my cousin.  After some time of playing quietly, he became very vocal telling me everything his little head could think of. 

He built a puzzle, he likes the rain, thunder scares him, he’s happy with his toy truck even though it’s missing a back window, dinosaurs eat kids but not pizza, and so on.  He was adorable.  And in his one-sided monologue with me, I heard him use the word, “otherwise” several times, correctly and in full sentences.

I told the other people, the adults at the table, how this impressed me.  “I’m amazed that he uses the word, ‘otherwise,’ here and there like he does.”  My table-mates seemed to note my appreciation of this, but I don’t think they thought much more about it.  And I too wasn't exactly sure why it had impressed me.

Yet, while driving home with my girlfriend and pondering why his use of the word made such an impression on me, I was able to isolate what it was that indicated that this is some sort of milestone in any child’s development.

His correct use of this word, "otherwise," in sentences meant that he had a clear grasp of 'cause and effect.'  He understood that for something to happen to one’s satisfaction, a separate variable had to come into play, or it might not result in what one wants.  That is, in order for “A” to happen, “B” is needed, ‘otherwise’ C could be the result.

In order to eat cereal in the morning, I will need milk, otherwise I’ll have to find something else to eat.  In order to see the completed picture of the puzzle, I need to get all of the pieces in place, otherwise the puzzle will look wrong.  If I want to watch the rain comfortably, I need to stay in the house and look out the window, otherwise my clothes will get wet.

It seems quite simple, but when I thought to myself that his little mind had been on this planet for only four years, and yet he could clearly vocalize cause and effect, it made me appreciate yet again that the human brain is amazingly efficient at soaking up this world that we’re living in at lightning speed.  And by the way, he understands two languages.