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11 months adjusted

Every few months I check in, charting Charlie's developmental progress on the Denver II assessment sheet we began many months ago. Here's how it works:

The horizontal axes are labeled by month. First you draw a vertical line down through your child's age.

The chart includes ranges for every activity to be evaluated, denoted by a box. At the left end of the range, where the box begins, 25% of children can perform the activity. Each box has a tick mark showing the point at which 50% of children can perform it. Closer to the right end of the range, the box is shaded blue to show that 75% of children have begun to perform the activity. And by the end of the box, more than 90% of children should be performing the activity. Fall outside the box and it might be cause for concern.

So then you look at your line and where it intersects which boxes. You decide whether your child has mastered a given activity, and you either congratulate yourself on some fine trick-rodeo parenting, or you quietly freak out, sure that your child is about to be institutionalized.

Here's what Charlie's chart looks like at 11 months adjusted. (I don't even look at the activities for his actual age.) The green check mark denotes items he's mastered; the orange not-smiley shows activities he's not yet expected to have mastered; and the skull and crossbones appears when our boy's not even close, causing me some measure of concern.

Activities Charlie has mastered

Indicate wants. If lunging out of my arms and flinging himself on top of the fleeing cat is any measure, it is safe to say he can indicate wants. That poor goddamn cat.

Thumb/finger grasp and Feed self. So precise and powerful are Charlie's pincers, so ferocious his drive to feed self, that I'm pretty sure that if we turned him loose on the savannah armed only with a bib, he could bring down an impala and ingest only its choicest morsels. I pity the poor cheetah who's uppity enough to take him on.

Work for toy. Oh, Charlie will work for a toy. The kid will practically drill his own oil well; refine the resulting petroleum into ethane and propane; gear up a high-temperature furnace to "crack" them into ethylene and propylene; shovel the whole mess into a reactor; add a catalyst to produce "fluff"; combine the fluff with assorted other additives in a giant blender; send the resulting polymer to an extruder for melting; squirt the lavalike plastic compound into an injection mold; impatiently wait while the molded item cools; break it off its sprue with an audible snap; and then lift it triumphantly into the air, crowing, "Bah!"

And then put it in his mouth.

Put block in cup and Bang two cubes held in hands. I have never seen him do these things — Jesus gay, am I supposed to watch him every minute? — but Paul swears he can. And whatever other faults he might have, and I'm not saying he has any, Paul's not one to lie about cubes.

Jabbers, Combines syllables, Dada/Mama non-specific, Single syllables, and Imitate speech sounds. He does all of this, and I suppose you could construe it as imitating speech sounds. After all, I do say, "MmmmMMMMMUH. Gaahbbm. Buhbuh...buh. [High-pitched skirl.] UNGH" a lot as I go about my daily business.

Get to sitting, Pull to stand, Stand, holding on, and Sit, no support. MmmmMMMMMUH. Gaahbbm. By which I mean UNGH.

Activities Charlie should be on his way to mastering

Drink from cup. Charlie can occasionally and accidentally find his mouth with the spout while holding his own sippy cup. He can rarely manage to drink from a regular unspouted cup held by a parent without flooding his own lungs with vodka water.

Imitate activities. So far, he has shown he is able to clap his hands in imitation, but only when he feels like it, and to mimic my talking on the phone, but only that single time. Either I'm not that interesting, or he's not that swift. The cat, on the other hand, is worthy of imitation. The cat fetches, preferring a plastic ring from the top of a milk jug, and therefore so does Charlie. The cat favors a particular end table for lounging, and, apparently, so does Charlie. And the cat has an entirely uncatly propensity for sitting up on his haunches for long periods, like unto a meerkat, while Charlie — well, I don't even know what to say about this, but whatever it is, he does it.

Play ball with examiner. As if. Listen, the minute any kid of mine actually wants to engage in athletic activity is the day I demand a DNA test.

Play pat-a-cake. You know, this is a digression, but around here, we call it patty-cake. I am fairly certain the term is derived from the French pas de caïque, a rallying cry that signified the stubborn unwillingness of the sans culottes to accept Marie Antoinette's proffered brioche as the Revolution came to a head. (Thousands of these brave patriots were later killed for their refusal to capitulate.)

Anyway, Charlie has shown that he can play patty-cake. But he's also shown that he's not especially inclined to do so at appropriate times — like, say, when his mother is squatting expectantly before him, patty-caking her motherfucking head off — preferring rather to do it under questionable circumstances. He is much more likely to perform the patty-cake of rage, such as when he's flat on his back having his tiny package smeared with diaper cream, or the patty-cake of sorrow, such as when I've told him that his stuffed duck went to live on a farm where it can romp through fields of daisies and drink the milk of contented cows.

One word. Not yet, but I'm not worried. If I had to predict, based on his record so far, I'd say Charlie's first word will probably be "meow."

Stand alone. Not yet, but I'm not worried. If I had to predict, based on his record so far, I'd say he'll never, ever learn to do it, as the domesticated housecat simply doesn't have enough strength in its spine for standing.

Things Charlie really should be doing by now

Wave bye-bye. Not a bit of it. This concerns me somewhat. It occurs to me, however, that maybe he just hasn't been left often and dramatically enough, so I've taken to making histrionic exits several times a day, roaring, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore," storming noisily out of the room, and slamming the door behind me. All after a slow, exaggerated wave and a sweetly crooned "bye-bye," of course. Sometimes.

Stand, 2 seconds. Nothing doing. On the rare occasions that he absentmindedly lets go of the coffee table, he wobbles immediately, looks panicked, and then leans forward against it again with palpable relief. I wonder if I should wait until he's playing contentedly there, crooning to the remote control and whatnot, then, surprise, yank away the table. What do you think?

Dada/Mama specific. Not yet. Not at all.

But at least he's not saying it to the cat, either. Not yet.