The last time I moved within Provo, my sister, Mrs. Weathercolour, came over with her children to help. At one point, she left to run an errand, but left her youngest sons, Sroon and Quarto, with me. I thought about how I might entertain the boys while I kept packing. I remembered recent incidents in which Quarto had engaged in toilet-paper-roll-unrolling (in to the household toilet). I had comforted my sister at the time by reminding her that this is a normal stage for kids to go through, and wasn't she lucky that she hadn't had to call a plumber? I remembered that I had a roll of athletic tape lying around which was about ten years old, which was getting a bit un-sticky. I said, "would you like to unroll this roll of tape?" and the boys enthusiastically agreed. The only hitch in this plan happened after my sister got back with her older two children; they were very disappointed to have missed out on such a treat as being allowed to deliberately unroll an entire half-roll of tape.
(My grandfather, on the other hand, would not have made this mistake. Grandma once left him to watch their four kids-- I take it that this wasn't a terribly common arrangement for them, but he was willing enough in this instance-- and he sat calmly reading the newspaper while the kids (all ages) unrolled an entire four-pack of toilet paper around the inside walls of the house. You know how you can sometimes walk an entire circuit inside of a house, almost like a track? They just walked around the track, unrolling toilet paper as they went. And every time Grandma tells this story, she mentions in tones of amazement that they never once broke the toilet paper. And then she chuckles.)
Or, there is also the butter-or-margarine-eating stage, which actually comes around the same time as the unrolling stage. When my oldest nephew ate an entire cube of margarine by himself while his mother wasn't looking, my sister, who wasn't yet aware that this was a stage, called her neighbor-friend who already had several children. "Oh, yes, it's just a stage. I still remember when my younger brother's hands were so covered with butter that he couldn't get the bedroom door open. He'll grow out of it." And he did.
Another stage I've been thinking about lately is the must-be-translated stage. One of the reasons why kids with perfectly good pronunciation sometimes ask repeatedly for confirmation that you have heard what they have said is because not so long ago, their pronunciation was anything but perfect, and a grownup's wild guess as to the kid's meaning was that kid's only pathway to communication.
Such as: the other day, the youngest Weathercolour child was trying to pull her sister's hair clip out of her sister's hair. I suggested to Mrs. Weathercolour that she offer a hair clip to the child who was trying to take one.
"Would you like a hair clip?" she asked.
"Strawberry?" Clearly there had been a breakdown in communication. My sister tried again: "Would you like a hair clip?"
Vigorous nodding confirmed that my sister's second guess had, indeed, been correct. The kid got a hair clip.