05/15/2014 02:31 pm ET Updated Jul 15, 2014

Life With My Observant Child

Rachael Clarke

"That monkey sad." Tegan, age 1 1/2, pointed to a picture of a gorilla in a book.

"He is?" I looked down at the page, just saw a gorilla.

"Yeah, he sad." She frowned.

I looked closer. The gorilla's eyes were about the size of pin heads, but they looked strained at the corners. You could see that he was leaning away from the camera, seemed scared. The picture was only a 3" x 3" square on the page, but Tegan could see his hurt, recognize his feelings.

She's always been a rather observant child, noticing the details I often tune out or take for granted. She'll tell me I need an umbrella when the shades are drawn; the raindrops fall too softly for me to hear.

She'll tell me that the ladybugs are sleeping on the windowsill (must call the exterminator), that "Grandmom and Pop-Pop need a hug." They live in a quiet farm house five hours away, and surely could use one.

She tells me that bees are hiding in the flowers, that the man in the truck across the street is sad. That we need to buy bananas and Cheerios at the supermarket (we do).

She points to things unknown, steadies a tiny finger as she asks "What that?" to the woman in the parking lot. A vacuum, a mango, dish soap.

She recognizes patterns, notices changes. Asks about everyone.

"Where the man?" ("What man?") "The man with the dresser." (Furniture delivery man seen weeks ago)

"Where Kevin (our neighbor)? He gardening?" (Likely.)

"Where (every family member)?" (I explain.)

I watch her capture images, connect everything like a web being spun, forever expanding. Each memory is like a dew drop clinging to a delicate thread. I want each one to be beautiful.

I think of my own photographic memory, my mind filled with puzzle pieces that adjoin, bring back memories from ages 2, 3, 4 and so on. I imagine her mind is the same.

It gives this mama a bit of responsibility, to make sure I explain things clearly and openly. Appreciate her inquisitiveness, her many questions. Help her to understand this big world, how everything is connected, has a purpose, should be looked at with open eyes. I know she won't miss any of it.

For now, I wait to hear her musings, her lovely discoveries. I tell her she is smart and thoughtful, my precious girl.

And I recognize that she is observing me too -- my gestures, my reactions, what I express.

I'll do my best to be beautiful.