Saturday, February 28, 2009

Parents don't know what they want

Hello there,

It's me again, Sonny, with another griping session. Not that I feel I need apologise for griping, since my parents are the champs in that department, or so it seems to me.

The thing is, most of the time, their whinging seems to centre around me, and in the most unfair manner imaginable. I recall, when I was not a couple of months old, Pa saying that I "wasn't very interactive". Well, what did you expect? I could hardly do much else beyond working out how to ensure a regular supply of milk by perfecting my wailing skills. But there he was, wishing I were able to "move about more" and "engage more".

The thing is, now that I am able to get about more and even manage to blurt out the odd "Ma" or "Pa", my parents are saying they are finding me "sometimes too active". Well, do you people know what you want? I'm not an order at the Subway sandwich shop, endlessly customisable to taste with every meal!

And there's more. When I was really tiny, my mother would go on about how small and fragile" I seemed. So obviously, she wanted me to put on a few pounds and add a few inches to my frame, so I would be more robust, or playworthy, or whatever. But - you can guess what's coming, can't you - a few shirt size changes on, my mother is now saying she longs for a really leetle baby again. Well, I'm sorry, but you can't just throw me into the washing machine and hope I shrink back down between rinse and spin cycle!

Now, I've been trying to do a bit of research using my father's old philosophy text books, and it seems to me that my parents' whinging is symptomatic of the consumerist society today. People want instant satisfaction and just visit the supermarket to pick up whatever they want, all washed and chopped to fit (and you can throw the packaging away afterwards, the environment be damned). Well, we children, we need long-term nurture and we change over time and once we're past Stage A, it's onto Stage B and there's no spare versions of us at the marked-down aisle. So why don't you just appreciate us for what we are like at any particular time, and quit wishing we weren't something we're not (or simply used to be)?

Anyway, back to the play pen again - which is the place where my parents are often wishing I played more with the toys I've just been given, instead of wandering around pulling down sundry items from the chairs. Can't you folks understand that everything's a toy for me?



Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A real stand-up kid

There's definitely something of the entertainer in our son's blood; a desire to seize the attention of others, by fair means or foul.

This trait has become especially pronounced now that he is - at just over 10 months of age - able to push free of any support and stand unaided. Not for very long, mind you: He teeters on the brink of disaster from the get-go. And he can't even begin to take his first step: It's an entirely immobile affair.

Still, the little fella sure knows how to milk his moment to maximum effect. Before unveiling his new trick, he will typically unleash a yell or bark so the audiences can "roll up, roll up", as they said of carnival acts in old books. Then he dramatically frees himself of the wall or rail that he used to pull himself to a standing position. None of this half-crouching business: Sonny presents himself utterly erect, as though ready to march down a thoroughfare. His two arms are outstretched in the manner of high-wire artists. It's so choreographed you wouldn't be surprised if fireworks burst overhead.

After a few seconds, of course, the audience is treated to a baby toppling to the floor, which can be a bit of an anticlimax, though Sonny can sometimes manage to sit down suddenly instead (which is rather more dignified). At times, presumably pleased with the reception (though Mum and Pa are a little weary of the show and may clap with less than fulsome enthusiasm), the little fella will treat everyone to an encore performance. We are led to wonder where he learned his advanced showmanship. Could it be that the other babies at the infant care centre go about showboating, each trying to upstage the other in a frenzy of toddler-level entertainment?

Or is there something innate to being human that just loves attention, the spotlight and the huzzahs of others? After all, we are social beings, aren't we, and part of being social is delighting each other - whether with witty conversation, party tricks or tall tales. There's no need to import "power" analyses that see such displays as ways of stamping one's dominance, exhibiting one's superiority or cowing competitors. Showing off can be an innocent thing, in other words - at least, we certainly hope so, as we settle back for another of command performance of Sonny-Stands-Unaided.

(Showing now for a limited period only. Tickets by arrangement. Please contact Mum and Pa for reservations. Performer may choose to cancel without explanation given. Strictly no discounts.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Updated ranking of baby care rooms in Singapore

This is an updated and expanded survey of baby care facilities in major shopping complexes in Singapore. Mum has now had almost 10 months to conduct her investigations; the original ranking was drawn up last November.

Mum's assessment system:
Three pacifiers: Clean, spacious, full facilities. Shopping centre is almost worth visiting just to luxuriate in the baby care room. Space for at least two mothers to nurse.
Two pacifiers: Adequate facilities. Maintenance could be improved or otherwise short of nursing perfection.
One pacifier:
Sorely lacking. Better than nothing in a crunch, but not good enough in these family-friendly times.

Top-flight facilities

1) Tangs: There're two nursing rooms near the cashier at the baby department on the top floor. These are the only baby care rooms in Singapore where one will find steam sterilisers, along with instructions on how to use it pasted on the wall, are provided. Each room also has a comfy chair, sink, hot water flask, cheery kiddy pictures and even a toy mobile atop the nappy changing station, presumably to distract the little one when you're wiping his bottom (though the batteries were out when mom used the room). The only grouse is that the lighting is too dim, then again, maybe the idea was to put baby in the mood for nursing. Three pacifiers

2) United Square, Novena: At the ground floor baby care room, there are multiple changing stations with two sinks for easy cleansing. There is a hot and cold water dispenser for mixing milk formula (or a quick drink), three nursing rooms - each of a good size with comfortable chairs - as well as a bench for fathers to relax on. The place is clean, spacious and brightly-lit, but can get quite busy on weekends when parents throng the shopping centre with kids in tow. Elsewhere in the shopping centre there are standalone changing areas. Three pacifiers

3) Raffles City Shopping Centre: There's an award-winning baby care room on the third floor, where there are four baby changing stations, nicely designed with a trash bin and thoughtful roll of toilet paper provided under each. There's also a sink, some seating - including mini chairs for toddlers - but just one nursing room with a slightly uncomfortable-looking chair. In case more than one mother needs to nurse, there's another baby care area in the basement in the toilet near Shokudo. There's a shared sink, paper and two nursing rooms with sofas. There's even a family room nearby, with toilet facilities for the whole family - a general wash-up area, a kiddie loo and separate large adult toilet. Three pacifiers

4) Suntec City: Baby care room on third floor in tower where all the baby shops are (kids' mall). Brightly lit with sink, changing area and two nursing cubicles with comfortable sofas and separate sinks. Three pacifiers

5) Causeway Point, Woodlands: Two good-sized nursing rooms with comfortable chairs, three changing stations, a sink and two chairs in an anteroom for fathers to chill on. However, heavy usage on weekends means you may have to queue up with wailing baby. Three pacifiers

6) Takashimaya, Orchard Road: Baby care area near Children's Section. Large changing area with plenty of chairs for fathers, but only one nursing room that is meant to be shared by three or four mothers at the same time. Three pacifiers

7) Velocity, Novena: On the third floor there is a baby care room with two nappy-changing station, hot and cold water dispenser and two nursing rooms with comfortable sofas. Paper napkins provided. Three pacifiers

Acceptable facilities

1) Forum Galleria, Orchard Road: Baby care room on the ground floor. Two good-sized nursing rooms. Three changing stations that looked a bit grubby, possibly due to heavy usage. Two pacifiers

2) Paragon, Orchard Road: Two baby care rooms on different floors. On the fifth storey, the baby care room has one nursing room (a bit tight for space), changing stations and a hot and cold water dispenser. No waiting chairs for dads. Gets really crowded on weekends. Two pacifiers

3) Wheelock Place, Orchard Road: Nursing room next to toilets on ground floor near the lifts. The long room is decorated with kiddy pictures, sink, a fold-down changing station and two comfortable chairs - that can seat two nursing mothers if needed. Two pacifiers

4) Marina Square: The renovated shopping mall has various individual baby care rooms (near toilets where signs show there is baby changing area) littered around - at least two on the ground level. Each is roomy with a comfy bench, sink and baby changing station. The rooms can't be locked but the doors have occupied/vacant sign to allow parents to indicate usage. Two pacifiers

5) IMM: There are at least two baby care rooms: One is near the second floor toilets opposite Best - it is rather small, with just a small bench seat, baby change station and sink; another is in a sectioned room next to the toilets near the mama magazine shop on the ground floor - it's much more spacious, with the same facilities plus a hand dryer. Two pacifiers

6) Centrepoint, Orchard Road: Feeding room at Mothercare outlet. One nursing cubicle with a changing station and chair inside. Convenient and clean, thought a little cramped. [A reader wrote in anonymously to inform us that there is also a baby care room on - for some reason - the sixth storey]. Two pacifiers

7) City Link: Near Godiva Shop. You'll have to get the keys from the information desk opposite New York New York restaurant before HMV. Otherwise, a nice private room with sink and separate nursing cubicle. Two pacifiers

8) Thomson Shopping Centre: Baby care area on the top floor, next to the toilets near Swensen's. Section for nappy changing, a huge toilet and a nursing room with bench and uncomfortably hot lamp. Two pacifiers

9) White Sands Shopping Center, Pasir Ris: Baby care area near toilets in basement. Sink, changing area but only a pull-curtain to draw when using single sofa for nursing. Two pacifiers

10) Parkway Parade, Katong: There is a baby care area inside Isetan that's very nice - two spacious nursing cubicles, two diaper changing stations, hot-water dispenser and sink. Rather crowded though on weekends. Also a baby care area in the basement, with a rather stuffy nursing room and two diaper changing stations. Two pacifiers

11) Ang Mo Kio Hub, Ang Mo Kio: On the floor that boasts many shops selling baby-related products, there is a baby care room with three spacious nursing rooms equipped with comfortable chairs. Multiple changing stations. No sink, though. Two pacifiers

Substandard facilities

1) Junction 8, Bishan: At least one nursing room next to the toilet on one floor. Very cramped, with a bench to sit on and a changing station. One pacifier

2) Northpoint, Yishun: On Basement One near the toilets in the older building. Brand-new nursing room with changing station, but already cramped and shabby-looking. New family rooms on nearly every floor adjacent to the toilets in the new Northpoint annex. Hot-water dispenser and two cubicles, supposedly for nursing - once the chairs arrive. So far, only the family room on library level has chairs. One pacifier

3) Plaza Singapura, Doby Ghaut: One nursing room on level 3, with two nappy changing stations - one in the room and another just outside in case room is used. Not enough for such a large shopping centre. Parents can be heard waiting outside for turn. One pacifier

4) IKEA, Tampines: Baby care room on cafeteria level. It's very small but comes with a chair for nursing, changing station and sink. Another well on Level 3, but more a toilet. Not enough facilities for such a huge family-oriented shopping complex. One pacifier

Baby care facilities in public but non-shopping areas:

a) Botanic Gardens: Nursing room near the cafe is a cramped broom closet-sized area, perpetually wet but with many cute baby pictures.

b) Changi Airport: Lots of baby care areas in T3. The one on arrival floor is spacious with sink, hot-water dispenser and pull-down changer; and a comfortable separate nursing cubicle. Terminal One has only one, a new room near toilets on western end of arrival wing that is of similar design with the one at T3. One nursing room at Terminal Two, Departure Lounge. Spacious changing station and waiting area for father. Baby care room at Budget Terminal is only available to passengers who have gone through Immigration: Small basic room with pull-down changing station and sink. Inside T1, a baby care area up the escalator near Harry's that is complete with TV area with sofas that have in-built speakers, playground and of course, two or three nursing rooms and changing area. Also other baby care areas scattered throughout the check-in areas.

c) Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA): We were surprised to find baby care facilities at all. Spacious room with changing station and nursing room. Hot and cold water dispenser and big sink, but with staff and cleaning crew frequently walking in to use facilities.

Other places with nursing rooms (but which Mum has yet to use):

- Isetan at Shaw Centre: Nursing room behind cashier at baby section.
- John Little (opposite Somerset MRT station): nice-looking and little-used changing and nursing stations)
- Woodlands library (a spacious room with comfortable-looking chairs for feeding: No other branch library seems to have any baby care facilities at all)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Super-hearing can be super-annoying

Mum has been known to enjoy superhero comic-books, but their eruption into our daily life is proving rather a chore.

The other night, Pa got home from work at around 10.30pm to find the hall very quiet. He gently let the door clack to, then padded into the bedroom. But it was too late. Mum had been trying to lull Sonny into sleep - and it seemed for a while that she had succeeded. However, though she had hardly heard it herself, the sound of the door being unlocked from outside had apparently resounded like a loud crack for the little fella's super-sense of hearing. His eyes flicked open and he was promptly energised as though ready to go save someone trapped in a burning house (though he dispensed with a too-fast-for-ordinary-eyes costume change into tight-fitting spandex).

To keep the account brief, let's just say Sonny spent the next 15 minutes bouncing mercilessly around the bed, as his parents tried to convince him that it was past bedtime. Superman draws his powers from the sun, but since it was plenty dark, our very own mighty-tot must have been leeching vigour from starlight. In any case, it was clear that certain lessons needed to be learned.

Mum and Pa are now trying to polish up our whispering and sneaking powers, as we remind ourselves that the little fella has gained uncannily acute senses. In order to preserve oases of peace and quiet, once Sonny has drifted off into la-la land, we'll probably have to become used to muttering to each other as though transmitting state secrets and tiptoeing around our place in the manner of cat burglars.

Then again, we're beginning to fight back. Through careful observation, for instance, we've discerned that Sonny isn't necessarily jolted out of stupor and into super-awareness simply by any old sound. He's been known to snooze contentedly while we're at an eatery, with a healthy buzz of conversation all around us. What seems to spook him, rather, is sudden spikes in volume: Presumably, such abrupt variations signal a potential need for a super-rescue. But rather more difficult to get around is Sonny's impossible ability to spot items that he really shouldn't be touching. If, for instance, there is just one toy in the flat that has recently been dropped in the street and needs cleaning, the he can be relied upon to immediately scamper in that direction - intent on a good chew. He'll see right through any attempt to distract him with various legitimate toys, and will bound heedlessly past us to jab purposefully at the TV remote.

How does he do it? We don't know yet, though submissions for research theses are welcome. Meanwhile, we'll just have to draw on our powers of super-patience...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nothing stays constant but the changing

While we were in Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks back, Sonny's uncle swung the little fella up and onto his shoulders, expecting to reap a squeal of delight. He heard only a wail of terror as Sonny - unfamiliar with the stunt - clambered desperately to escape the unwanted boosting.

Funny, the change a couple of weeks can bring. Yesterday, Pa yanked the little fella skyward again, depositing him so he could pull on his father's ears if he had a mind to. This time, there was no shriek of fear. There wasn't any explosion of excitement either; Sonny simply surveyed the newly-adjusted environs calmly, a confident smile on his face (or so it seemed to Pa, upon trotting up a flight of stairs at a hotel so as to access a large mirror). He might have done this a thousand times, going by his relaxed demeanour.

It just goes to show the truth of the comment often made by sundry experienced parents, including Pa's mother, that a young child cycles through a dizzying succession of changing dominant moods, characteristic behaviours and even general facial appearances: Sonny, on that last point, can apparently look more or less like one parent, then the other, with each passing week. The almost-10-month-old, we must conclude, has no set "personality", whatever we may like to believe. He goes from being a "happy, generally placid thing" at two months to a "grumpy, demanding monster" at four to a "jealous, withdrawn creature" at six. Scanning through this disordered series of posts, we are struck by how often our pronouncements about Sonny's behaviour, preferences or quirks are effectively negated sometimes a few days later as the wheel of fortune turns.

It could be argued, of course, that even adults are immune from this phenomenon; that our character continues to evolve throughout our lives. Naturally, the swings are typically less violent and less frequent - and the factors that bring about alternation need to be much more pronounced. This would contrast with the apparently random switches seen in toddlers, which can leave us reaching for empty generalisations or cliches like "well, that's just how it is", or "growing up is like that" by way of (non-) explanation.

At the end of the day, however, Mum and Pa must somehow pretend that the set of their child's characteristics is fixed, if they are to ever go about their parental duties. How could we plan meals or structure our days if we foreground the fact that Sonny's tolerance of different foods, or his sleep times, vary like the wind direction in autumn? Could we ever buy a toy or plan activities if we continued to remind ourselves that his preferences might change in a twinkling? No, we have to stay nimble and perpetuate this great myth of there being something called "what Sonny is like" - even though if we wanted to be exact, we should add to that descriptor the words "... at the moment", thereby upending every tenuous hold on control.

Hey, it keeps things interesting, right?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hidden, high-scoring gems

Earlier today, Pa was scuttling along near our home after dropping Sonny off at the infant care centre, trying to get in his 15 minutes of exercise (regular readers will note that this hopeful theme will emerge from time to time before fading from view). There's a basketball court along the route, so Pa paused long enough to see what was going on there.

A middle-aged man and a woman - almost certainly husband and wife - were shooting hoops, clad in el-cheapo sneakers and worn attire. They wouldn't have warranted a second look if encountered anywhere, whether in the bus, at the market or in town. But as Pa looked on in mounting amazement, the duo put together a stunning basketball exhibition: They took turns to score from all angles, from different distances and using everything from high lobs to sky hooks and classical-release shots. It was all done at an unhurried pace: These folks weren't doing much more than getting in a bit of physical exertion, from the looks of things - even if the way they were scoring without pause was enough to disrupt Pa's progress and keep him entranced for several minutes.

We haven't a clue, of course, who these people were. But they were certainly hidden away in a quiet residential area of Singapore, surrounded by blocks upon blocks of modest apartments. The encounter brought home the truth that you never know when you are going to stumble upon something of interest, so long as we remain aware of what's going on about us and don't become totally enwrapped in our own private musings.

All of that, of course, ought not be forgotten as we shepherd Sonny - less than a fortnight away from completing his tenth month with us - along his own exploration of the world around him. For now, his wonder and curiosity at everything he comes across is pretty much a salient characteristic. Nothing is so insignificant as to not warrant an inspection; a quiet nook, once spotted, simply cannot be left alone until there has been a crawled-over expedition to scout for surprise treasures. But as the years pile up, there is a danger that we lose that investigative edge; our awareness is dulled as experience silts up a "done-this, seen-that" weariness that can leave us to trudge through life expecting nothing fresh to peek out at us.

That would be a pity. If Sonny shows signs of flagging in that manner, we'll need to be sharp enough to pick it up and attempt some exhortatory reinvigoration. But that probably won't be a problem for some time yet: Curbing excessive curiosity seems more the current worry. Still, Pa hopes he'll see more basketball action as he continues his modest exercise routine, even if he isn't himself inspired to try and sink any baskets. Maybe he'll strike up a conversation some time with that wonder couple: They could be onetime hoops legends who have fallen on hard times and are now relegated to obscurity, their once shining talent now glistening only occasionally at our neighbourhood hard court. Or they could be diamonds-in-the-rough with outstanding ability but no interest in shaping their gift in the direction of fame or money.

It might turn out to be a gem of a conversation - like the many that always surround us, waiting for us to notice them.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

'Evil Crasher' makes its debut

Can children scheme to inflict pain on their parents, and make sure they get away with it?

Such dark musings are in the wind after Sonny came up with what Pa is calling the 'Evil Crasher' game earlier today. The little fella first waits until a parent is lying on the floor. Then he'll toddle along and, using the unsuspecting adult as a support, lever himself into a standing position. Releasing his arms, he rears up dramatically, then collapses onto his victim's stomach/ groin/other sensitive part of the anatomy. The exercise is then repeated.

Naturally, there's a built-in justification for this cruel game: The little fella is "learning to stand upright and walk". The adult would feel rather guilty about disrupting this essential process - and ends up gritting his teeth and absorbing the punishing blows. However, it's just as likely, or so Pa suspects, that the little fella - unhappy at the slow delivery of food, or lack of slavish attention or some such imagined slight - is simply getting a bit of his own back.

'Evil Crasher' actually features a further embedded excuse: It can pass for a "bonding experience" between parent and child. This, in fact, had been Mum's initial reaction ("How's the bonding going?", she had blithely asked Pa as his body was slammed again and again). After all, the little fella is smiling beatifically throughout and exhibits utter absorption in the activity, in which the parent is an integral part. And how heavy can a not-quite-10 month-old be anyway, an unsympathetic observer might respond to Pa's whimpers? (To which the answer, apparently, is "pretty darn heavy").

Anyway, Sonny spent no more than 10 minutes perfecting his technique with Evil Crasher. Enough for the first day, he probably figured. He had quickly worked out how to stand as upright as possible, so there would be maximal distance between himself and the target (Pa) and so maximal acceleration. He also learned how to vary his arm position at point of impact, presumably to keep Pa guessing and to hammer at different pain points each time. All of which dredges up yet further excuses for his wicked conduct: He is simply "learning to assess and improve his control of his body", his lawyer might be able to say, a well as "getting a good work-out". With so many babies overweight these days, who would deny Sonny his chance to sweat away some calories playing bouncy-bounce?

He can even learn his numbers the next day, with a round of "Count the bruises" with Pa. How charming!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Staying consistent from the start

Some people are inconsistent in how they treat their children, cycling through disciplinarian, cosseting, bribing, despairing and other modes. With Sonny in his tenth month and increasingly forging a (at times frustrating) personality of his own, we hope in our dealings with him to set a course - and then stick to it.

There'll be our baby-carrier experience to remind us to be constant.

At the moment, Mum is preparing to junk our current model in favour of an alternative we had tried out in Abu Dhabi (from which we have just returned). The newly-favoured 'Ergo' carrier, which Pa's sister-in-law had championed, provides a more secure ride for the little fella, is easier on the back of the adult and is less of a bother to buckle up boot.

The thing is, we already own four other carriers of various descriptions and types, some gifts and others purchased. Each proved to have its own fatal flaws, from an excessive number of clasps or straps to undue strain being placed on some body part or the other of the carrying parent. Mum is trying to sell some off some of the discards on the Internet, to prevent our little flat from taking on the appearance of a showroom.

Of course, with such an item, cycling through an ever-changing selection of products is unlikely to have any deleterious effects on Sonny. It's hard to see him suffering any psychic shock, for instance, or developing "Carrier Uncertainty Syndrome". Yet if we were to prove as change-prone when it comes to setting ground rules for the little fella, things could get pretty problematic. It is widely accepted that parents should provide an environment that is settled and secure, and this extends to the do's and don'ts that will shape the child's earliest acquisition of habits and dispositions. Constant variation, and the jumble of mixed signals that it will engender, may disrupt the laying-down of this essential foundation.

Of course, we're not advocating that parents stubbornly stick, come what may, to a regulatory regime that they have come to consider flawed. Yet it may be that, broadly speaking, the fact that a rule has been laid down is a point in favour of retaining it, or at least of not modifying it too soon (If 9pm is bedtime, then it shouldn't be 10pm the next week, and 8.45pm the week after, even if there may be no overwhelming reason why any of these times should be independently preferred over any other). We wouldn't want Sonny to conclude that what his parents' decrees can be easily revised, especially with a few well-timed tantrums.

Some folks would argue that children aren't such dark plotters as all that. But the little devils are certainly shrewd enough to begin to try to get their own way from a very early age (just as Sonny already knows who to appeal first if he wants something, and who is more likely to be extra-accommodating). And as the the child grows older and the sorts of issues he will encounter become increasingly complex, the parents certainly will not want to be viewed as indecisive and "unreliable".

Who would want to carry that sort of label?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

As difficult as A, B, C

The little fella attained a dubious high water mark a couple of days ago: He's reached what you might call 'Parrot Status'.

Without the slightest inkling as to the meaning of what he is uttering, he is now able to mouth (that is, parrot) the first two letters of the alphabet. At nine months and change, this isn't a particularly stunning achievement, but it certainly made for some excitement in our little household.

"A", Sonny had suddenly mumbled as Pa was running through the alphabet song and jabbing at the hand-made chart that we have on our wall. Then, "A" again. He said it fairly well too, though his pronunciation would vary over the next couple of days, at times teetering on the edge of "Air". Shortly thereafter, with a bit of egging-on, he progressed to "B", though pronounced with a strange whistling sound through his two teeth, something closer to "Bhhee".

We therefore now have the odd situation of a baby who can't even say "Mum" or "Pa" (despite a false alarm, as described in an earlier post; click here to read it) yet will suddenly go into a bizarre run of "A"s and "B"s. Just take this morning:

Pa: Good morning, Sonny. Ready to go to the infant care centre yet?
Sonny: A. B. A. A.
Pa: It's me, Pa. That's right... Paaaa. Can you say 'Pa'?
Sonny: A. B. A. B.
Pa: Er, that's very clever, Sonny. But you ought to start with your parents first, you know. What about 'Mum'? Say 'Mum', Sonny...
Sonny: A. B. A. A. A.
Pa (tries to go with the flow): All right, never mind all that. Can you say, 'C'? Come on, let's move on...
Sonny: A. A. B. B. A.
Pa: Stop it! It's driving me crazy!
Sonny: A? B? A. B. A.

Of course, if we were to tell a visitor about Sonny's newly-acquired skill, then trot the little rascal out for a demonstration, he will immediately clam up and just smile and paw away innocently. He could be getting a good laugh over our discomfiture at these moments, so maybe we'll just wait for him to learn the rest of the alphabet before we inform anyone else.

Mustn't fall into the little fella's trap too many times, must we?