Yesterday you went and turned nineteen months old. Your second year of life is more than halfway through, and I find that completely impossible to believe. Every so often, I find myself asking where my baby went. Sometimes daily, often even out loud. Your daddy makes fun of me for this, rolling his eyes and telling me that I’m “such a mom.”
You’re in a testing phase now, where you need rules and orders as much as you need to flagrantly disregard all rules and order. I try to pick my battles, but it’s easier said than done when every single molehill becomes a mountain in your eyes. You are dramatic and stubborn, and I have been doing some testing of my own in terms of diffusion techniques. You seem to do better with unkind circumstances when I talk you through them and prepare you a few minutes ahead of time. For example, we take almost daily walks now with you in your stroller and me huffing and puffing behind. You love your stroller with a fiery passion that seeks to destroy any who may come between you two. Unfortunately, when we come to the end of our walk, eventually the stroller must be folded in half and carried back inside the house. If I don’t warn you that this will happen, the screaming, crying and kicking can last a half an hour or more. But with a few words of warning, I’ve managed to trim the fury to a scant five minutes or less. I’ll take that as a win.
But not only do you often assert yourself over matters that deeply distress you (like our refusal to allow you to walk around on the kitchen table), you are also becoming more and more adept at communicating your desires for activities or objects that require our participation or preparation. When we mention dinner, you run into the kitchen and climb up onto a chair saying, “eat, eat, eat.” When you want to go outside, you bring us some shoes (occasionally, they’re even the right ones). Once, you even half woke in the night calling out, “Daddy,” because you hadn’t seen him before you went to sleep and missed him. You say, “up,” when you want to be picked up; you tell us, “off,” if we’ve forgotten to flip the light switch on our way out of a room; you point and say, “please,” when you want a drink of water or a bite of food; you say, “help,” or “hand,” when you’ve climbed a little too high to get down on your own.
You read a lot. I wonder where you get that from? Whenever you notice a book or glance at your bookshelf as you walk by, you pause to page through it. You will walk backwards across a whole room to plop your little butt in Mommy or Daddy’s lap so that one of us can read to you. Some of my favorite moments with you involve that studious look on your face as you consider Mr. Tickle’s long arms or BooBoo’s bubble burps. You are able to identify so many objects and animals, now, that I can hardly keep track. And your animal sounds are improving by the day. Your dad’s favorite is when you meow like the cat. And if I had to pick a favorite, it would be a tie between the monkey, owl, and moo.
You are becoming such a bright and energetic little kid. You are still fascinated by buckles, and every time you encounter a buckle of any sort, your only object is to make it work under the operation of fingers that have yet to reach their peak dexterity and strength. You often get frustrated, but instead of throwing a fit, you have learned that if you ask someone, “please,” we will show you how it’s done. We’ll buckle you, and unbuckle you when you need to see it again. Buckle, unbuckle, and repeat for as long as we can stand it, which is never long enough for your liking. Where do you get such an attention span? Maybe we should watch more television, get that shortened up for you.
You are coming to prefer certain toys. As much as I would have it another way, it’s the ones that require batteries that hold you the longest, that keep you coming back to them. Your learning piano is a favorite, as well as your camera and the telephone. The record feature is the best thing ever with that phone, too, because now I can hear my own tinny voice repeating that same phrase over and over and over again until you decide it’s time to move on. I wake up some mornings with the songs from that piano in my head. At least the camera doesn’t sing. Just runs out of batteries five minutes after you figure out how to make the flash go. You like other toys, too, though. Some days we can build blocks forever. I build, you knock over. It’s a perfect distribution of duties. And every once in awhile, lately, you’ve even tried to stack up a block or two on your own. I don’t knock yours over, though, because you like the demolition duty too much to give it up entirely.
Maybe it’s the impending calm and quiet. Maybe it’s how you know what’s coming, how our routine comforts you. Maybe it’s more than that, but your bedtime is still one of my favorite parts of every day. I think it has something to do with me, too. During the day, I can often become distracted with all the adult things that I’m supposed to worry about. I get caught up in my own cares, sometimes, or even in general housework and routine maintenance. I don’t always focus as much of my undivided attention on you as we both might like. But at bedtime, there is nothing else I need to do for that hour but be with you. We pick up your toys, I get you, you get me, we jump and dance and tickle and genuinely enjoy each other’s company throughout the whole process of getting ready for bed. Sometimes I feel like maybe Dad and I should take turns doing bedtime with you, but I don’t think I’m ready to give any of it up. And as long as he doesn’t know what he’s missing, I’m not going to tell him if you don’t.
There’s one more thing about your bedtime that gets me right where it counts. You still fall asleep in my arms almost every night, and maybe that’s a bad habit for us, especially as you get longer and heavier and my muscles are having trouble keeping up, but it’s still sweet. When your eyes finally close, the features on your face soften, and I see my baby there. You are still my baby, still there, the same, but so much more. You’ll always be my baby, and sometimes when you’re awake, I rock you and call you, “baby.” It’s almost like a game. You smile up at me and repeat, “baby,” as though you know exactly what I mean.