A few days ago you turned 21 months old, and Daddy and I sat across from you at breakfast, watching you eat your waffles with a fork, and marveled at how quickly time passes. “Can you believe she’s almost t–” “No,” we say to each other quite often these days.
Daddy and Mommy can’t believe you’re so old, Baby Girl, but most people can’t believe you’re so young. In fact people people are usually quite surprised when we tell them you’re not yet two. You also seem to think you are older than you actually are. I tried to teach how old you are by asking and then saying “one!” and holding up one finger, but you never said one. You said “two!” and held out one finger. It was so funny the first time we got into an argument about your age, and it stuck. But it speaks to your attitude: you think you are older than you actually are. You always have held firmly to this belief, even when you were a month old and you didn’t think you needed to sleep because hey, everyone else was awake? What the? And it’s been true your whole 21 months of life, as you’ve walked earlier, talked earlier, stacked and sorted earlier than I thought possible or even necessary.
You now know how to help me empty (and load) the dishwasher, help me put laundry into the dryer, help me vacuum, pick out your own shoes, pick out your own clothes, sit on the potty, bring a stool over to stand on so that you can help me cook dinner. And when I say “help” what I mean is you scream “I DO!” until I relinquish control of whatever I’m holding, then you take over. And actually sometimes you are quite helpful! I never have to bend over to put the kiddie plates or the plastic food storage containers away anymore, for instance. You’ve got me covered there. But sometimes Mommy gets very frustrated with you. Yesterday you tried to take my phone EVERY TIME I picked it up. You yell “BABY!” at me and I know you want to look at the pictures, which are mostly of you and Brother. You know how to slide from photo to photo and you can press the play icon whenever you come across a video. You also know how to delete pictures, and you have done this with ferocious regularity. You also want to take the pen if I’m writing, and you aren’t satisfied with your own pen or your own paper. You want what I’M writing with, and what I’m writing ON as well. If I’m on the computer for even three seconds (which I only dare to do if you are fully engrossed in another activity, such as sliding games in and out of the Wii), you immediately drop everything and run over so that you can take over.
You also don’t think you need adults to help you with things like brushing teeth, pouring juice, or holding hands in parking lots. “WALK!” you scream, going limp and kicking your feet when we try to hold hands, as if you’re not already walking. I think I’ve figured you out, Boo Boo, because Daddy and I discussed how different you are from your brother the other day. While Noah will watch something or hear something and internalize it for several days or even weeks, then spit it out, a perfect mimicry, at very unexpected times, YOU will watch adults or bigger kids do something and then immediately have to try for yourself. It may not be the perfect imitation at first, but you practice until you’ve got it. It makes you take dangerous risks, like launching yourself off a tall stool because Brother can do so and land on his feet. You land on your face, cry hard for two minutes (mostly out of anger it seems, rather than pain), then you’re climbing up there again to figure it out.
You get angry about so many things these days. You have two modes: peaceful and batshit crazy. Most of the time we’re home alone you’re quite content, although you require my attention for most of the day. And don’t get me wrong, I make you furious sometimes, like when you hand me an open marker and say something in Violet-tongue SO I CLOSE IT HOW DARE I, or when I try to put your shoes on BUT YOU DON’T WANT THOSE SHOES TODAY, or when you hand me an empty cup and I put it in the sink (“NO!”), then try giving it back to you (“NOO!”), then try filling it up (“NOOO!”), then try giving it to you (“NOOOO!”), then empty it (“NOOOOO!”) then put back it in the sink (“NOOOOOO!”), then throw up my hands in desperation and wonder aloud JUST WHAT THE EFF IT IS YOU WANT, but mostly we get each other, I think.
Most of the screaming comes when Brother is here, in fact. He likes to play with you, but you want to play on your own. (SCREAM, CRY, TANTRUM) Or he doesn’t want you to take something he’s working on. (SCREAM, CRY, TANTRUM) Or he is breathing on you. (SCREAM, CRY, TANTRUM) The nerve of brothers. You get more frustrated with Noah than you do with anyone else in the entire world, but you also love him more than you love anyone else, which is what makes the fighting slightly tolerable. Yesterday you and Noah were running laps around the house like maniacs when he tripped and fell and started crying. From across the room, you stopped mid-sprint, did an about face, and rushed over, saying “K?? K???” with real concern on your face and in your voice. You reached him before I did, and by the time I got there you were gently stroking his hair and leaning in to kiss his face. He explained to me where he was hurting and before I could, you kissed that spot, too. Daddy and I are like holding each other, faces contorted with the effort of keeping all these emotions from exploding on you kids.
You still love making art, and your favorite color is still “lellow,” although you now know how to say blue (you say it like a French person might pronounce the cheese) and white (you say this like a midwesterner and you make sure that T sound is really hard). You got an easel for Christmas and the butcher paper that came with it is always covered with different colored marker scribbles. Part of Mommy’s nightly cleanup routine is picking up a thousand markers (also a Christmas present, thank you SANTA) and putting the lids back on. When you’ve decided you need a clean sheet, you unscrew random bolts on the easel so that it’s falling apart before you come to (begrudgingly) ask me for help.
Coats are “totes,” of which you demand certain ones on certain days. Coffee is “ca-co” and you have “caco” parties instead of tea parties, in which you sit us all down and hand us all our “caco” and a “plaTE” and a “poon.” Daddy is “Dod-ty” when you’re tired and “Dad-ty” when he comes home from work, and Noah is “Nah-no!” Cats are “meow”s and most other animals are “daw”s, although you can tell us what most animals say now. Because your favorite color is yellow, you ask for the yellow version of certain things to indicate you’d like your favorite at that moment. Because we should definitely be in tune with that. We hand you the baby doll that has a green outfit. “NO, LELLOW, BABY!” you tell us, frustrated, pointing to the pink doll. You can string words together now to make three and four word sentences, but you pause between each word, and sometimes you mess up the sentence structure, like you’re trying a literal translation of a romantic language. “Mommy, tote, white!” you say proudly, grinning at my white jacket. You love to identify whose object belongs to whom (“Daddy, caco” “Nah-no, wah-we”) and you make these pronouncements with such pride that you usually end up chuckling to yourself and swinging your arms back and forth as you walk away.
I’m amazed by your patience (with everyone except for immediate family members). If kids come over to play and you want what they have, you usually shyly wait until they drop it. If you do end up fighting with a playmate (only ones which whom you are very familiar), you seem very able to listen to adults and comply with their wishes about taking turns. Maybe because Brother didn’t have as many playmates when he was your age Mommy marvels a bit at the way you play and communicate with your friends. I never worry that you’re going to be rough or mean; in fact I leave you to your own devices most of the time when you have a playmate over, and I don’t worry about you at all. It’s yet another way you seem older than you actually are.
You’re still having a hard time sleeping through the night; it’s only really every few nights a week at best that you don’t wake up and want to nurse (which you call “night-night”). We still nurse a couple of times a day, but this week you’ve been sick with a cold and even though Mommy is looking forward to us being finished with nursing, I’ve been so glad we are still on because it’s the only thing that helps you feel better when you wake up coughing. You still ask me on a regular basis, although we have been down to only pre-nap and pre-bed (and the unfortunate middle of the night when Mommy is too tired to do anything else) for some time. You especially seem to want to nurse when we’re in a new environment or when someone new comes over and I’m trying to have a conversation with that person. You are certainly attached to my hip at these times, as well, but you still want the comfort of nursing even when I haven’t put you down for half an hour. The truth is I don’t really think of you as a baby anymore, Boo. You’re such a big girl, so smart and fun and talkative and silly, and I’m enjoying this new stage. So nursing isn’t even that emotional for Mommy, which is maybe why I feel very ready to be finished. I’m sure I’ll be a little sad when it’s really over, but for now I very much look forward to truly leaving babyhood behind and embrace toddlerhood. I wonder how our relationship will change when we stop nursing.
At this point I can’t imagine ever being any less close than we are already, although you have been asking for Daddy pretty exclusively when you get hurt or when you’re sleepy. (A Daddy’s girl already!??) But I’m not even jealous, because I know that you and I have a special bond that can never be broken. You’re still the sunshine in our lives, Boo Boo; the happiest and most vibrant part of our little family. I love you so much.