This month kicked my butt. It’s been one of the longest I can remember. It’s been one of the best and one of the worst. Parenting has been harder than ever and more fun than ever. I think what’s going on here is that your baby days are totally over.
You are finally communicating with your voice, even to the point that you are abandoning some of your most engrained signs for words. The only signs that you use regularly now are “Jesus,” “thank you,” and “sorry.” Even “Amen” is making the transition. “Thank you” is still most definitely a sign, and it is endearing how second-nature it’s become. You know you should look into eyes when you say it, too, and often you give me a big smiley thank you without a hint of prompting when I give you something. More on the hilarious side is when you get into a mood where you bring me every object you can find and hand it to me and sign “thank you” at me, as if to say “Say thank you, Mommy.”
It’s been fun – all your words. It’s been amazing to see you trying to mirror back the shape of my mouth and the sound of my vowel at the end of phrases when we’re singing, and it makes me wonder when your humming will explode into a massive vocabulary of memorized lyrics. You are still obsessed with the Jonah Veggie Tales music and last Sunday in the car Daddy and I looked at each other in bewilderment as we heard you beginning to form the fuzzy outlines of words to one of the songs. For the most part, though, you still just hum, unless you adopt a series of names as your lyrics, something that I have done all your life, singing you tunes like “Glory glory Hallelujah” with the words “Jacob, Jacob, Jacob, Jacob.” In a quiet moment the other day I realized you were singing Lasst Uns Erfreuen with the words “Oh Daddy Daddy Daddy Oh.”
Some of your big word obsessions are the moon, wee-ohs, puppies, cars, green, and blue. These are important things in our house these days. I’ve figured out that when it sounds like you’re saying booger, you’re actually excited about a blue car. You point out anything “neen” with great excitement. You’re also getting good at “boo-boo” and “uh-oh” and the other day when I slammed my knee into the wall (don’t ask) you offered to kiss my boo-boo several times through the day. Once you bumped into my foot and next thing I knew you were kissing my toes. In your sweetest brother moments you like to share everything with Meredith and you will get excited and start saying “Baby want car. Baby want bear. Baby want neen car…” as you bring her one toy after another.
You love to say “Mmmmm” when something looks yummy, and this is usually said while standing on your step stool watching me cook. One evening we let you stay up late for pizza, cookies, and a movie since you’d taken a long nap and Meredith had taken none. It was in the middle of big hard times where we felt we were fighting with you from the starting bell, all day long, so we were glad for the chance to invest a little happy time. You were cute as could be, “on a date” with Mommy & Daddy, standing over the pizza, helping with the pepperonis and saying “Mmmmm.”
The three funniest stories from this month are all about vocabulary. There’s a picture on our wall from our wedding ceremony, Daddy and me with our heads bowed, Pastor Moon praying for us in the background. You get excited to point to us, and then Daddy explains who the third person is. So one day you noticed another picture from our wedding and started shouting “Moon! Moon!” all excited. I thought you were crazy until I realized you were pointing at another shot of Pastor Moon.
Story #2: You’ve taken to calling your indispensable lamb and penguin Dada and Mama. I’m pretty sure I picked up some good clues the other day in listening to you talk that explain how that happened. The lamb, obviously, says “Maaa Maaa.” So it’s Mama. And the lamb and penguin go together, so of course the penguin is Dada. Of course.
Story #3: The other day I served hot dogs for lunch. You kept referring to it as a puppy, making Daddy and me flinch a little at the thought that we were not divesting you of the notion that you were eating an actual dog. Suddenly without any warning you picked up the remainder of that hot dog and chucked it across the table. I was a sharp breath and a consonant into a quick lecture about not throwing food when you shouted “Bye bye, Puppy!” and I just had to hide my face and bite my tongue. You are too funny.
Your favorite things to do lately are cars and water. You spend hours hanging out with your match box cars on the sofa in the basement, which is used almost exclusively for that purpose lately. We even made a road on it with masking tape. One day at the beginning of the month we went to a local event called Touch-A-Truck, where the town had assembled every truck imaginable in a parking lot and kids could come and climb them. You got to drive a police car, a fire truck, climb up on a cement mixer, and run around in a semi trailer. It was an awesome day. As for water, you like it in any form it can take, whether that’s sneaking sloshy drinks out of my cup, helping with the dishes, or playing outside at the water table. You also like to water the flowers, play with the huge water table at the children’s science museum, and go to the pool any chance you can get. Water is a huge part of our lives right now.
It hasn’t all been a bed of roses this month. It seems you are getting more difficult by the day. Most of this month has been made of long hours, too, since you went through several weeks of waking in a cranky, stinky mood around 6 a.m. and having all kinds of fits after lights out, too. That’s led to removing your sister from your room again and putting up the safety gate that we’d stopped using so you can’t come wandering up the stairs on a whim. It has been a long, long month. You’ve been a big stinker to your sister this month, too. Smacking her with cars, chucking stuff at her, pushing her away or knocking her over when she’s getting up in your business, and generally yelling at her whenever she yells (which is pretty much all the time). You love her a lot and you are still so compassionate in between the crazy moments, but she drives you nuts, and your picking on her has been the second biggest trigger of discipline moments in your life lately.
The number one trigger of these moments is your temper and your tantrums. You have a deep, fierce angry streak and you have been flaunting it like a boss. It has come into its own since I wrote last and has been such a struggle for Daddy and me to figure out how to handle it. The last few days we’ve been encouraged to see some of our work beginning to bear fruit – some of your work, I should say, because despite the fact that we’re the ones coaching you and brainstorming on your behalf, it is your little heart that is doing the fighting and the conquering, and we are beginning to be so proud of you for the little victories we’re seeing. Ephesians 4 has helped us to figure out how to handle these messy moments when you start pitching a fit at the frustrating cars, the all-done water, the loud sister… Since Ephesians says to put away our anger, malice, and wrath, we have been teaching you to “throw it away,” a vivid concept for you since you love throwing things in the trash for us. You even have a little sign for it now and on your best moments when I ask you “Jacob, what are you going to do when it’s time to be all done at the pool?” you sign “Throw it away!” But that alone wasn’t getting the job done when you were in the thick of the anger and then a few days later we read another line out of Ephesians – one about thanking God for everything. So now when you pitch a fit we tell you to throw it away and say thank you to God instead. This looks like a frenzied monologue of Mommy coaching you above the din of your tantrum, but more often than not the last couple days it’s actually worked and you’ve chosen wisdom, turned off the anger, thrown it away. Then I ask you “What do you want to thank God for?” and you grin and shout “Water!” or “Cars!” This often leads to a long litany of “Thank you God for…BABY! Thank you God for…DADDY!” You practically squeal, you get so into it. It’s amazing how completely it changes your mood, to focus on the thankfulness instead. This is such a big lesson for me, to be watching the effect of all this on you and taking it to heart for myself.
The reason we’re not just shutting you down and shutting you up at the first sign of frustration or temper is that, while we anger is not a godly emotion for us to indulge, not something we want you to tolerate in yourself, we do think it is a real emotion. So we’re not looking to train you to behave in a way that stifles or suppresses it. Some day that would seethe to the surface and you would have a nasty mess to deal with. Instead we want to teach you to actually do the work of dealing with it when it arises. So when you can get it under control on your own and go the other way, throw it away and be thankful, I really don’t mind a fit or two. You are a brand new person and you don’t know how to handle all these emotions yet, and that is OK. That’s why we’re here to help you and high five you and play very loud “Thank you God” games with you.
I love you.