The other day I found a little zippered hoodie at Goodwill that had the word “sweet” embroidered across the chest with a tiny little heart. I brought it home for you. I love seeing you wear it, because it just’s you. I need to tell you that, because you might get the idea that I don’t think you’re sweet from all the times I say “be sweet” every day. But you are sweet, and I’ve been noticing it so much lately. This morning you got home from an adventure with Daddy as I was finishing my shower. Standing in the bathroom at the top of the stairs, brushing my hair, I could hear your little voice wafting up to me. There was something distinctly girly and just plain sweet about it and I was struck by what a gift you are to us – to our family and to our home. Before we had you we didn’t have this sweetness making everything extra beautiful. I love you so much and I am so thankful for you.
One of the sweetest sounds you make is this little song you sing, the rhythm so precise and lilting. Daddy pointed out to me the other day that it is “Rock-a-bye Baby.” You sing a lot of other songs, like the alphabet song and your nap time song, Cradling Children in His Arms. And you sing a lot of nonsense improvisation, too. But when you sing this one it sounds different from all the others, and I just love it.
Daddy and I have been constantly aware of your darling little ways as you grow. You’re changing so quickly and learning so much. It seems like there’s a new thing each day that captures our attention and we exchange silent glances to say “Did you see that?” Sometimes we have to report to each other at the end of the day new things the other maybe hasn’t noticed yet, like the fact that because of our neighbors’ two tiny dogs you yell “puppy!” whenever you see a squirrel.
Your relationship with Jacob has been (shall we say) developing. Just a few minutes ago you were all up in his business, trying your very best to poke his eye with a plastic screw driver. Nothing unusual. You are becoming more and more connected to each other. You imitate everything he does. Tonight at the dinner table he was banging his fork and spoon together and instantly you were, too. You like to grab his stuff and run just to be stinky and sometimes you like to grab it just because you want to do what he’s doing.
One day I’d built him a fire station out of an old diaper box and you were both frustrated because you wanted to be in on the action, too, so we ran off to your room and made a doll bed for you. You spent the rest of the morning putting your dollies to bed, rocking them, or giving them milk. It’s fun to see you growing in how you play. I found a darling little baby stroller for you this month so you’d have an outside toy of your own while Jacob is busy on his trike and you love to push your babies around in it.
The thing that’s cracking me up lately is the inside jokes you and Jacob have. I am not entirely sure what they all mean, and I even suspect there are some I don’t even notice yet. You have this ability to look at each other and say a word or two or just make a face and then bust out laughing. I know one of these jokes has to do with the current favorite Veggie Tales song, “Song of the Cebu.” Another one has to do with boogers and the exclamation “Eww!!!” You just live for a good giggle.
Speaking of “Ewww,” you have learned to say “burp,” and you think it’s quite funny. I don’t mind, and I laugh, too. The way I grew up, one never discussed these things. It was always rude or impolite. But then I got into high school and was taking these classes where we read Aristophanes, and we spent whole chunks of class talking about the nature of scatalogical humor and why everyone finds it funny on some level. It’s funny because everybody burps. I don’t want you to grow up taking yourself too seriously or being embarrassed by your own humanity. We are bodies, and there’s no point in pretending otherwise. Eventually we’ll learn the nuances of what makes a thing rude. But for now, I am finding it quite hilarious when you make your pronouncement: “Bup!”
Your other big pronouncement is “Bus!” followed quickly by your first sentence, spoken in the your most darling tones, half question, half greeting: “Bye-bye bus!” So you’ll be standing at the gate in the front doorway watching cars pass. If any larger-than-average vehicle drives past you shout “Bus!!!” with all your might, sometimes two or three times. As it drives into the distance you wish it all best, “Bye bye, bus.” And you wave your little wrist in the same princess-motion you learned as a tiny infant when you took to a set of plastic maracas as your favorite toy. You also stop everything to shout “Bus!” if you just hear a loud motor at any point in the day. You wait with respectful attention until it passes and then say goodbye and get back to your business. One night we went for a walk to the cemetery up the street and as we walked around, every time a bus went past you started running full speed ahead, reaching out your arms and screaming “Bus!” with all your might. This often culminated in a snow face-plant, which you’d always recover from quickly enough to be able to say the proper goodbye.
Incidentally, you get equally excited about the sight or sound of a plane in the sky and you stop to watch it out of sight, sometimes calling it a bus, always waving goodbye at the end, and always making your signature hand motion for flying, a funny slow motion of the hand through the air and a very particular tilt of the elbow, a cock of the head. It started with Make Way for Ducklings, and when we read that book you are still faithful to point out when the ducks are flying in the picture.
Your words are developing. There hasn’t been anymore “Bah-bee!” and even “Hup-muh-muh-muh” is dissolving into random jibberish the last few days. You are trying to say things, and sometimes you hit on a success, like the other day as we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and you said “Day” perfectly and couldn’t help your grin. You love to shout “Yes!” when I ask if you love Jesus. You are dependable with the word “Stinky,” which sounds like “Dee-Dee,” and you always inform me when you are in need of a new diaper. And my favorite word lately is “Oops!” You say it whenever something falls and it is pronounced “Ups,” with a quick vowel and a large space between the p and the s. Earlier today we said it simultaneously and you were so tickled.
You are always forthcoming with a cheery, delighted exclamation of “Daddy!” or “Mommy!” when you see us, and it warms our hearts down to our toes. It just seems to be your way of hanging out, like you’re saying “Hey, I love you and I’m glad we’re in the same room right now.” I couldn’t believe the brains of you today when you started helping me fold laundry by grabbing a piece out of the basket and yelling out “Daddy” or “Baba” depending on who it belonged to.
You are so aware of your body, completely different from the way your brother was. You have been practicing stairs really diligently, always asking to hold hands at the top so you can go down standing instead of on your belly. At church you go up and down the two steps up to the chancel without holding onto anything, over and over, like it’s your very important exercise.
You are constantly imitating what you see, and not only when it’s your brother you’re seeing. When we pray at meals you tend to bow your head and squeeze your eyes closed, even if just for a quick second. You often initiate hand-holding when we pray, too, and recently we’ve been insisting that sometimes it’s Mommy’s turn to hold Daddy’s hand, instead of yours. (Thanks for being agreeable on that.) The other day I was trying to snap a picture of you while we were out for a walk, and to do so I was walking backwards. But then suddenly, you started walking backwards, too, because you were trying to be like me. (So much for that picture!)
Best of all the development of body-awareness was the shock I got the other day when I went to lay you back down for your nap one afternoon. I did a double-take when I opened the door because you were sitting in your bed with a naked belly. You’d figured out how to take your shirt off! You’ve done it several more times since, and you think it’s quite hilarious. It blows my mind, since it’s a skill your brother only just learned weeks ago and still struggles with.
By the way, it turns out when I went to find my best pictures of you from this month there were well over fifty “bests” to choose from. I didn’t realize it till now, but it looks like I’ve been a little obsessed with photographing you lately, you glamorous person. There’s too much good stuff to catch, though, like the pink fingernails we painted on our snowed-in Sunday or the day your various stages of clothes-changing culminated in the pairing of a bright orange blingy shirt and a pair of magenta jeans with embroidered flowers on the leg. It’s a pretty accurate image of you, and I worry a bit about what will happen when you start to dress yourself.
There are some darling little ways I’ve been loving this month–like how you are never happier than when your milk cup is wedged in between your belly and the crook of your arm. You just walk around conducting your business with your cup in its spot. I love how you always reach for my hand when we get near the parking lot or when you want to step down from the doorway to the porch, and I love how you wait patiently for my hand for as long as it takes.
I love how you’ve grown so comfortable with people, especially the regular parts of your life like our neighbors or my piano students or the nursery worker at church. I love how you run fast with these tiny, inefficient, prancing steps. I love how you feel compelled to snatch my phone whenever we video chat with Auntie Kilby so you can give Hils a slobbery phone kiss, even though your lips usually hit the button to end the call.
You are predictable, fitting all the cliches of toddler-hood. You are stubborn and disinclined to obey. You are mischievous and looking for trouble. You are constantly tearing books. The other day I thought to myself how lovely it is that you could be so quietly happy in your room alone. Ten seconds later I thought maybe I was being naive. A minute later I found you doing the big, big no-no: pulling all the wipes out of the wipes box. But to make it worse, you were stuffing them down by your brother’s bed, as if to hide what you knew to be a misdemeanor.
You fell off the curb early this week. You almost broke your fall with your hands but your nose caught you instead, and got scraped in two spots. 24 hours later you had a dreadful cold and snot poured out of your nose for the rest of this week. To wipe it would be to tear open the scabs, so you looked like a beast of a toddler for three days. This is just your style, though. Only the ultimate in toddler behavior: scraped noses and green snot should always coincide, for maximum effect.
Best story of all happened this week. We were playing with the aforementioned tiny dog, and the neighbor had given him a doggie treat to gnaw so he’d sit still and let you pet him. We made good sport of this for a long time as he’d run to fetch it over and over again. It was this tiny, nasty little treat shaped, colored, and flavored like a t-bone steak. Suddenly we realized it’d gone missing and then I saw your chipmunk-cheeks. You were eating it! Oh, sweet Meredith.
I love your affectionate, emotional personality. I love snuggling you after naps until you are ready to take on the world, whether it takes 30 seconds or 30 minutes. You are always up for a kiss and you will happily run across the room to deliver if I ask for one. If you are sad or hurt sometimes all I have to do is ask if you want a kiss, then you come and get it and you’re good to go. It’s a joy to see that you’re simultaneously a very emotional little lady and very stable. I know how to comfort you, and it’s not a complicated procedure. You seem so secure, emotionally, and it will take me your whole childhood and beyond to communicate how important that is to me.
I love you.