Meredith: 21 Months

Sweet Meredith,

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It’s after 9:00 at the end of a busy Friday at the end of a busy week. I’ve just finished sorting through a month of glamour shots and narrowed the choices down from 71 to 34. Ideally I’d have about ten pictures to include here but I think this month we’re going with all 34. More pictures, fewer words.

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I may as well take this opportunity to explain to you a big life lesson Daddy & I have begun to think about teaching you. The other day as we drove home from church you were positively weeping with frustration at your efforts to get your shoes off your feet. You were distraught and getting angry. We tried to reason you into giving up, tried to distract you, tried to suggest you be calm. As always, I remembered you, “Merry, be happy. Can you say ‘happy’?” And as always you said, “Happy!” But then you went right back to fussing over your shoes.

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Daddy pointed out as we listened to you continue to struggle that one of the challenges you will face as you grow into wisdom is learning to know when to give up. God has given you a stubborn personality and this is not a bad thing. In fact, I’ve been very self-consciously never telling you to “stop being stubborn.” Stubbornness is raw material that can be used for good or ill. We want to cultivate that in you and see it blossom into strength, directed at many good things.

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But part of that cultivation means teaching you when to give up and stop trying. The reason is, your happiness doesn’t depend on these little goals you get focused on, no matter how much you may think otherwise.

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So here I am at the end of an exhausting week trying to check this last thing off my list before I fall into bed. Did I mention I’m sick this weekend, too? Really, I’d like this project to take me less than an hour tonight, but at the rate I got started it could’ve been three. How would I ever pick amongst all those pictures? Or if I chose to use them all, how would I ever write thirty-three paragraphs? I was starting to struggle with my own proverbial pair of shoes and then I realized the funny irony, me behaving in this obsessive way while I’m getting ready to write to you about knowing when to throw in the towel.

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So this month I will let the pictures tell most of the story. It’s been a good story. Busy, hard, full, completely exhausting. There’s been a bunch of travel, including an awesome day with Nana at the Rockford Discovery Museum. And before that Easter, glorious Easter.

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There’s been a lot of your giraffe, and a lot of your blanket, and a lot of you toddling around kingdom come cradling the one and trailing the other. And one day you decided to wear this ridiculous string of metallic magenta beads with a heart pendant – a prize you’d won from a neighbor girl. There you were following me with your tiny toddler steps, beads and giraffe and blanket, and it was like I saw you for the first time. All baby is gone. And you are rockin’ this toddler thing like you read every magazine on the subject.

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The wonder just keeps coming in wave on wave, and maybe that’s why there were over 70 “best” photos this month. I just can’t stop gaping at you. You’re growing up so quickly. Your speech is developing rapidly now and tonight as we read a story you were trying to recite it with us. When I read you the Hungry Caterpillar you accumulate this excited energy as we get near the last page and then it all bursts out in this stream of babble, yelled at the top of your lungs. I know you’re saying “He was a beautiful BUTTERFLY!!!!!” And you know it, too.

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You are pretty naughty lately and there are two big offenses: First, you are fond of running up to whatever your brother is engaged in and snatching a piece of it and running away for no other reason than to completely piss him off. (Excuse the French, I’m trying to make a point.) Second, you usually act as though the sound of my voice is completely irrelevant to your world. You downright ignore me. Or sometimes you give me straight up sass, lessons you’ve been studiously taking from your brother. Other times it’s a little more nuanced, like tonight when I told you to go throw the diaper away that you’d had in your hands for 5 minutes. You kept just standing there no matter how much I told you and I knew it was because you were transfixed by the vacuum cleaner, needing to keep an eye on it to ensure your safety just like I feel with spiders. Then when I finally quit vacuuming and told you again you just kept holding the thing up and saying “Help!” Finally I realized you couldn’t throw it away because one of the tabs had come un-taped and you knew it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

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Then there’s the lotion, which is like Toddler Crack to you I guess. You can’t get enough. Literally.

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And the pink nail polish, which I painted onto your fingernails twice this spring and then a third time a week ago when you found the bottle and brought it to me with a big grin.

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And the piggie tails. And the pulled out piggie tails. And the many, many, many photographs of the back of your head. Oh, I love those piggie tails.

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And there was the massive face plant you did off the side of the playground equipment – like a perfect swan dive – just as we were leaving the park to go to Good Friday service. We had to clean up your bloody face in the bathroom before church and then you had this mustache of scabs for Easter.

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And I can’t forget to mention the birds (really all the animals, whether live or on the pages of books) and how you acknowledge their presence instinctively by smacking your lips as if to kiss them. When you see a nearby bird you start running toward it, hoping for an actual kiss.

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I love how earnestly and conscientiously you squeeze your eyes shut to pray and how you say a big wide-mouthed “Ahhhhm!” for Amen. And how you love the Doxology so much that you belt it out during church, practically squeal with delight when you hear it on a CD, and jump up and down hysterically while we sing it in the morning. And it’s pretty special how much you love that new Rain for Roots album, especially our favorite Good Fruit song, and how every time there’s a Flo Paris song with extended sections of humming you sing them all so sweetly.

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You yell “Daddy!” and “Mommy!” a lot, and it melts our hearts, always. Sometimes it’s to call us, like this morning when you first woke up. Sometimes it’s conversation, sometimes frustration, sometimes sass. Tonight as we read a story together it seemed that every page we turned brought something else so exciting that you had to stop and point it out to us, so the whole story was punctuated with you saying “Daddy! Daddy!”

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Tonight was special and, I hope, a taste of things to come. Daddy is done with graduate school after three years and he’s not starting his doctorate until after you turn three. So for a year (and two summers) we are going to have a slower pace. I hope even when he goes back to school things won’t be quite as up-ended as they’ve been since your first birthday, when he started having obligations three nights a week most of the time. Tonight we did it right. We prepared dinner together, set the table together, emptied the dishwasher together. After dinner we cleaned up together and got breakfast ready. Daddy jammied you and Jacob while I vacuumed. Then we sat for devotions and at the end we each picked out a story book from our shelf of best books and took them down to the basement to snuggle on the couch for four stories, all four of us. If all goes as we like to imagine, this will be an ordinary way to spend an evening for the next ten or fifteen years. I can’t wait till those stories move beyond Madeline and The Nesting Bird to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But I’d better not get ahead of myself.

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I love you, sweet crazy boo-boo. I just can’t get enough of you and your kisses and your hilarious, wild, crazy ways.

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Love,
Mommy

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