I just tucked you back in bed in an attempt to give you a redo on starting this day. At 7:20 I rolled out of bed. Before I’d even finished yawning I heard a crash and you screaming. I bolted down both flights of stairs and there you were, lying at the bottom of the basement stairs, your dignity clearly the most wounded part of you. I scooped you up and held you until I was sure you were fine and then after I removed your brother’s single big shoe from your jammied foot, no doubt the cause of the stair tumble, we had a talk. You have taken to removing the safety gate at your room door in the mornings to come upstairs. That safety gate is there because of safety, goose-face. So we had a little “no-touch” conversation.
Or rather, I had a conversation. You didn’t want to be a part of it. Try as I might, you would not engage. You sat there with these full-moon eyes sagging in your face and your lip drooping down and wouldn’t make eye contact. I did all kinds of silly things like asking for a kiss from Affe the Giraffe and tickling your tummy but you wouldn’t have any of it. So I explained pouting was not allowed, that it was your job to be cheerful and thankful, and after you still wouldn’t comply when I coached you to say things like “Happy Day, Mommy!” or “Yes!” to “Does Jesus love you?” (these are among your favorite things to say) I decided the best medicine was to tuck you back into bed. I told you to stay until you were ready to have a happy day and then left. You’ve already taken the gate down again in these last couple minutes but it doesn’t seem like you’ve come upstairs yet, so here I sit writing. Now I must pause to go start the day for all three of us, but I’ll be back to finish this epistle later.
You love to play firefighter, which is no big surprise given your brother’s unwavering obsession. Today you were clunking around in his boots and your cute little floral pants and it was too cute. Later I saw you put the plastic fire helmet on your head and come running out of your room saying “Ssss! Ssss! Ssss!” It makes me wonder how much is imitation and how much is real imagination. You’re learning other things from him, too, and you have started to react to things with the same sorts of irritated sounds that he uses, and it’s clear that there is at least as much pure imitation here as genuine annoyance.
Your language is impressing us in some pretty big ways. You are willing to try out just about any word. One of your favorites is “Tee!” which you yell whenever you notice a tree. Our hearts melt when you see something you want us to notice and you call out “Dad!” Mom!” quick, simple, and barely skipping a beat of what you’re doing – like a preoccupied teenager. You are also beginning to string two or three words together, and my favorite is our greeting that we came up with for you, strung together out of words you already knew. You love to greet someone by saying “Happy Day!” (It usually comes out “Hat-ee-Day!” You go down the whole list of us, too: “Happy Day Daddy! Happy Day Mommy! Happy Day Babah!”
You are fond of saying “Hush” and “Mush” when we read Goodnight Moon and you like to say “Poo-poo!” and “Ahhh!” and “Papa” when we read Madeline. Sometimes I hear you yelling at the top of your lungs after I’ve put you and Jacob to bed for the night and I go to listen and make sure you aren’t in distress and then I realize that Jacob is reading out loud from a favorite library book. At the end of each page’s narrative is a red bus, and so as Jacob finishes chanting through the row of cars that come before you chime in and scream “Bah Bus!!” for “Red Bus!”
The other day we were snuggling in your bed after you woke up from your nap, something that I love to do with you now that you have made the move to a big-girl bed. We were lying there and playing with puppies and I counted them: “One, two puppies!” Then I thought maybe you could say the numbers so I coached you: “Merry, can you say ‘One’?” You responded, “Two!” I kept trying, but every time I say “One,” you say “Two.” And if I say “Two” sometimes you say “Tee.” But usually, now that the puppy-counting has become a thing of family legend, whenever anyone says “One” in your general direction you reply “Two…PUPPIES!!!!” Jacob thinks this is the funniest thing on earth.
The big-girl bed needs a little further mention. You took to it like a fish to water. (You also took to water like a fish this month, which is a little disturbing, since I can’t take my eye off you at the pool for a split second for fear you’ll jump in with an expectation that I’m ready to catch you. None of Jacob’s cautious distrust for you…) But the big-girl bed: Dear Miss Claire gave us her old mattress when she moved so we got a jump on sleeping big-girl style the week before we built your awesome new bunk beds. Since it took Jacob weeks to warm up to his, we wondered how you’d handle it. Clearly a year of watching Jacob do it taught you a thing or two because you were completely sold from the first instant you realized what was going on. And now you are quick to exclaim “Bih-Drl” proudly (“Big-girl” whenever your bed comes to mind. Yes, you are a big girl. Of course, the first night you hurt your fingers in the closet door and it was so serious you needed Tylenol and a Mom-and-Dad back rub until you fell asleep. But we didn’t mind that first of many big-girl snuggles one bit.
You are just changing so much. You’re sitting next to me right now busily playing with crayons and doing a surprising amount of actual coloring, all things considered. You know how to climb into your own chair at the table, you are forever putting rubberbands around your wrist as bracelets, you are very competent drinking from a glass, you are beginning to learn colors (Mostly you just yell “Boo!” for blue all the time.) You’re getting taller, stretching out. You know everything. You sing all day long and often we hear hymn tunes coming out where it used to just be baby sounds.
Still you put everything in your mouth all the time and you do all kinds of crazy things that are toddler stereotypes – I can’t even think of any specific ones right now… Oh wait, I take that back: this morning you colored with crayon on the wall. Yup. And you always take your shoes off in the car. And your pigtails out. Many times a day I think to myself that you have succeeded in teaching me the real meaning of toddlerhood, after your strange brother never tried all this nonsense. It’s been humbling.
And then there was that moment last night in church when you reached over and laid your hand on Daddy’s neck for no other reason than to show him affection. You just kept it there for a long time, like you might see Daddy or me do to each other. Your affectionate personality is such a gift to us and it is also pretty hilarious, since your instinctive response to any live creature, including the large lizard in the terrarium at the science museum, is to approach full-speed ahead smacking your lips together in a kissing sound.
We’re resurrecting your infant nickname “Loud Lady” these days. Things had gotten a little calmer, but now that you’re starting to talk you just yell everything at the top of your lungs. And they are some lungs. One of our best buddies these days is Miss Tabitha, a vocal performance master’s student. She informed me that the technical word for what you have a lot of in your voice’s timbre is “Ping.” So maybe that should be your nickname. At any rate, your voice… Today in a bank a complete stranger who was helping us for five minutes at a copy machine had already identified what we so often imagine will be your career: You’ve got Broadway lungs and a Broadway soul.
One of the things you yell a lot the last few days is your newest word: “Wow!” It’s a slow word, with three beautiful, distinct syllables, and the more amazed you are the longer it takes you to say it. You learned it last Thursday when we went to Touch-A-Truck here in town and you got your heart’s fill of the big trucks you love as much as your brother. Then you said it in the grocery store about the food that looked yummy and by the creek about the big rocks you wanted to throw in.
Daddy and I were so proud of you last week. We accidentally left our church bag behind when we came home last Sunday, and since church is 45 miles away, we weren’t about to go back to get it. So for the whole week you were without your beloved giraffe and blankie. You hardly noticed. You love them and you were so delighted to have them back on Saturday when Daddy came home from playing a funeral, but you did just fine without them. I’m glad you have these special security objects, and glad you are peaceful and content without them. Saturday evening Affe the Giraffe sat at dinner with us like a guest of honor and we raised a toast to him and to Jacob’s Pickwick and to our well-adjusted kids.
This afternoon I was sitting in the bathroom on a Pilates ball, back against the open door, reading Winnie the Pooh to your brother who was on the potty. You clambered up onto me like I was just another piece of playground equipment. This is just how you see me lately. You are forever coming to climb up me and sit on me. You seem to think you belong on me, perched, nestled, or anything in between. It doesn’t seem to occur to you that I am a person or that your body is engaging with another separate, living being. That perhaps you are going to knock me over or break my skin with your fingernails. I am your chair and when you are sitting on me you hardly seem to notice that I’m there.
It is a little annoying, trying to read Winnie the Pooh past your body as it grabs ahold of mine and hoists itself up, carefully navigating the side of an inflated ball. But I do it anyway, and it seems to work. I’ve been grappling afresh with the concept of a stay-at-home mom and how that means more than not putting my kids in daycare. It means giving myself to you around the clock because that’s how you thrive. It’s easy for me to get involved in a hundred other things, Type-A that I am. But you’ve been teaching me that “Mom” is really just another word for “Chair.” A place for you to be comfortable. A place for you to be. I may not be doing much else besides being a chair, but if I am being your comfortable place I am doing plenty.
I love you.