Perhaps my observations in my last post that your communication skills had tempered your toddler tantrums might have been a bit hasty. I think I had no idea what I was in for, my naivete about the scope of your ability to descend into completely unreasonable demands and epic rages rather appalling in retrospect. I have gravely underestimated the strength of your will, your stubborn perseverance, and the stormy depths of your moodiness. Can I say this? Whatever. I’m going to say it because it needs saying. You can be a raving lunatic.
Although you continue to talk in full sentences and add words to your vocabulary daily, it’s your enunciation that has taken the greatest leap forward. When asked to say a word, no matter how difficult, you can usually be counted upon to repeat it with perfect clarity when the mood strikes you. Like a tiny, difficult parrot. In fact, we’ve probably gotten so adept at deciphering you that the opposite problem has reared it’s head- when I’m not able to discern what you’re asking for, you wail and strike out at me at the injustice of being misunderstood. And because you can ask for precisely what you want- a lollipop at 8am or all of the pencils from my desk so you can draw on whatever surface you so desire- it’s also resulted in you having to be told no, often and firmly. Several times. Until the sheer sadness of it causes you to throw your head back and howl. There was one exception to your amazing powers of pronunciation. For several weeks, no matter how many times we tried to say it slowly or break it down for you, you insisted your name was pronounced “Witchy.” The most puzzling thing about this was that you were capable of saying both “s” and “f” in other words. But when questioned, you seemed perfectly confident that your name was “Witchy” and you didn’t seem to be able to hear the difference between what we were saying and what was coming out of your mouth.
You talk yourself to sleep these days. I’m not kidding. Suddenly, you could no longer tolerate me reading books to you. You clearly believed that since these books belonged to you and were your favorite possessions that no one else should touch them. Ever. When I attempt to pick one up and begin reading, you shout “No” emphatically, rip the title from my hands and hurl it across the room. Instead you’ve decided to slide as many as ten books you’ve chosen between the slats of your crib, and after we sustain a short term wrestling match in the rocking chair, you ask for “bed.” I deposit you in your crib where some nights you are simply happy to lounge with your books and your drink, chattering happily away to yourself, until you collapse mid sentence into your pillow at 9:30. Other nights you protest when I set you down, insisting that I hold you but them squirming so much when I do that it becomes nearly impossible to do so. The days of you snuggling up and falling asleep in my arms seem long past.
I read somewhere recently that I shouldn’t worry if my toddler didn’t seem to eat much, that this group of notoriously picky eaters could sustain themselves better than you might think. I’m a little more concerned that you might have a hollow leg or that I’ll find a massive pile of finger foods tucked into a hole in the house somewhere. You eat constantly. I’m not sure I can really tell the difference between breakfast, lunch and dinner because for you, they sort of run together into one long food fest. Because you’re so active you stay as trim as ever, but I’m afraid one day I’ll have to break the news to you that you can’t always have something in your mouth. I try not to feel too guilty about this snacking habit of yours since you love apples and unshelled pistachios, bringing them to me one at a time with commands of “open, open.” Unfortunately, you’ve also developed a taste for lollipops. We had friends over for dinner recently and you feel asleep in your highchair during dinner with a two dumdums in your mouth, one tucked into each cheek. Parenting win or fail? It’s hard to decide but at least I have the picture.
My hopes that you might exhibit some sort of interest in potty training have died a slow death. I suspect you may be avoiding it altogether because I’ve inadvertently tipped my hand and given you the idea that I might like it. And you are firmly opposed to doing anything that I suggest, even if it’s something you’d enjoy. The fact that I’ve mentioned it means it ought to be avoided. At all costs. So the miniature potty sits in the bathroom, where you occasionally join Owen when he’s pooping and read books together, like old men at a coffee shop reading the newspaper.
If you had told me that at 18 months, you’d still be clinging to me, tearful and petulant every time I leave the room, I’d have said you were exaggerating. But it’s true. Your mommy obsession has not eased. Not one iota. It’s as if you are convinced that breathing without me is impossible and you panic when I leave your line of sight as if you’ve begun slowly suffocating. Can’t breathe without Mom. Must stay attached. We try to ease this ironclad, fearful grip you have by making you run errands with Dad or take short excursions with him alone. But he reports that you seem anxious and ask about me every few minutes. And even when we are both in the house, you follow me around for hours at a time, begging to be held constantly. You have a charming way of asking, which is exactly what Owen used to say- “Hold you, hold you, hold you!” As if you are doing me a favor, asking to comfort me in my time of need. I find the strength of this continuing attachment so strange given your stubborn, independent personality, but the reality of it is undeniable and unwavering. You think life is best from within the safe circle of my arms. I guess it’s hard not to be flattered that you feel that way.
I have noticed though that you are becoming increasingly aware of others as separate from you in a physical and emotional sense. Although you don’t like to give hugs or kisses when prompted and most of the time, flatly refuse, you do reach out to me in moments where I can tell you are feeling affection. You rub your face into the crook of my neck, like a dog, and sniff me with great satisfaction and then sometimes pet my hair and look into my eyes, crooning “mama, mama, mama” the whole time. When Owen is sad, you’ll crawl into his lap, push your forehead against his, wrap your arms around him and rock him slowly, making sympathetic sniffling noises and asking him if he’s “okay?”. Despite your wild, aggressive mannerisms, you can be surprisingly gentle at times and certainly seem to believe it is your job to care for others. When your baby friend, Gavin, comes over you usually put a guiding arm around his shoulders and try to feed him cheerios one by one. Which is adorable considering he is older than you and outweighs you by a good 15 pounds.
My favorite memories of you over the past two months though have occurred outside. Now that spring and warm weather has truly descended on the valley, you’ve begun to explore the world outside. I often let you wander into our fenced backyard with the dogs and toddle around in the grass on your own for an hour or so at a time, watching you move toys about, attempt to blow bubbles and simply sit in the patio chairs, soaking up sunshine. On our walks, you instruct Owen and I to gather “flours” and deposit them in the tray on your stroller, where you love them into little wilted bunches of petals before discarding them in the wind. You’ve become enthralled with playgrounds but more specifically, slides, which you refer to as “wheeeee!” Accordingly to you, no slide is too tall to inspire hesitation. I’ve had some tense moments peering up at you from the ground, wondering if I should trust your pint size instincts. But this is the thing I have grown to understand and love about you- you are tough and confident but not foolish. What you can’t manage with careful ability, you don’t attempt to bluster through with false bravado. You reach out that small hand or foot and I hear the question in your voice- “Mama?” And when you need me, I am always there to help.