Saffron’s Stories: 2 Years

Saffy has her cake and eats it too

Just last weekend, you presided over your second birthday party at Wheeler Historic Farm. It was a warm, sunny fall day filled with kettle corn, apple cider, and wagon rides. You took the honor in stride, devouring your pumpkin dream cake and cinnamon maple frosting with your usual gusto and opening presents with typical feisty abandon, pausing to bestow kisses on stuffed animals and remark on each gift. Several days later on your actual birthday, I took you to the children’s museum in downtown Salt Lake, where you played busily in the vehicles and the supermarket, delighted with the real helicopter that you got to sit in on the roof. We met Daddy for lunch at a little eatery a few blocks away where we had waffles, crisp and caramelized, and you ate all of the spicy mayo for my Belgian fries with a spoon. The next day was Halloween and after some argument and bribery, you donned your little Yoda costume complete with light saber and went trick or treating with your brother Darth Vader, boldly shouldering your way up to each and every door and never forgetting to say thank you.

With these posts I usually detail the ways in which you have changed since I last wrote, but in this case the landscape of your life is so much altered, that’s nearly impossible. Your personality remains fiercely independent, always stubborn. But you continue to cling to your connection with me, troubled by my occasional absence and often needy when you are emotional, sick or tired. It’s as if you love the tempest of life, daring the waves to batter and beat you, laughing at the howl of the wind but only if you can still reach out your hand and touch the safe harbor of my anchorage, the safety of my reassurance. As you’ve become more assertive and aggressive in the last months, we’ve often locked horns in everyday battles. In the end, you relent but not without first pushing the limits as far as you can. You call my bluff daily, hourly and I have to always be prepared to prove myself to you. Over and over and over. I know you are questioning who is in charge here, and that whether or not you like to admit it, it’s reassuring to know that it’s still me. Not yet little one. There will be time enough for that.

I think the thing that most defines you is your swaggering confidence. Because you walked and talked early, you have always seemed capable and more mature than other children your age. This extends beyond that into a strength that you seem to exude, a toughness that is unshaken by challenges or dangers. You love roller coasters and speed, and never hesitate when faced with a difficult task. You thrive on challenge and crave involvement in chores and grown up tasks. In fact, you perform most of Owen’s chores so well that I’ve simply allowed you to take them over, feeding the dogs and loading the laundry. Watching you huffing and puffing joyously while hefting a bottle of laundry detergent up the stairs is a sight to behold. But I have to admit when it comes to potty training, you’re still holding out on me. Your response to any suggestion that using the potty might be appropriate is a resounding negative. And I know however we manage to accomplish potty training it will have to be with subtly and finesse because any attempts to manipulate you will be quickly exposed and refused. Your resolve and intelligence will not allow you to accept anything that doesn’t seem to be on your own terms.

When you began to speak quite well this past spring, I had no idea that by the end of the summer, you’d be speaking in complete sentences. You express a range of emotions and complex thoughts that are startling for your age. Just today, when Owen announced he was going downstairs to empty the recycling bin, you calmly turned to me from where you were sitting at the kitchen counter snacking and said, “I want to get down and go with Owen but I’ll be right back, mommy. Don’t put my crackers away, okay?” Because you recognized that as soon as you leave food unattended in this house, if it is not devoured by something with paws it is usually swept away by the mighty hand of mommy never to be seen again.

Your books continue to be your favorite toys and you insist on bringing them everywhere we go, often remembering long passages from your favorites and reading them to Miles. You have finally discovered TV however, specifically Curious George, Blues Clues and perhaps almost obsessively, Yo Gabba Gabba. You randomly sing songs from the shows and repeat phrases, giggling along with your brother, who usually understands the references more often than I do. You enjoy playing with toys, but not for long periods of time and much prefer to be in my company, helping with whatever I am working on or with your brother, wrestling and tickling.

Sometime in the last few months, Owen has decided that you are no longer a baby and he refuses to cut you slack as often as he used to. I feel like my main role these days, running a close second to cook, is referee. Suddenly, everything must be fair. And if Owen has it or does it, then certainly you will insist on exactly the same thing. Although I knew this would happened eventually, I’m not sure I was prepared for the intensity of the squabbles. I am encouraged though by how often I don’t have to remind you or Owen to be kind to each other. You share fairly often and Owen is always looking out for you without having to be told that you might need help getting down a steep stair, or tying a shoe. Your love and affection for each other is obvious and usually wins out, even in tense moments.

Running a close third to my company and that of your brother, your favorite person is Miles. When you are hurt and need comfort, or when you need to poop but want some privacy, you snuggle up to Miles and finger his soft, silky ears for as long as he’ll allow it. Miles, thank goodness, is ten years old now and extremely tolerant. I’d even hazard that he actually enjoys when you treat him like furniture. When he’s finally had enough and shakes you off and walks away, you wail and fuss at him, following him from room to room until he relents.

Your appetite continues to astound me. As is typical of most toddlers, you are a grazer, preferring to eat on the go throughout the day rather than sit down to larger meals. You never leave home without a snack and a drink and your tastes are varied. Any hour of the day might find you chowing down on carrots and pumpkin bread or downing large quantities of curry and rice. A new favorite is bacon, which is what I refer to any piece of meat in order to get you to try it. Because you agree with the general statement that if it’s bacon, it has to be good. Your father and I love that you’ll try anything and we can usually tell if it meets your approval by the low, humming, moaning noises you make when you’re enjoying something. (Your brother, strangely, made this exact same noise when he ate until he was four or five). You’ll also enthusiastically rate things with an emphatic nod of your head and an “It’s good!”. And in your opinion, soups were meant to be slurped. You’re as slim as ever despite your rabid consumption, always on the tall side.

I expected that your hair would darken this year and although it has a bit, it remains a very light brownish blonde that looks like spun gold in the sun. It grows so quickly that it is now past your shoulders and it’s soft, fine masses curl just enough on the ends to make it flip up. You refuse to keep barrettes or elastics in and we are constantly battling to keep it out of your eyes, which are large and a bright shade of brownish blue flecked with gold. When you are tired, it shows in your eyes, which grow puffy and red rimmed with exhaustion. Your skin is still very pale and creamy white but it’s certain you have rosacea, which turns your cheeks a glowing red when windy or cold. You often put yourself in charge of getting dressed, donning your own shoes and socks when you can and taking on and off your hat, mittens, and coat as you lounge in the stroller when we walk. I buy all your clothes second hand and we often are stopped by people in stores or on the street who remark about how cute you are or how adorably you are dressed. I find it strange because I don’t dress you like a little girl or like a doll. My rule of thumb is not to buy anything for you that I wouldn’t wear myself. And let me be frank- you will never catch me in a pink tutu. Never. And so when you get dressed, I have a drawer full of prefolded outfits organized by season and I let you choose what you want to wear. You seem to care more than Owen did, who is still perfectly content to let me dress him.

I wish I could say that you slept blissfully through the night. You don’t. You will sleep late into the morning, until 9 sometimes if allowed. And you go down fairly easily, usually reading yourself to sleep buried amongst your favorite books and piles of stuffed dogs. But you wake at least once or twice in the night, crying and imploring me to hold you. I rock you in the rocking chair for a few minutes and you usually drift back to sleep. You still say “hold you” instead of “hold me”, which is less adorable at 3 in the morning than it used to be.

Often, I feel as if it is difficult for others to see your feisty, intelligent independence because in public you become reserved, quieter and subdued. When I describe you to family and friends, it almost sounds as if I am depicting someone else because your public persona is so far removed from your private one. There have been times when I wished the world could experience you the way I do, full throttle and intense. But I’ve grown to love that you trust this to us, your uninhibited abandon, and that you keep it for us like a secret, a cherished belonging for the few who earn your approval. I hope we’ll always appreciate that about you, even if the world does not.

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Saffron’s Stories: Month 18

Saffy on the back porch

Is it really time to write one of these again? I’m astonished how quickly time has passed but also, how little you have changed in the last few months. I could take everything from my last post and simply include it here, expounded upon by three words- “And then some!”

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.

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