I just feel like a little update is in order because I blinked and now my children are a year and a half and starting to say words and my friends are getting pregnant and having adorable newborns and my brain and bank account remind me not to even think about it but my ovaries are like “Just breathe in that baby scent. That’s right. Is there anything better than the sleep-weight of an 8 lb infant, resting on your chest? You know you want one…” (Lesson learned: subbing in the infant room at work is a dangerous thing.)
Anyway. Yesterday Rowan and Evelyn’s teacher sent home a note asking for a baby picture of each of them for a craft project. Today their classroom door was decorated with adorable newborn photos of the 10 toddlers in their class. I just kept looking back and forth between the bitty little squishy baby photos and the sticky people who were sitting so quietly at a little table, shoveling peaches and graham crackers into faces full of hard-earned toddler teeth. It was one of those in the trenches moments when I realized that every parent must think the same thing when they pick up their growing-too-fast child and wonder how they’ve stumbled along these 18 months without a clue what they’re doing or how their sweet baby could become such an enormous, hilarious, curious toddler.
I love this age. I love watching them explore and study and learn and test and experiment and wonder and problem solve and read and dance and make choices and communicate with signs and words and hugs. I don’t love this age for all the frustrations they feel and the lack of comprehension about the things that cause their frustrations. I don’t love the screaming and pinching and biting and slapping and the dumping out ALL the toys and the throwing food and whining. Toddlerhood keeps it all in balance, horrors sandwiched in so much cuteness you just can’t help yourself.
Evelyn is quite a character, fierce and opinionated and passionate. She knows a handful of signs and uses them as a list of tactics in pursuit of her endgame (usually food or diaper change avoidance.) Her teachers at school seem [mostly?] amused by her antics, (oh the guilt of finding out your child might be the problem child!) because whenever they start to do something new or leave the classroom or prep for diaper changes she begins insisting on how hungry she is, complete with the sad starving puppy eyes and some forceful signing/shrieking that it is time to eat. And of course, a moment after she’s been shout-signing her desires and attempting to fling herself headfirst from your arms, she’s laughing uproariously at a silly face or granted wish or some newfound freedom or skill. She’ll climb into my lap and tackle me with the most wonderful hug, her little arms wrapped tight around my neck and her little face pressed up against mine. She holds on for what feels like forever and I feel like the luckiest mom in the world. Evelyn is fearless once she makes up her mind about something or somebody – she’ll march right up to complete strangers and pester them for a few “hi’s” and “hello’s”, pointing out her belly button and reaching up to reveal theirs and any other body parts she’d like to name. I am so curious to see who she will become and how she will learn to harness her passions and love and intensity. She’s amazing and makes me laugh with her wild love and absolute goofiness every single day.
Rowan is wild in his own way, full of enthusiasm and excitement for anything we suggest in a halfway animated voice. Rowan, do you want to go outside? Rowan, it’s time to take a bath! Rowan, do you want some yogurt? It doesn’t much matter what you’re proposing, he’ll pop up like a little prairie dog, arch his eyebrows in the very same way his papa does, make a surprised “ooo” squeal of delight and then take off running towards the prize. He is so IN every moment. When he’s working he’s so intensely focused on the task at hand, carefully sorting out colored rings to fit over the little dowel, rearranging the furniture in his room, scheming about how to use the chairs to climb on top of the kitchen counters. His work ethic puts both of ours to shame. No one in this house picks up more toys than that boy (though, to be fair, nobody makes as big of a mess either…), sorting and stacking and organizing everything in his own way. I love watching him work. I also love watching him play. He’s so boisterous and excited about life he can hardly contain himself and I love the moments when I catch him in some mischief and he looks up at me with one raised eyebrow and peals of laughter. He loves to be tickled and will sidle up to us, leaning way back or raising an arm to to expose his most giggle-inducing spots. He’s picking up new words all the time, but because he’s generally so much more physically communicative (wrestling, cuddling, tickling, giggling) I’m always surprised when I hear him mouthing through a new word. Yesterday my usually shy little boy walked right up to our neighbor, one who we have only met once or twice, waved his hand and loudly shouted “Hi! [slow wave]… Bye!!” before trotting off to rearrange a few things on our patio. ‘Bye’ is new this week, I suppose it was only a matter of time before they began using it on situations they weren’t comfortable with. (and of course my introverted mama heart has never been prouder) My little snuggle bug loves to stay close to us, venturing out only when necessary for planning some mischief, and never more than a few feet away. It always breaks my heart when we bump into each other at school and he’s instantly in mama-mode and I have to walk away and continue with my own students, letting him sob that sad cry of abandonment in the arms of his wonderful and patient teacher. But then, the joyful jumps and shouts and grins when I finally scoop him up at the end of the day tells me all is forgiven. Thank God for toddler short term memories.
And me? 18 months into this gig and I’m more in love than ever. It feels like we’re finding more balance and time and peace in the most unexpected places all the time and I’m so grateful. I’m learning the power of admitting I have no idea what I’m doing, the beauty of asking other mamas for their advice. It’s this incredible bond, forged on the exhaustion and fear and passion and love of mothering amazing little people. For all that is cringe-worthy about unsolicited advice, opening myself up to the input and thoughtfulness of other women is so life-giving. Even if it’s advice I don’t ultimately take. Even if our kids are in completely different stages or our parenting styles polar opposite. The power of reaching out and affirming the wisdom of another is so beautiful and too rare. I want to do more of this in the months and years ahead. It’s never as hard as my fears make it out to be and I always feel better knowing I’m not alone navigating the wild waters of toddlerhood.
Happy 18 months, R&E. Your mama is so thankful for all the ways she’s grown and changed and come more into herself, right alongside you two!