My dearest big huge little one!!!!
You are an enormous, loquacious, hilarious, headstrong big fat 15 months old! I can’t believe it!
You’re in this incredible stage, the Britney Spears not-a-girl, not-yet-a-woman of toddlerhood. You’re not a baby anymore. From most angles and on most days, you don’t even look like a baby.
Your delicious rolls of fat on your arms, torso and legs are but flabby shadows of their former selves. (Yes, sure, you’re still in the 91st percentile for weight; we went to the doctor today and you cottoned on to the imminent poking and prodding immediately, and screamed like a banshee for your entire appointment.)
Your face, still delightfully chubby, has still given way to its future little-girlness, its future-future big-girlness. We’re starting to see what you’re going to look like. Your papa’s giant (sorry, “distinguished”) forehead (as opposed to my puny three-head). His pensive brow. My grandpa’s crystal-grey-blue eyes, the color of the Adriatic sea in Croatia on a medium-cloudy day. A schnozz whose resemblance is yet to be determined. An unmistakable Schuman mouth (now in its fourth generation!) in both smile and scowl, the spitting image of my grandpa, my dad, and me, except many orders of magnitude cuter. My little chin. But as a composite, a person wholly your own, vaguely related to your continually amused and exhausted parents, but completely different from us as well.
Your fat bald head has given way to a full head of dark strawberry-blonde hair (and before anyone accuses you of not being mine, let me remind everyone that your Uncle Ben has the same hue, and he and I are closely related). You’ve got damn near a full mouth of teeth—and those most recent ones came in with such agony that I didn’t think we were going to get through it. You screamed and wailed and clung to my person for 24 hours a day; we dosed you up with every drug the doctor would allow, plus all the homeopathic measures too, and you gave precisely zero fucks and clamped yourself onto my bosom and wailed when you weren’t nursing or conked out from the sheer exhaustion of agony.
It was like having a newborn again, except one that could talk.
Oh, the talking. Since your first birthday your vocab has exploded to (rough guess) over 1000 words, from “dandelion” to “precocious,” and has recently expanded to some rudimentary sentences. You’ll clutch your beloved stuffed panda from IKEA and give it an entire universe of make-believe: PANDA SAY HELLO. PANDA SAY WAVE. PANDA SAY TURN AROUND. (You’ll spin around a million times until you get so dizzy you can’t stand. You’ll say DIZZY. DIZZY! SILLY! I’ll ask: “Are you drunk?” You’ll burst into giggles and go DRUNK! DRUNK! DRUNK!) And, most of all: PANDA SAY I LOVE YOU. You have a book your Babcia got you called I Love You, Through and Through, and that’s how you learned your now-favorite phrase. You apply it to many people you know and not a few inanimate objects. I LOVE YOU EUNJAE (your babysitter; a feeling echoed by your parents. She is a godsend. She’s also just graduated and moving away, because if there is a God, s/he hates me). I LOVE YOU GRANDMA. I LOVE YOU UNCLE BEN. (Yes, even my jackass brother!) I LOVE YOU FROG. I LOVE YOU SOCCER BALL. I LOVE YOU NAE NAE. I LOVE YOU PENTAGON. And even I LOVE YOU CREDIT CARD.
You know who’s notably absent in all these proclamations? Yours fucking truly, that’s who. That’s cool. Just take me for granted. I don’t mind. ALLEGEDLY every time you go on a walk to the park with your father, you begin requesting me immediately upon departure, and another sentence you’ve learned is in Polish: mama czeka na ciebie w domu, or “Mama is waiting for you at home.” Sure, sure. How about you give me as much credit as your fucking toy credit card, kid? How about that?
Other sentences include: LOVE IT! (Running around at the History Museum “Fun Room” or other places you like.) YOU DID IT! I DID IT! HALINA MAKE OOPS! (When you drop one of your animal magnets on the floor.)
You have little utterances you made up yourself, like GOOD SIT BODY! You parrot the lines from your favorite books, minus a few telling prepositions and other parts of speech: CHANGE NAME FLUFFY! I SORRY MOUSE THIS TIME! SOUNDS LIKE SOMEBODY NEEDS HUG! NAME! CHANGE NAME FLUFFY! You do this whilst draping a scarf or other garment over your head so that you can’t see, and then running around the living room full speed. (A great game, obviously.) You do this whilst climbing on top of the ottoman and then going MEMBER? BACKWARDS BUTT FIRST! before hurtling forwards off it into my luckily-waiting arms.
You’ve also started reporting back to me after spending time with other people you love. KISS BABA! FUN BABA! HUG BABA! FUN EUNJAE! FUN PAPA!
Ah, Fun Papa. You’ve recently figured out that your father really, really loves you and is fun to hang around, and have begun preferring his company to mine (so long as I’m still around; God forbid I try to leave the room even if you’re ignoring me, because then I’ll hear a MAMA! MAMA ‘GIN! and the unmistakeable sound of a toddler beginning to open a door, which you can now do). You love your Polish books and have realized that Polish is the language Papa speaks to you, and you usually address him in Polish and me in English. When it’s both of us, you often call out both words to some of your favorite things. DOG! PIES! WOOF! A few weeks ago, when your father shaved his beard, you looked at him with shock and your eyes welled with tears, before you proclaimed: PAPA!!!!
You continue in your Schuman Early-Peaking Selective Precociousness(TM); you can read the entire alphabet, numbers up to about 40, and eight words on sight (dog, cat, pig, bug, jet, your name, Mama, Papa, go, love), but you’re still iffy on how to use a sippy cup.
You’ve started identifying your own feelings, which is both amazing and heart-piercing. You don’t just cry now. You cry, and you go: SAD! SAD! MAD!
Your second-favorite sentence is another proclamation of your newfound toddler independence, something we knew was going to happen but whose magnitude and precocity has nevertheless been cause for a bit of surprise: NO HAVE TO!!!!!!! Sometimes you even correct yourself. NO HAVE TO!! DON’T!! DON’T HAVE TO! Things you no have to do include but are not limited to: get your nose suctioned out when you have a godforsaken cold that will not abate; try any food that is not raisins, goldfish crackers, mac & cheese or pizza (so long, kid whose favorite food was broccoli and caused me to be prematurely smug like an asshole! a doomed asshole!); put on your shoes; take off your shoes; go into your Baby Jail; get out of your Baby Jail; get into your stroller; get out of your stroller; get into the swings; get out of the swings, etc. You go with that autonomy, girl. It’s exhausting, but I’m proud of you.
Speaking of exhausting. Another excellent demonstration of your newfound little-little-girl autonomy is that you give even less of a fuck about sleeping with any regularity than you did before, WHICH IS QUITE AN ACCOMPLISHMENT. Some days you nap at 11 a.m. for three hours. Some days you nap at 2 p.m. for 45 minutes. Somedays you bounce off the goddamned walls until 6 in the motherfucking evening and then pass out until most normal kids (not just babies, KIDS) are getting ready for bed, and then party your little ass off until goddamned near midnight. My days of lobbing you the middle finger once you’ve finally passed out are long gone, but if a parallel-universe version of me did it once in awhile, I would understand, is all I’m saying.
Your erratic napping is also wonderfully emblematic of your general willfulness, your amazing sixth sense as to when your father and I are feeling frazzled or stressed (like, for instance, we have $40 worth of Eunjae coming in twenty minutes and you have yet to sleep a wink, and you will probably pass out for $35 of her precious time here), and it jacks you up even more. You understand innately when you’ve grasped something so dangerous that we don’t want you to handle it even for a second and clutch those things to your little body as hard as you can; yesterday it was an ancient Country Time Lemonade can of unknown provenance from outside, filthy and with a few ants in it.
The bright side is that I am finally, finally taking some initiative about your sleeping situation, instead of just letting you stay passed out on top of my chest for an indeterminate amount of time. I have started—gasp—transferring you to your crib for naps. THIS HAS BEEN TRANSFORMATIVE. I finally get what normal parents are on about when they’re like, Oh, my kid’s asleep, I can do stuff now.
(Also, that’s me outing myself. #WithHer. Now you know.)
Only when you are sacked out, either in that crib all alone or next to me on the bed, your little chest moving up and down, your little lips slack or puckered in a dream-nurse, do I still see my little baby. My little baby girl, such an ox-strong, life-filled creature, so wholly your own. Vaguely related to us, but so, so completely different, too.