My riotous small person:
It is two days after I meant to write this letter. (I couldn’t, because of…reasons. Stay tuned.) Right this second, you are curled up next to your father on the couch, about fifteen feet away from me, as I finish this letter in fits and starts.
You two are in the midst of a very involved discussion about, among other things, what does and doesn’t go in your nose.
NOTHING GOES IN YOUR NOSE! you say.
That’s right, says Papa. Putting stuff in your nose is a Nope.
YOU CAN PUT STUFF IN YOUR HAIR?
You can, but then we have to wash your hair.*
WHEN I PUT LIPSTICK IN MY EYE I WASH MY EYE!
That would really hurt and be hard to get out.
MY HAIR DOESN’T HAVE LIPSTICK IN IT.
That’s why you’re not getting it washed.
*It has currently been 11 days since I have washed your hair. Your sensory issues surrounding your head have continued apace, and we have compensated by a) keeping your hair in a very short bowl style, and b) allowing it to be dirty most of the time. We wash it often enough for you not to get any sort of gnarly scalp infection, but seldom enough that when we do, we are always surprised to learn that you are, indeed, a dark blonde rather than a light brown.
One of my favorite developments this month—of all time, really—is that during particular times of the day, usually first thing in the morning or about 7 at night if you’ve taken a nap, you crawl into your father’s lap on the couch and you basically have class time. You draw shapes—your current favorite is a parallelogram; you learn about angles, acute and obtuse and right; you work on geography (right now you and your father are drawing arrows “at” and “away”—and read your “big books” and you type letters on the computer and you basically just sit there like a fascinated little sponge. I like to joke that your brain is a little computer. When you hear a word or expression for the first time—”obviously inept,” for example—you’ll ask how to spell it, and once someone spells it for you, it’s like your little mind-computer files it away. I mean, of course I MOSTLY love your discussions with Papa because you two are bonding so wonderfully and you are having so much fun. But ALSO I don’t NOT love them because it gives me a little break. Because December means travel and travel means disruption and illness and being cleaved onto like my big butt is a boat and you are a 40-pound barnacle.
You’ve become oddly resourceful for a person who still regularly tries to eat quarters. When one of your beloved stuffies gets wet, you fight back tears and carry him over to the dryer. When you cough, you run across the room to get your sippy cup and chug water. When your hands get mucky from paints, you find a wipe and wipe them. You’ve only been to Montessori school for like an hour, kid, but clearly it’s worked.*
(*We adore your current preschool, and so do you, but starting next year you are going to go to a wonderful Montessori school we’ve found, which will help you learn to do some really important stuff such as peel and chop a carrot with a real peeler and knife, which we watched a kid that couldn’t have been older than 3 do on our visit to “observe” the Montessori kids doing their “work.” I’m not sure if a kid can get kicked out of Montessori school for being too plucky, but I suppose we’ll see when the time comes.)
A few months back, your grandmother got you a book called NEWTONIAN PHYSICS FOR BABIES, and then your father got you a book for adults about the periodic table that has really cool photos, and since then you’ve been obsessed with science. Before we left for our holiday trip (more on that in a min), I stopped by my beloved Left Bank Books, which has the best-curated kids’ section in the world, and found you this incredible kids’ book called ATOMS, and you’ve been in love with it ever since. JFC, I don’t know many adults who can remember what a covalent bond is, but admittedly your conception of it has a lot to do with sharing vs. taking Slippy the stuffed cat, so I’m not sure you’d pull an “A” in Mrs. Anderson’s 11th-grade Chem class just yet, but I still think Mrs. Anderson would be very impressed.
Yes, one of the things you learned about in your book is that ELECTRONS ARE FOR SHARING AND TAKING, and when we were in Arizona (spoiler alert) we consulted your Babcia, a trained chemist and retired chemistry teacher, about how static electricity works, because today’s overly-cautious litigation-proof plastic American playground slides are, ironically, electrocution factories. Anyone with a kid today recognizes this particular lewk:
And you’ve given the sensation of being shocked at the bottom of a slide your own word, which is something you do now and then. KIRCH! you call it. KIRCH! KIRCH! One night awhile ago when you didn’t feel like falling asleep, you stuck your face into my face with your I-want-attention smile and just kept saying DON’T KIRCH! DON’T KIRCH! DON’T KIRCH! Eventually you got bored and it turned into DON’T WURCH! DON’T WURCH! HOW DO YOU SPELL DON’T WURCH!!!!! Then by the next day you’d made up your own song: WHOOPS A WURCH! DO NOT KIRCH!
You and your father also like to talk about geography, specifically what street you live on, and what state you live in. You know all the streets of our neighborhood: DUNCAN AND EUCLID AND NEWSTEAD! He tells you all about streets when you go down the block to the cool sculptures at the startup incubator (yes, our neighborhood has a startup incubator; actually it has three), so that you can BE GIANTS and very rarely deign to wear your coat zipped up.
You especially enjoy asking WHAT STREET ARE WE ON? while your father strolls you down Duncan for an entire mile to get to the Science Center. We’re still on Duncan! he says to you for the fiftieth time, before you go HAM on the Discovery Room and then stop by the measuring tape to do a quick mug shot, you three-foot assassin you.
To my delight—SUCK IT, CHRISTMAS—all on your own this year, with literally no encouragement aside from some curiously-placed baby Judaica books in our neighborhood’s Little Free Library, you decided you were obsessed with Hanukkah, so we did the whole 9 this year. Your dad even taught you how to light the Menorah and we let you do this unassisted a few nights (with us right behind you, obviously), and you didn’t burn yourself or set anyone on fire. Montessori, I’m telling you. Anyway, you were as obsessed with the dreidel (you LOVE to play dreidel) as you were unimpressed with the blessing, which you would protest loudly every time we did it. Finally one morning you turned to me and said YOU HATE THE BLESSING! I have a theory that you only HATE THE BLESSING because it stood in the way of you getting to light candles with fire, and not because you are anti-Semitic.
Of course, we also celebrated Christmas this year—in Arizona, where you were incredibly blessed with a confluence of all three grandparents at once:
…and said confluence blessed your parents with two dates on one day! We went for a hike in the desert AND we went out to dinner which ended up being protein bars from a grocery store and then gelato, but hey, that was OUR choice. Yes, that’s you sitting at a table and having a conversation with three adults.
In Arizona, you got to spend some precious time with your 88-year-old great-grandmother, as well as your great-aunt and your great-uncle Richie, who delighted you to no end when he used the handle of his cane to yank away Slippy. No less than 10 times a day, to this day, you say WHAT DID UNCLE RICHIE TAKE? WHAT DID UNCLE RICHIE TAKE SLIPPY WITH? You also got to see your aunt Lisa and uncle Ken (technically they are your father’s cousins, but they are an aunt and uncle to you), and for reasons I still do not understand, you decided Ken was “a weirdo,” so for the four days we stayed at their home, covering it with your festering sick germs (SPOILER ALERT), you tromped around going UNCLE KEN IS A WEIRDO! UNCLE KEN IS A WEIRDO!
This month, your verbal flourish of choice is to ask a series of rhetorical either-or questions about easily discernible facts. AM I WALKING OR NOT WALKING? ARE WE GOING TO ARIZONA OR NOT GOING TO ARIZONA? IS THIS A HUMIDIFIER OR NOT A HUMIDIFIER? AM I ON AN ESCALATOR OR NOT ON AN ESCALATOR? IS MY MOTHER SEVERELY REGRETTING THE DECISION NOT TO BRING THE STROLLER ON THIS TRIP OR NOT SEVERELY REGRETTING THE DECISION NOT TO BRING THE STROLLER ON THIS TRIP?
ARE WE SEATED ON THE AIRPLANE OR NOT SEATED ON THE AIRPLANE?
IS THIS A REAL TRAIN OR NOT A REAL TRAIN?
BTW, you have spent the last ten minutes running around the apartment singing “Jingle Bells,” both the OG version and the “Batman Smells” version, which is also how you’ve spent the better part of the last month that has not been spent asking rhetorical either/or questions or singing the Dreidel song.
In Arizona, you were treated to literally four Christmases, with one set of presents in the hotel room the day your grandparents arrived, another set on Christmas eve, another on Christmas morning and yet more on the 26th. You got more Christmas presents as a not-yet-three-year-old than I got for every Christmas I was alive. And my parents—sorry, SANTA—were not stingy. Oh, Santa. There were two older kids at Christmas this year who believe in Santa and it was the first time I’ve ever had to keep up that particular charade and it was FUCKING EXHAUSTING. I don’t know if we’re going to do this whole rigamarole when you get old enough to GAF about your presents. The rest of the family is pro-Santa and thinks I’m going to ruin the magic of your childhood. Jury’s still out.
Your Christmas present to me was to pass on the brutal cold you picked up somewhere in transit, and on the 28th I was flying with that cold (and you, and minus-one stroller) and yesterday I was shuffling around the house in my slippers and robe actually crying because I felt so sick. (This is also something you did in the throes of it, coughing your poor self awake for the fiftieth time in a row, and whimpering WANNA FEEL BETTER!!!!)
This, little one, as unbelievable as it is, is your last month as a toddler—as anything that could be considered a baby. You’re going to be three. You’re closer to being toilet-trained every day (you have some days that are 100% “dry,” as the Germans would say, and some days that are…not).
On at least twenty occasions per day, you ask me: ARE YOU A BABY? It’s one of the last instances in which your pronouns are switched; about 75-80 percent of the time now, you use the correct ones. When you ask me ARE YOU A BABY? I always answer the same way: You’re not a baby anymore, but you’re MY baby.
Of course, you do still nurse, some days almost as much as you did as a baby, and with every passing month I turn more into One Of Those Moms that I used to regard with disgust and horror, though in my defense, I do keep all extended nursing-related activities to the borders of our own home, hotel room, or house where we are staying.
For your second birthday, we made the transition to only nurse at home; in honor of your third, we’re going to transition to only nursing to go to sleep (hey, maybe that will make you more likely to go to sleep! probably just more likely to fake it out). All the hoo-hoo literature I read about extended breastfeeding says that kids “naturally wean themselves” between 3 and 4, so I am PRETTY MUCH COUNTING ON THIS TO HAPPEN and if it doesn’t I may die. Just this morning, I needed to get our butts to the store (my first journey outside in 48 hours), and I said we needed to stop nursing for that second; you misunderstood me and thought I meant you had to stop nursing forever and your little heart broke.
I understand that you’re not ready yet. I understand this and I respect it, and I keep it in the confines of my own home (mostly), and I give absolutely zero fucks what anyone might have to say about it.
But still. You’re really, truly not a baby anymore. There is so much you can do for yourself. There is so much you can talk about, learn about, explore, conquer, laugh about, and love.
You’re not a baby anymore. But you’re my baby.