Sometimes I wonder
Curious that I am
About the private dramas
I'll never know
Having been the child
Of appropriate parents
(Or perhaps wrapped
In youth's self-absorption)
When I think about
All the small things
In my own adulthood
That are so deeply felt
Yet with a bit of time
Are revealed to be quite shallow
I find gratitude
That such secrets
Shall remain bits of dross
In the memory of my family
Sometimes I wonder
You have decided that you are a picky eater, something I anticipated, and that your poor father did not. Overnight, you went from eagerly eating onions and peppers and pickles, to turning your nose up at chicken nuggets, and squeezing huge crocodile tears out every time we suggest you eat food you don't want (which is everything). You don't throw food very often, but you do like to dump milk and cereal onto your tray. And then splash in the mess. This sort of behavior is odd, considering that falling down and getting dirt on your hands is a household crisis. But this is you learning to exercise control, and by all means, I want you to grow up to be a strong, independent woman. So you go right along with your food refusal. Just know I'm also a strong, independent woman, so I'm not going to make you something special to eat (but your dad probably will).
You decided that you were going to be two, as in "terrible," several months ago. You try your darndest to tell us exactly what you want, and even when we do understand, sometimes you can't have your way. It's so hard (and, I will admit, sometimes hilarious) to watch you be frustrated and furious as you learn to communicate with us. It would probably help if you didn't speak your own very precise, very extensive language. You like to make long-winded speeches in this untranslatable tongue, speeches that are complete with gestures, and you even laugh at your own jokes. I suspect you get that propensity for verbosity directly through the maternal bloodline. I also get the feeling that if we could only understand you, you'd tell us such wonderful things.
I don't make you wear as many dresses as you used to, but that's because you're so active that a dress sometimes slows you down (I know, who knew??). You can roughhouse with the best of them, you see. You still point out the "pretty" things you like in stores, which your daddy just loooooves (sarcasm). You love to have your hair done, and you like clomping around in my high heels. One time, you took a proxy brush out of a bag of dental supplies, and used it like a mascara wand. On a less girly note, however, you have recently become obsessed with a certain Thomas THE Tank Engine (your brother's extensive Thomas book collection may have had something to do with that). This has sparked a fierce debate in our home as to whether Thomas says "peep peep" or "toot toot." The jury is still out.
Your baby book collection is ridiculous. You have more board books than any toddler could possibly need. In the course of an hour, you make your dad read the same one over and over again, so why would you even need more than one? And yet, every time you see a new book, you greet it with adoration and excitement. Your parents are bibliophiles themselves, so I guess that's why they keep buying more books. They did name you after a character in a fantasy novel, after all. You like to sit in your book box and read stories to yourself. I just know someday soon you'll be reading under the covers with a flashlight, as girls like Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls, and Jo March come alive for you. I can't wait for you to meet them.
You continue to be enthralled by music in all forms. You nod your head and dance when your father plays his heavy metal in the car. You were the first one on the dance floor at my cousin's wedding this year. You've learned that both Daddy and E wear excellent platforms for you to stand on while they dance with you. You've gotten your father to dance with you more times in your short 2 years of life than I have in all my years of knowing him. Sometimes, a man just has to concede that his daughter needs to dance. Tonight, while your brother practiced the piano, you insisted on sitting on my lap next to him, and "practiced" your toy piano. You were then upset when you had to go to bed and he got to keep practicing. You have startled yourself awake while singing your favorite lullaby in your sleep. Your brother and I once sang the ABC song in two-part harmony for 30 minutes at your request. Every night, you fall asleep to an instrumental lullaby CD, and if it isn't cued up when you're ready to get in bed, things get ugly.
Before you lie down at night, you sometimes ask me to sing. And my heart aches with the sweetness and the joy and the sheer delight of loving you, temper tantrums or no.
On your third night of life, you reduced me to tears because I couldn't get you to wake up and eat. Tears! I have never been so tired in my entire life. I was even a surgery intern, once upon a time, I'm very familiar with exhaustion. So congratulations, you have superior exhaustive powers.
You started out as "Peabody," but your dad calls you "Little Bear," which seems more appropriate considering that you are so wild. You are willing to be held, but you are not amenable to cuddling. You do not tolerate meditative mother-daughter periods, and even our bedtime rituals are all-business. Sometimes, however, when you aren't quite ready to go to sleep, you reject my arms, and demand your father's. Sometimes a girl just needs her daddy, you see.
You have more facial expressions than a mime. I literally feel sad sometimes that my eyes are not cameras, because I will catch glimpses of you in positions or in lighting that breaks my heart with your perfection, and I want to share those moments with everyone. However, you rarely hold still long enough for pictures, because you are constantly on the go. Sometimes you flash this silly, adorable, toothy grin that makes you look like a demented bunny, and your dad thinks it's really funny when you frown, because apparently you look just like me. When your brother walks into a room, you watch him so expectantly, knowing that sooner or later, he will do something hilarious, and you will laugh uproariously. The first time you laughed, I thought I would die of joy.
When you were just starting to babble, you would stare at completely blank walls and hold entire conversations. So, I'm fairly certain that you see angels. And yet, you can be more than a little devilish, like when you cried all the way to Kansas City. Your brother wanted to give you away that day. And your dad wasn't far behind. Most of the time, though, you are easygoing and cheerful, which is something you definitely did not inherit through the maternal line. You have also inherited your father's need to explore, however, which is not something an infant needs. You scared me so badly the other night when I thought you were about to swallow something you shouldn't have. So badly that I cried from relief because you were still safe.
You love being in water, which I think is funny, because your favorite lullaby is "Baby Beluga". When we brought you to the river for the Fourth of July fireworks, you were so overstimulated and tired that I thought we would have to leave, but I started singing that song to you and you were instantly calm, like I had thrown a life preserver to someone drowning. You dance, and you bang on the piano, and you are mesmerized by your Papa playing the guitar. I think you were born with music inside of you.
We seek out and celebrate all of your milestones with such fervor: first smile, rolling over, sitting up, crawling. I rejoice when you learn something new, like the first day you signed or when you copy a sound after your brother demonstrates. And yet, I hate that you are growing up, that you aren't the same little freakishly loud, wrinkly-old-man infant we brought home one year ago. I would freeze time to keep you from changing, because I love every single moment with you and cannot bear for any of the moments to be over.
One time, before you were born, I dreamed that you were not mine, that you existed, but I could not have you. So I thank God every day when I wake, when you are and that I do.
Happy birthday, little bear.
I was reading an article this evening about the recent measles outbreak in Texas, and the part about how some of the ill patients were those who could not yet be vaccinated (i.e. poor, defenseless, sweet, innocent babies) struck a chord. Obviously, consideration for people who cannot be vaccinated (which includes poor, defenseless, sweet, innocent children with cancer and other immunosuppressed states) is something those of us who believe in vaccines usually cite as an argument for our side, but I'd never thought of it in such stark reference to my own, too-young-to-get-a-measles-vaccine daughter.
I believe in the right of parents to be fully educated about vaccines, and if you choose not to vaccinate despite that education, our country's laws allow that. However, please then keep your child away from my children, out of common courtesy. Also, because with most illnesses, you become infectious before you're symptomatic (which is how so many people in Texas got exposed...), and because it's impossible for me to fully disinfect every surface that my children might ever touch, that also means stay out of public. I'm serious.
I can't even imagine how I would feel if my daughter were exposed to a preventable and potentially fatal disease by someone who chose not to get their child vaccinated. I was telling my husband this, and he laughingly said "Would your 'mom rage' come out?" And the answer is yes. You may have the right to not get vaccinated, but then I would have the right to let my mom rage out. And it is ugly. Consider yourselves forewarned...
Today, when we went to the mall, E offered to push Peabody's stroller through the parking lot. He firmly instructed me to "walk on the outside" to protect her from moving vehicles and said he would protect her on the other side. I reminded him to watch carefully for cars that were backing out, since they would hit his sister first, and he replied "I know. You know, I've always wanted to do something heroic and I've never had the opportunity. But most of the time, I'm glad no one has ever needed me to be heroic."
He is so sweet it hurts my soul. And I'm sure all mothers of small boys think the same thing...