dear wren (16 mo)
You turned 16 months old last week. I remember meeting a friend who had a 16-month-old when you were just a squishy dumpling in a sling and thinking “16 months is SO BIG”. And here we are and you don’t look so big. People are always impressed by how capable you are — OMG! She can walk? — but I reckon it’s because they think you’re 11 months old. Your size is sometimes misleading. You’re a bite-sized Gyoza filled with a lot of personality.
You go about your days as if everything were urgent. There’s an air of frantic around you when we’re alone at home and you don’t get what you want the very second that you want it. You start to hyperventilate and turn red in the face and if you could stomp your feet and say but moooooom, you probably would. The concept of later to you is exactly that… a concept, something abstract, a mere suggestion. I’m trying to teach you the virtue of patience but I’m sure if you could talk you’d probably tell me that patience can go fuck itself. You have your little fit and then you grab your bunny and come in for a cuddle and your crazy toddler surge simmers down until the next moment of discontent. I should count my blessings that at least you (generally) save these fits for home. You did have a moment a couple of days ago when I finally got to meet the lovely Isabelle for the first time and you chucked your container of ketchup on the floor and Jackson Pollock’d her sneakers.
Oh well, if you’re not ready to learn patience, at least you’ve finally, FINALLY, mastered the art of gentleness. I must have repeated gentle, gentle, doucement, doucement 8,000 times a day over the past six months. At last, you’ve figured out that daddy and I much prefer a soft rub or pat over your wolverine claws. You now wake us up by gently stroking our cheeks rather that whacking us in the face or gouging our noses with your sharp nails. I suppose someday you’ll figure out the patience thing too. All in due time (I hope).
I taught you a few signs earlier on to help you communicate with us and it has worked wonders. You know how to say “more” and “water” and “food” and “finished/done” with hand gestures. The finished hand gesture is meant to be used when you’re done eating. Sometimes you use it, other times you fling your food on the floor. That’s my favourite thing in the world, when you send porridge flying across the room. Favourite thing ever. (When you can grasp sarcasm, you’ll get that this is in fact not my favourite thing ever. Just the opposite.) Although you don’t always indicate that you’re done eating with a hand gesture, you’ve transferred your use of “finished” to other areas in your life, which is pretty impressive. Dad’s tickling you a bit too much? Arms out like a baseball umpire calling it safe – DONE daddy. Music isn’t to your liking? DONE. The other day, we went to a toddler sing-along group and halfway through Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, you shot up and called DONE. You kept doing the sign, over and over, utterly confused that you didn’t have the power to stop the music.
When Little Miss Muffet started, children were invited to come sit on the tuffet and get tickled by a giant spider. You tentatively made your way towards the small stool and before I knew it, the childminder was taking your hand and sitting you on the tuffet and plopping a straw hat on your head and tickling you with this giant spider and you were both bewildered and perhaps a little afraid and I was equally proud and desperate to protect you at the same time. I realised in that moment that I’ll constantly be battling my urge to protect you and your need to explore the world independently of me; letting you learn from your own mistakes but always being there to pick you up, dust off your knees, wipe the gravel out of your hands, give you a cuddle, kiss the boo boo and set you on your way again. And again, and again.
Things you’ve learned this past month. You finally know how to point at the ceiling and the floor and the window and the door when we sing Wind The Bobbin Up. You’ve been using the big kid’s swing for a little over a month now. You hold on tight all by yourself and you insist that we push you. “I can do this, ma,” you seem to say. Also, you can now point at my nose and eyes and mouth and ears but whenever I ask you to point at your own, you whack yourself over the head with the palm of your hand.
Our biggest milestone, however, is that we finally weaned you off your bedtime feed. And I was expecting tears and resistance and a week-long struggle (on both our ends, truth be told). The first night, you cried for three minutes, the second night for two and that was it. Weaning done. I think we both deserve a little pat on the back for that one.
You love to walk backwards and your favourite game is to play chase, whether you’re the predator or the prey. Mostly, you like it when we sneak up on you and play boo. This makes you laugh until you run out of breath and catch the hiccups. The fear exhilarates you. You also like to crawl onto your little yellow chair, somersault into the large blue recliner, commando roll onto the floor and then start all over again. I sense an adrenaline junkie in the future, just like your daddy. We can’t wait to get you on a bike and a snowboard.
You’re still a destructive force but you’re now a destructive force that picks up her own mess. Whatever you throw out of the drawer or the bath, you put back in its place, one item at a time.
You like to wash yourself with the wash cloth and anytime you get your hands on a tissue, or a receipt for that matter, you put it to your nose even though you haven’t quite figured out how to blow yet. You make monkey sounds whenever you play with your stuffed monkey. And you love to cross your middle finger over your index finger, which is great because it stops you from sticking your fingers up your nose, another favourite pastime.
You’re obsessed with the toilet seat, which is both disgusting and quite annoying. We’ve already lost one thing to the damn loo but it’s one of those toilets with which you can’t use a clip so I guess we’ll just have to wait for you to outgrow this new obsession and hope that you don’t chuck an entire roll of toilet paper in there in the meantime.
You are desperate to put your own socks and shoes on. Every day, you give it your best shot with the single-minded focus of a cheetah preying on an antelope. Don’t worry, you’ll get there eventually.
Your hair is now long enough for pigtails but your patience is too short to keep them in place. Within minutes, you take the elastic bands out, your hair momentarily sticking out to the sides so that you look like Einstein or Bozo the Clown.
The other day, you asked me to put a dress on you (you like to choose your own clothes now and always tend to gravitate towards pink, much to my dismay). I helped you put the dress on and then you marched straight towards the mirror to take a look at yourself and said, “Ooooooh”. Where did you learn that? Anyone looking at me can tell that I’ve usually left the house without taking so much as a glance in the mirror. Is this innate? Do boys do the same? Watching you grow up is so fascinating.
The best thing that has happened this month is that you’ve become a cuddle bunny. You never really used to be up for snuggling and now you cuddle up to almost anybody who’s been paying attention to you for more than a few hours. I can’t tell you how happy this makes us. Your little head nestled into the crook of our collar-bone.
And then there’s the way you hold my hand or ask to hold my hand when I least expect it. You are fiercely independent. You know what you want and what you don’t want (except when you’re tired and you don’t know much of anything). But once in a while, you need that extra reassurance and there’s something about feeling a tiny hand suddenly reach up for mine… it’s just the sweetest thing.
When I was pregnant with you, I got the Ovia app to track my pregnancy and they’d send me updates every week “Your baby is the size of a walnut this week” or “Your baby’s heartbeat is three times as fast as yours” or “Your baby’s first teeth buds are starting to come in.” But what your dad and I liked most about the app was that we could track the size of your hand from week to week. At one point, your hand was the size of the tip of my baby finger. And now, here we are, and that pin-sized hand has grown and unfurled into a small toddler hand, capable of grasping and gently stroking our faces and flinging food on the floor and reaching for my own big hand (that also used to be the size of someone’s pinky finger), letting me know that though you want to do your own thing, you still need me to lead the way once in a while. I hope you know that I’ll always be there to hold your hand if you need me too.