Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dear Gwen: Month Twenty-Four

Dear Gwen,
Today, you are twenty-four months old. Two whole years.

Um, holy crap. How did this happen? Wasn't this you, like, last week or something? SERIOUSLY.

I've been doing a lot of reflecting lately on how much you have changed, but there are many things that haven't changed at all. For example, I remember going to Healthy Beginnings when you were about 7 months old and had learned to crawl, and when it was our turn for introductions I would always say, "I'm Laura, that's Gwen, um ... somewhere [pointing vaguely across the room], she's seven months old and incredibly active. Um, if she bothers anyone, please let me know, and does everyone feel okay if we just keep the doors closed so she doesn't escape?" There was the memorable time when someone interrupted my introduction to say, "Oh yeah, this must be your kid over here, going through the garbage can." Motherhood WIN! Anyway, this is a facet of your personality that is still entirely in force, as demonstrated by last week's events at a friend's birthday party. I was gathering up our stuff inside the party room as you stood just outside, watching a crowd of people playing with bubbles. I came outside to join you, but you were nowhere to be found. I quickly scanned the most dangerous area, the parking lot, and didn't see you. It took a couple of minutes of searching (all the while trying to keep my heart from stopping altogether) but I did find you, and you were still in one piece. I can foresee many, many events like this in our future, and only wish that there was some house-arrest-type device to keep you from straying more than 10 feet away from me.
You are an independent little thing, my girl, and you have very definite ideas about how things should be. When anyone wavers from those ideas, oh, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth! Of course, you are not always able to communicate what those ideas are, so we never have any clue when we're about to step on your independent little toes. If we have enough time (and enough patience) to work on drawing you out, guessing over and over again what it is you might want, all the while reminding you to stay calm, we can usually succeed at averting a full-out fit. It's a trying process, but quite rewarding when it works. For example, last week I lay down with you in bed before saying goodnight, a bit of a change from your routine. As I started singing your lullabies, you kept saying, "No," but I couldn't figure out what was upsetting you. "Are you ready for your night-night songs?" "No." "Do you want to stand up with Mama?" (As that is how the lullabies are usually delivered.) "No." "Do you want to sing a different song?" "No." The questioning carried on for a few minutes, with frequent reminders for you to just stay calm and use your words, until I asked, "Do you want Mama to get out of your bed?" "Yes." Alrighty then! Out I got, and bedtime continued with no further upsets.

Sometimes, of course, your independence is truly, teeth-grindingly irritating. For example, you have recently decided that you want to climb into your own carseat rather than have us put you into it. This would be fine if we could walk out to the car, put you on the ground and have you actually climb into your seat. But no. You dawdle along, climbing into the car, turning around a couple of times, listening to the sounds of the outside world and having entire conversations about them, making false starts, deciding to climb back out of the car, reluctantly accepting my persuasion to climb back in, getting halfway up onto the seat but can't quite make it up, and then when I put my hand against your bum to brace you so you can continue climbing, you shriek that you don't want help and because this endeavour has been ruined by the taint of assistance you must start ALL OVER AGAIN. I, being one of the top five least patient people on the face of the earth, do not handle this routine very well. A compromise has not yet been reached.

On the other hand, Gwen, for every moment I spend feeling frustrated with you, there are five when I feel completely and utterly in awe of you. The way your brain works is a constant source of amazement to me. You are SO PROFOUNDLY SMART. I am so incredibly thrilled with your language development, as it allows me to see exactly what's going on in your head, and it's always a treat to get that glimpse inside. Your imagination is thriving, and you make connections that no adult would make. I really do see the world differently when I'm with you, and I love it. A few days ago on our drive home from daycare, you saw a bird, and this is what you said:
"A bird. See it, Mama? Right there! Hello, bird! Tweet-tweet! Oh, where'd it go? Bird fly back home in the sky."

"Bird fly back home in the sky." Listening to you narrate the things you see and hear around you is truly magical, Gwen.

Speaking of your language development (which ... okay, yeah, when I am *not* speaking about your language development? I knew I was kind of a language geek, but watching your growth in this area really makes it clear to me just how deep that passion goes. ANYWAY...), you have a verbal habit that I find immensely charming: you speak to me the way you want me to speak to you. For example, if you want a drink, you say the words that precede me giving you a drink: "wanna drink?" So, to the unschooled outsider, you are offering me a drink. In fact, you are prompting me to offer YOU one. This pattern is also true of "want help?" which means you want help, and "want up?" which means you want up, not to mention a host of others.

Another thing I absolutely love about you is your perseverance. Yes, this is something that can make it hard to be your parent, but I can't help but admire and respect you for it anyway. The other night at the dinner table, you were practicing eating with your fork, which is still a little bit difficult for you. You successfully speared a piece of pasta, but halfway to your mouth it slid elusively off your fork. You were frustrated enough to give a little whine of impatience. Your dad comforted you by commenting that you could eat with your fingers if you wanted to. Settling down after the little spasm of annoyance, you reached your hand towards the noodle. And then damned if you didn't change your mind, screw up your courage and pick up your fork again. I could feel the focus and determination emanating from your side of the table. And yeah, you ate that noodle with your fork. I cheered like mad.

Spring is coming, and I'm certain we're all going to have a wonderful summer. You like nothing better than to be outside, and the temperatures are finally rising enough that I'm happy to be out there with you. I foresee a season of playgrounds, beaches, climbing, exploring, walking 'dis-way' just to see what we might find. It's the stuff good memories are made of, I'm so grateful we have each other to make these memories with.

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