Daddy was going to write your letter this month, but since a) he’s sick, and b) he’s working for SIGGRAPH at San Diego this week, and c) you’re giving me a nice long nap this afternoon, I decided that I would start it.
So, hi Sammy! Happy 22 months old! You’re two months away from two years old. Technically. In practical terms, you’re right smack dab in the middle of the Terrible Two’s. All my life I’ve heard of this phase, but it is only in the past month that I have come to understand just what it can mean. Here’s what it means for you:
Everything belongs to you: you’ll see a little kid clutching a grubby teddy bear, or a sippy cup, and you’ll point at it and say “Sammy’s!” Same thing for strollers, cars, airplanes, books. It’s all yours.
It’s always your turn, except when it’s time to wash hands before dinner. When we go to Tassajara playground and you see kids on the see-saw, you shout, “Sammy’s turn!” But when it’s mealtime, you declare, “Mommy wash hands first.”
You must do everything yourself, even those things that you can’t quite manage on your own. “Sammy do that!” is the refrain here. You now climb in and out of your high chair and car seat by yourself, and if Dad or I forget and absentmindedly hoist you up into the seat, you scold us pretty vociferously. What’s difficult is that there are many things that you can’t do on your own, but you throw a fit if we try to help. Putting your shoes on, hanging your jacket up on its peg, putting a barrette in your hair. One day you fussed at me for a good 20 minutes because you wouldn’t let me take your jacket off, and yet you couldn’t get your arms out of the tight sleeves by yourself.
You want it, and you want it NOW: this can apply to just about anything. Heaven forbid I tell you that we’re going to the library or the zoo tomorrow, or in an hour. I have just committed one of the worst offenses in the toddler universe of “all is present.” I will pay for that transgression.
You do not want to do whatever it is we’re doing: “We’re walking to Meri’s house,” I say. “NO! I wanna go home!” you say all the way down to Meri’s house. Then of course, when we leave Meri’s house, you stop on the sidewalk and turn back “I go Meri’s house.”
You must do everything yourself (did I already mention this one?) even those things that you have asked us to do. “Mommy draw kitty cat?” you’ll ask me. I’ll sit down and start to draw you a cat, and you’ll immediately yank the crayon out of my hand, and say, “Sammy do that!” Ditto with certain books. “Mommy read it?” No sooner have I uttered one word than you shake your head in disgust, “No, no, Sammy read it.”
While the uncooperative behavior is sometimes tiring for us lumbering adults, we do of course recognize that it means you’re growing up, you’re forming your own ideas, and expressing your own opinions. Pajamas are a great outfit for the afternoon. Short sleeves should be extendable to your wrists. Red socks go with everything. Bell peppers cry when you slice them for salad. Camus always deserves a treat and a big bowl of cat food.
These last two refer to your favorite helping activities of late: you love to give Camus a cat treat (though you are nervous to let him eat out of your hand) and you love to pour his dry food into his bowl. Sometimes you dump it by accident onto the floor, but if I ask you to pick it up, you’ll pick up each individual crunchie and place it carefully in his bowl. At least you clean up after your messes now. One day I found you with an enormous wad of baby wipes “cleaning” the legs of your high chair. I was about to scold you for taking the wipes, and then thought “well, at least she is using them to clean something up.”
The other helping activity is cooking. Well, preparing food to cook. We pull the kitchen step ladder up to the countertop (“Sammy use it?” you always ask). Then you watch me chop vegetables for the salad and you sort the scraps into the compost bin and put the veggies into the salad bowl. Usually. Sometimes you eat most of the vegetables that I prepare. You will try just about anything this way too"you’ve tasted raw zucchini, scallions, and even raw sweet potato. Sometimes I’ll show you how to stir liquids (we were making soup, and you kept calling it a “bath') but you don’t quite have the arm action down yet for stirring. Still, I must admit that I love sharing this activity with you, and hope that we’ll have many years of cooking together ahead of us.
So about now you’re thinking, “Cooking, cleaning, feeding the cat… hey, Mom, did we do anything fun?” Yes we did. We rode the Niles Canyon historic railroad with Meri, Dante, and their parents. You played in your kiddie pool out back on warm afternoons. We went to the library at Cal Berkeley a couple of times, and you threw leaves into the creek that runs through the campus. We went on a toddler-sized hike around Jewel lake with your new neighborhood pals Olivia (4) and Rosie (2). But do you know what your very favorite activity is? The thing that you ask to do each and every day? You like to show your father where Australia is on the world map in your room. “Show Daddy where Australia is?” Yep, you’re a geography head.
Now, to be truthful, in your mind, showing Dad where Australia is on the map also includes a game where you and he toss your crib plushies around the room. But you always start with geography. There is no doubt in our minds that you are our daughter. Your father and I love maps. You’ve impressed us not only with your ability to locate various countries on the map, but also with your pronunciation. “United States” is probably the most difficult. Plus, you often point right to the printed word on the map. You can locate Australia, China, Russia, Egypt, France, Spain, the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Japan. Daddy is also teaching you various countries in central Africa. When he showed you Mali, you pointed to the brown teddy bear in your crib and asked “Molly?” It’s now your favorite central African state!
Molly, Emma Bear, and the entire host of stuffed animals and dolls that have taken up residence in our house have become very real to you. You read books to them, put them to sleep and wake them up. Emma bear even “sings” the ABC song (with your help). The rest of the crib plushies sing the ABC’s with Dad’s help at your frequent insistence. The other week you brought your baby doll Ginny into the kitchen, pulled one of your old bottles out of your kitchen drawer, fed it to Ginny, burped her, gave her a bath in a different drawer, then closed the drawer and shouted “go to sleep!” That was an interesting interpretation of our bedtime ritual with you. (Daddy and I don’t shout, but there are some nights where we might secretly think “Go to sleep!")
You still drink milk before bath time at night, but it’s now from a cup. We finally weaned you from bottles this past month, and it was surprisingly not difficult. I was worried that you would resist since you are not a thumb sucker, and you haven’t used a pacifier in over a year. (Sucking is supposed to be one of those self-soothing reflexes that lasts well beyond the first year.) So the bottles have gone into your kitchen drawer, as you take another step away from babyhood.
Steps, skips, and one-footed hops, too. I worry significantly less now when I see you walking up and down stairs. You can walk up without holding on to anything now, though you still reach for a hand or a rail on the way down. You’re much more nimble on your feet in general. You can almost imitate me skipping, though you can’t manage a two-footed jump yet. You’re becoming an agile climber, and were very proud of yourself recently when you climbed up the slide at the playground by yourself, after seeing some big kids do it.
Your biggest leaps, however, continue to be in the realm of language. You speak in complete sentences about half the time now. You use prepositions. You still refer to yourself mostly in the third person, but use the first person from time to time too. You know almost all of the alphabet, not only the letters and their order, but also what they “say.” The letters that give you the most trouble currently are “J,” “L,” and “N.” You love to point out letters everywhere. I was wearing a Swarthmore College t-shirt the other day and you spelled out “Swarthmore” almost perfectly"it was those darn lowercase letters that confused you. You’ll often point to a lowercase “p” and call it a “B.”
You’ll also scribble lines on paper and tell us that they are letters, or circles, or squares, or kitty cats. Drawing or “coloring” is one of your favorite daily activities. With that in mind, here are some other favorites this month:
Favorite song to sing: “Tapent les petites mains.” Yes you really sing it now! (Well, you emphasize the key words and kind of hum the parts you aren’t sure of, not all that different from how I sing along with the radio.) You also love the refrain of “You are my Sunshine” when you shout “sunshine away!”
Favorite numbers: the answer to “how many” is almost always “one two three four five” though occasionally you’ll go up to 10.
Favorite book: The Baby Beebee Bird by Diane Redfield Massie and Steven Kellogg, your first borrowed library book.
Favorite joke: “Red light go?” asked while we’re driving somewhere. The correct response to your query is “No, no, no, red light means stop!” Giggling, you’ll ask “red light go?” 12 times or more then suddenly switch to “green light go?” just to see if we’re paying attention.
I was never so happy about your attention to traffic lights as I was on the 4th of July. Independence Day saw us racing to the ER after you woke up lethargic with rapid breathing. After a dose of Albuterol through an inhaler (which you hated), you perked up enough to tell us the colors of the traffic lights as we drove home. It turns out that you might have asthma. It will become a firm diagnosis if such breathing problems recur regularly. As health problems go, asthma–treated properly–should not be a big deal. Still and all, Daddy and I hope that it was just a nasty virus that you picked up from your recent travels from Philadelphia.
You are indeed a well-traveled little girl, Sammy, as I close this letter from a hotel room in San Diego. (The telling of that adventure will have to wait until next month). And you are also well-loved, well-cherished, well-kissed, and well-hugged, even and especially when the terrible two monster erupts screaming, “I wanna go home, NOW!”