When I put you down for your afternoon nap just now, you sang along to your bedtime song “Samantha, fais dodo.” I was trying not to smile too hard, because, you know… it’s nap time and you have a hard enough time as it is settling down to rest. When we finished the song, you exclaimed “Sammy did it!” After I left the room, you reprised the song, and then added a few rounds of “FrÃ¨re Jacques,” followed by a rousing rendition of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” When you wake up, you’ll pick up right where you left off. This is the soundtrack of our lives, and of your 25th month: your sweet little voice belting out nursery rhymes.
You love to sing, Sammy. You sing all the time"while falling asleep, upon waking up, while playing, while reading, while eating. You’ve even started to mix up the verbs “sing” and “read,” often handing me a book and asking, “Mommy, sing it?” I was tempted to write “You love music,” but that’s not quite true anymore, as will you often demand that I turn off the stereo. You also tell me to stop singing too, which irritates me, as one of my little pleasures is singing along to the radio while driving. No, you want to be the sole maker of music and song in our house these days. Daddy and I gave you a bunch of wooden instruments for your birthday, so we have no one to blame but ourselves. You’ve taken to the harmonica and the recorder, which you often play upside down. You also like to sing “Mary had a little lamb” while drumming on the xylophone. This afternoon, while we were driving back from the Berkeley Aquatic Park, you sang a little song of your own devise"“Mommy loves rabbit.” (You had one of your plushie bunnies in the car seat with you). I don’t actually love that rabbit, but I do love that you are flexing your creativity.
That’s evident in all of your play. Your imaginative world is growing. You often play by yourself now, talking to your animals and toys, making them interact with one another. Your new figurines “Ben and Samantha” were “parking cars” on top of the kitchen trash can yesterday. You recently gave Emma Bear a diaper change using an old file folder. You love “feeding” your baby dolls, and for a while every morning you played at “going to work” like Daddy. Little sponge that you are, you have picked up on one of my morning rituals that is surely both helpful and irritating to your father: before he heads out the door, I ask him if he has everything he needs for the day. So now you chime in too, asking Daddy, “Have your laptop? Have your phone? Have your iPod? Have your lunch? Something to read?” After Dad has left, you then demand a zippered bag in which to pack your own “laptop” (doodle pad), “phone” (my old cell phone) and “iPod” (an old plastic keychain). You throw in a few board books and you’re good to go!
Conversations are more imaginative too. I forget how this got started, but one of your favorite things is to “talk about bears.” What this means is that your interlocutor must ask you questions about bears, and you supply the answers. Example:
Sam: Talk about bears?
Mom: Ok. What do bears like to eat?
Sam: Nachos! And corn! And pepper ownee!
Sam: Talk about bears again?
Mom: Where do bears like to go?
Sam: Bears go over the mountain.
Mom: Oh. What do they do over the mountain?
Sam: Bears take a big bath. With Mommy!
Sam: Talk about bears again?
And so on. It is really fascinating to watch you integrate your own experiences into another story. It’s even more exciting to see you make connections from the stories we read back to your own life. In “Fancy Nancy,” the title character puts on a bathrobe, and you say “Just like Mommy!” We were leaving a playground to go pick up Dad from the BART station and I said “hurry!” and you said “Just like “Thomas and the Big Big Bridge!” One of the train cars in the tale tells Thomas to hurry. This happens all the time and I am often astounded at the details you remember. We were listening to a recording of Beatrix Potter’s “Miss Moppet” and Potter uses the word “ill.” The first time you heard it, you said “Just like the Pie and the Patty-pan!” That’s another Potter story, and sure enough, the term “ill” is used there too.
Now that I’m writing all this down, I see that the thread here is memory. You have a terrific memory"one that allows you to sing songs and recite books. One that allows you to make connections between stories and life. One that allows you to learn the names and shapes of all the vehicles in the vintage 70’s Simplex puzzle you received from Grand-mÃ¨re for your birthday. The puzzle had been your Dad’s, but even he didn’t remember what a “Cooper” or a “Daf” looked like. Someday you’ll astound someone with your knowledge of antique cars.
Of course, the accompaniment to these cognitive advances is emotional development"and for you lately that means development of fear. You’ve always been cautious, especially around new people. But in the last month or so you have become especially fearful around other kids, even the playmates you’ve known for months and see regularly. This could be another consequence of a good memory. Your pediatrician suggested that perhaps once another toddler got up in your face and scared you. I can think of a couple of tricky encounters like that. But still, you do become quite anxious when we go to playgroups or to the playground. A few weeks ago we were walking up the hill to Tassajara and you stopped in your tracks and said, “No kids at the playground. Just Mommy and Sammy.” I had to explain to you that I had no control over the presence or absence of others at the playground, and that we could just check it out and if you didn’t want to stay, we could leave. That calmed you and when we got to the playground you decided to stay, but you wanted to hold my hand the whole time.
Playgroup is similar. Lately you sit on my lap the whole time and just watch the other kids play, though you do interact with them in small ways. You like to “play ball” with Dante (from the safety of my lap) and I remember you playing with one of Meri’s toy animals and shouting at her across the room, “Meri, I have a little sheep!” Usually when it’s time to go you come out of your shell. One time as we were getting ready to leave, you got on Meri’s rocking horse and bounced gleefully, until one of the kids came running into the room near you. I could see the conflict play out on your face in the space of one breath: keep playing on the horse or run back to Mom? You chose safety. We do hope that in the coming months, you’ll learn that your playmates are safe too, and that you’ll choose to play with them.
Your flight response to kids is almost like an allergic reaction. Maybe it is. You tested positive this month for peanut allergy, which means that your body treats peanuts as a dangerous substance. Fortunately, you tested negative for all other nuts and for shellfish. So while you can’t eat any of the Reese’s peanut butter cups I thoughtlessly bought for Halloween this year, one day you’ll be able to enjoy macadamia-nut-encrusted shrimp.
You DID enjoy your first taste of candy this month. A few licks of cherry and grape tootsie pops, spoils from your first trick-or-treat. You had a grand Halloween, although you refused to walk for most of the trick-or-treating. Those pesky kids again.
Oh, Sammy, one month, one little girl, and so much to tell! We visited two pumpkin patches, met up with “Baby Katrina” a couple of times, and hosted your cousin Scott and his fiancÃ©e Sigal for a night. Scott and Sigal gave you a white teddy bear which we named “Lyla” (Hebrew for “Night"“Sigal is from Israel). Lyla is now the favored bear.
Oh and you just woke up! I need to wrap this up fast. Let me conclude with some things we’ve overheard you say… the kind of utterances that makes Dad and me grin foolishly at each other and say simultaneously, “She’s so cute!”
“Oh, I love you Camus.”
“How ya doin, Mommy?”
“Dude!” (said in repetition of your mother)
“It tastes like poop!”
This last one has an explanation. At weekly storytime at the library, a little puppet mouse named Miss Sophie likes to “taste” the kids' fingers and say what they taste like. You love this and play the game at home, usually with your yellow bath ducks. One evening in the bath, a duck tasted my finger and you exclaimed the above along with peels of laughter. Your first scatological joke. As with all your milestones, Dad and I couldn’t be prouder. (Though we do hope that you’ll soon choose “cleaner” material for your joke routine.) You’re so cute.