I’m writing this to you on my 38th birthday. This morning when I got you up out of your crib, you asked, “What day is today?” I replied, “Monday.” Then you said, “It’s Mommy’s birthday! Happy Birthday, Mommy!” And you gave me a hug.
Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.
A few hours later, we were running errands on foot and you wanted me to carry you, and I was already lugging two bags of groceries, and you wouldn’t wear your sun hat, and you kept telling me to take mine off, and you cried and complained for the last two blocks.
Ok, so you are still a two-year old.
“Two and a half, Mommy!” I can hear you insist. You do know your age. You also know your shoe size (8), Daddy’s shoe size (12) and my own (7), though you haven’t yet puzzled out that technically my number is smaller than yours. Though this morning when you found your old pair of rain boots in the closet and wanted to put them on, I told you they were too small. “They’re a size 7. You wear 8 now.” “YOU can wear them, Mommy” you then said. “They’re just your size!”
That was another good birthday present. Not the boots (still too small for me) but the offer.
Today you are 32 months old. That’s a big number (though not as big as my 38). In many ways you do seem like such a big girl. You pick out your own clothes in the morning and dress yourself (unless there’s a button"I still help with those). We’ve retired the high chair, and you now sit right at the table thanks to a booster seat. You can open doors by yourself. You carry your stepping stool around the house so you can reach light switches. You wash your hands by yourself, and you insist on drying yourself by yourself on your “quackie” towel (big hooded yellow duck towel) after your bath. You even have your very own daily chore. After your morning milk you empty the silverware from the dishwasher and put each piece away in the drawer.
You’re thinking, “Whoa"I’m only two and you’ve already put me to work?!”
And how! But don’t worry, baby girl. You’re still a kid. And you’re still 2. While you CAN dress yourself, you often refuse to take off your pajamas in the morning. You insist on wearing sandals in chilly weather. You aim to change your clothes at least 3 or 4 times a day, letting the rejected clothing fall where it may. You run away from diaper changes. You refuse to use the potty. You jump up and down on our bed while we try to coax you back into pajamas at night. I even caught you licking your spoons before you put them away in the silverware drawer this morning!
(Yeah, that was yucky).
But while your antics are still the antics of a toddler, your reasoning abilities are advancing. The spoon-licking incident precipitated a lengthy discussion about clean and dirty utensils. Then at lunch, you looked at your used silverware and insisted that it was dirty. And when we hemmed and hawed about that, you asked “Why?”
Why indeed? If it’s not clean, it must be dirty"how can it not be either? Your questions"even the incessant “whys?” are becoming more sophisticated. Last weekend we rode the ferry to Angel Island. This was your first boat trip, though you’ve been on boats before at the Jack London Square boat shows. You asked about two things on the ferry: 1) why don’t we take off our shoes? And 2) why are there no beds? These questions puzzled your father and me at first, and then we realized that you were trying to figure out why your experience on the ferry boat was so different from the sailboats at the boat show. The sailboats did have beds, and we did take our shoes off, as a courtesy to the owners. So you learned that all boating experiences are not the same.
This comes up frequently when we visit your little playmates, Meri and Dylan. “Why do we not take off our shoes in other peoples' houses?” you asked recently. Our house rule is no shoes in the house (it’s a loose rule, but we try to emphasize it with you, because of the three of us, you are the most likely to track in a lot of dirt! You’ve taken over Camus’s role in that regard). And so we’ve been talking about how different households have different rules.
It’s fascinating to witness you try to make sense of and organize the barrage of information that confronts you daily. We’ll be driving east on I-80, and you’ll say “This is the way to Trini’s house” (another playmate).
Me: “Yes it is, but it is also the way to Kennedy Grove Park.”
You do know your geographical landmarks pretty well, and I imagine it’s confusing when one street or highway maps to multiple locations. I do wonder if your sensitivity to this is linked to your obsession of late with counting things. You are getting much better at assigning one number to one item (and not over or undercounting things). For a long time you were unreliable at counting any more than 3 items, but that changed a few weeks ago. We were eating pasta salad at dinner, and you separated out the chick peas and began to count them, lining them up on your plate. You consistently counted up to 7 chick peas correctly. Any more than that and you get a bit creative with the math. We had a ball adding and subtracting chick peas from your plate and asking you to count them. Inspired by the scene I wrote you a counting story called “The Chick Pea Spree,” and I am delighted to say that you enjoy listening to it despite its dearth of images.
That’s another great gift. Thanks, baby girl.
I am also delighted to report that I’m not the only one in the family making up stories these days. You love to launch into tales that you make up on the fly. These are usually inspired by your surroundings, or by recent events, but your little stories are hilarious. An example:
You: “Mommy, when you were a little girl, I used to take you to London.”
Me: “You did? What did we do in London?”
You: “We went to a playground. They have fairy swings there.”
Me: “Fairy swings?!”
You: “Oh yes. They have a long pole, and you swing like THIS!” (wild hand motions)
Me: “Wow. How come I don’t remember that?”
You: “It was VERY exciting.”
I have no idea where you learned the word “London.” And “fairy swings” are entirely your own creation, as far as I know. What cracks me up about your stories is the way you also include inappropriate phrases or words that don’t really fit in with your narrative. You’re just trying them out.
This was a story you told me at lunch recently:
You: Once upon a time there was a little boy named Rosiyan. And he slept in a great big bed, and his doggy slept right next to him.
Me: What was the dog’s name?
Me: So what did Rosiyan look like?
You: He had only ONE eye!
Me: Oh, so he was a Cyclops?
You: And he didn’t have a nose!
Me: Oh, what happened to his nose?
You: I ATE it!
Me: You did?!
You: It was a mistake.
You: And that’s all I know.
“Mistake” is a new concept for you and I find you trying it out in conversation quite frequently.
Because you spend most of your time with me and Daddy, you are starting to sound like a little adult. After we rode the ferry to Angel Island last weekend, we hiked to the top of Mount Livermore. 2.1 miles and you walked the whole way by yourself! They say toddlers can hike their age, but the same is not true of adults (you won’t find me hiking 38 miles anytime soon). Anyway, after we picnicked at the top, it was getting late and so we needed to speed down the mountain to catch the ferry. You rode in the Ergo on my back on the way down, and at one point we got ahead of Daddy. So I stopped and we took in the breathtaking view of the San Francisco Bay. When Daddy approached us, you called out, “Daddy! Look at this lovely view!”
Pop-Pop and Grandma Carolyn didn’t think you sounded like an adult, but they did remark that you speak like a 4-year old. Pop-pop should know, as he is Santa AL during the Christmas season and tells us that on a busy night, 70 children might grace his lap in one hour! We had a short visit from Pop-Pop and Grandma CR in late May. You gave each of them the grand tour of our house, including an introduction to all of your toys. You especially enjoyed showing Grandma Carolyn your little play people, and Pop-pop kept you entertained with finger counting games when we rode BART to the city to visit Daddy.
This was a family-packed month, relatively speaking (get it?) as you not only spent time with your paternal grandparents, but we also saw quite a bit of “Unkie John,” my brother. You love Unkie John. You even told him so one evening after he had been playing with you. You love your Unkie John and you LOVE ordering him around. And for the most part he does your bidding. It must feel very natural to him as he spent his childhood being ordered around by me. Poor Unkie John. Now he gets to be bossed around by two Fay women.
To be fair, you boss me and Daddy around too. Probably in response to our own directives for your behavior. You and Daddy have developed a kind of comedy routine in the middle of our nightly struggle to get you undressed for your bath. Usually Daddy will tell you specifically which item of clothing to remove, since you refuse to let him help you undress. Since the weather warmed up, you often are sockless in the house. Lately, this is what I overhear while I prepare your bath:
Dad: “Ok, socks, Boo (“Boo” is one of our longstanding nicknames for you).
You: “But I’m not WEARING socks!”
Dad: “OHHHH. Right.”
You both share a big laugh.
Dad: “Ok, socks, Boo.”
Repeat. And repeat.
You love this. In fact, one night when Daddy wasn’t home for your bedtime and I was handling the undressing, you gave me precise directions as to how to ask for your socks and how to react. So, it may be some consolation to Unkie John that his bossy sister is now the mother of a bossy daughter.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. Bossy, defiant, exasperating, inquisitive, imaginative, charming"you’re the best gift in our lives. Ever.