Today was the first day I’d had any childcare in two weeks. There was snow, then a fever, then my boy’s dad got sick and needed tending. Today’s four hours of babysitting went fast, but when they were over, I had a supremely lovely time with my son. It was a chilly rainy day, and I decided I was just not going to leave the house. E had had a mini outdoor excursion with the sitter and the other little girl who came over, so we just hung out. After spending a week nursing him like he was a newborn and hearing “can you hold me?” and “can I nurse” in that weak voice punctuated by a cough, it was great to have my buddy back.
I have a journal I’m developing to help me record developments and special events month to month, but I don’t often sit down and just write to my kid. A friend gave me The Mommy Journal, and I almost picked it up tonight, then thought about writing his “birthday letter” a month early (I did one at one year and think I never did year two – yikes!) but somehow I feel right now like I can get so much more down through a keypad.
So here’s part of the letter I’d like to write to my son today.
I write a lot about you, my dear boy, some for blogs, some for essays that will probably never make it into print, some for poems and essays that have. If something happened to me, you’d have a lot of insight into my mind. But every once in a while I realize that it would be wise to tell you to your face and to write directly to you simply how I feel about you in a way that is not skewed to the side of frustration or mommy-self-exploration. So this is the long version of my looking into your eyes and saying, “You are so much fun.”
In fact, you are a rock star. Your dad and I cannot believe the things that come out of your mouth, except that I keep hearing myself or him or some cosmic combo of what we’d say if we turned into one person. This morning, your dad left late for work because he was still a little sick, and he was still here when W got here to watch you and S for the morning. You were telling W about the valentine that D made for you the other night, describing in detail the cute flowers that pop up. I thought your story needed illunstration so W could appreciate how spot-on you were, so I fetched the card off the mantel.
You then went on to point out to W that behind where the card had been was a photo of Barack Obama. It’s actually a photo your grandma took on Inauguration Day, of you looking at Obama on the television screen, and it’s pretty cool. (In case you haven’t heard the story enough, your dad biked down to the Mall that day, and I left early, before either of you was awake, to go with a friend to see the ceremony from seats right in front of the Capitol. It was amazing, but it was a long day, and I had a hard time fully appreciating the privilege I had. In fact, you’ve heard so much about my tale that you‘ve been telling me, “Then the Metro was broken and you had to get out and get a taxi cab. And you were frustrated!”)
Anyway, W asked you, “Who is Barack Obama?” You answered in the clearest voice imaginable for a child who is not even three years old, “He’s our President!” Your dad and I were wowed that you responded that way totally unprompted. (And, lest you wonder about my politics if I should turn colors in old age, underneath our pride and astonishment in you was a deep relief that this reality has come to pass and that you will know this man as your first memory of a president.)
But we really shouldn’t be amazed by your sharp replies. They come out of your mouth all the time, with joy, with exuberance, with delight at the ability to express yourself. You were telling me today about someone “offering” you something — maybe it was when T peeled you an orange the other day at your dad’s band practice. Sometimes I wonder if the Waldorf education police are going to come after me for talking to you too much or making you get too big a vocabulary for your little stature.
But it’s not all fancy words. You know how to work it with slang, too. Yesterday I wrote on my other blog about how you said to me “C’mon” to get me to rethink my complaint. But when I wrote that, I’d forgotten that you used that phrase earlier in the day looking for a colorform/sticker of Murdoch, one of the Thomas trains (whose names you suddenly know after I relented to just one of your many desires in Staples last month and bought you that goofy workbook). You said, “Where are, Murdoch? Come on, Murdoch. Oh, there you are. I found you.” There are big and small stickers of the various trains, and you call the big one the “mama Percy” and the little on the “baby Percy.” Often when we talk about real babies, you ask or tell me whether or not the baby is crawling yet. “He doesn’t walk. I think he just crawls. Yeah. He does.”
Your hand gestures are opinionated and intentional. You point, you show us a serious two (one index finger on each hand), you put your hands up for not knowing. We recently watched old video of you babbling with crazy, meaningful gestures at around a year old; now those gestures elaborate clear-as-day words. You seem to have just about perfected your “R.” I caught you on video at the zoo a few weeks ago (our first diaper-free outing!) talking about a “funny biRd.” You slow over the R’s as though you’re making sure you’ve gotten it out and have been heard. The L’s are not so defined but are still highly intelligible.
We had a nice afternoon today after W and S left. You played well while I ate lunch, and then we worked on a puzzle before having a quiet nursing time and then moving on to make rolls for school (after I got a chicken in the oven). Even when I had you on the other side of the kitchen gate so I could deal with raw meat unfettered, you happily chatted with me. What a treat!
Two weeks ago you were so ill, you would hardly let me leave your side. We were nursing on the couch most of the day. If you weren’t asleep, I had to have you on my back in the Ergo. You had a fever for a full week, went back to diapers (new pull-ups, which you took to calling “undies”) and were so pale and quickly thin, we hardly recognized you. One night you showed enthusiasm for eating whatever random food we had but then, in the hour I was out tutoring, threw it all up, your shrunken tummy too overstuffed. Then you ate nothing for two days and when you finally told us to see how your rice tortilla was a plane a few nights later, we knew you were back.
I was kind of stressed out and busy before you got sick, so I was not fully present to your coolness for a while there. Having had to pause to deal with illness, now I’m having so much fun watching you learn about the world and get excited to show me things you’ve come up with. Normally I try to acknowledge what you’ve done without judging or heaping empty praise, in line with what I’ve read of Alfie Kohn and Unconditional Parenting. But when I videotaped you today, I was trying to capture some of your verbose essence and so kept prompting you to make you talk. I asked you questions and said, “Good!” when you shared a response. (Your father assures me this does not sound like the normal me.)
Even though I hate listening to myself, I’m glad to have captured a long convo for your part. I asked what else you ate with rolls at the Waldorf school (thinking butter), and you said, “Enzymes” (as in digestive enzymes, which we’ve been taking for the last few months). “But you forgot to bring my enzyme yes-ter-day,” you added, using the word that has come to mean “at any time in the past.” I asked you what the weather was like today and you said, “Well, it stopped raining!” To my inquiry about it being cold or warm, you replied “It was freezing!?!” and then proceeded to describe your time outside this morning running down the hill in our back yard.
I know from watching that older babble video the other day that I really will forget what life was like at this point in time. The more I write, the more I can hold onto. And I hope for you that all this time I’ve spent writing — while mostly for me to keep me sane — will possibly tell you something about yourself that you’re glad to know.
I sure do love you. Thanks for teaching me so much.
Your mama, Jess