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New Mom Dispatch: This is 2

Learning the parenthood ropes one month at a time


One certainty about babies and kids is how often they change. Of course in some fundamental ways they remain the same — our Fiona still displays the same inquisitive observational powers at 2 years old that she did at 2 days old. And recently I laughed while reading a short journal entry from a year ago that mentioned her crawling away from what seemed like an enticing roomful of toys and toddlers at the library to go off exploring on her own, a signature habit even today (to the chagrin of her preschool teachers).

But when it comes to certain preferences and behaviors, what might seem like an immutable part of your child can just fade away a month later, often leaving behind barely a memory. It’s like what Mark Twain said about the weather in New England — if you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it’ll change.

This notion is both sanity-saving and sentimental-making — there must be a special word in the parenting dictionary for feeling nostalgic about something while it’s still happening. Whatever that word is, I’ve been feeling it more lately. I miss Fiona after she’s gone to sleep in a way that doesn’t make sense but aches in my chest. Maybe it’s because the last bits of babyhood are nearly gone (I tear up just to write it!), and in just a few months she’ll be a big sister — a marker of growing up if there ever was one.   

Bearing this in mind I feel compelled to put to paper a few of the defining markers of Fi at 2 years and 4 months old — some of which might also be evident in your household at this very moment.

Fiona has long prized her independence, but lately the cries of “Fi do it SELF!” have reached a fever pitch. The big difference is that suddenly she is able to do some things “by self.” For months the idea of her putting on her shoes was an indulgent joke. Then one day she’s confidently yanking close the Velcro straps and (yikes!) pulling open the front door. For weeks midway through putting on pants she abandoned the task with a growl of frustration. Then one day she figures out how to extract one leg from the overcrowded hole and put it in the other one. Last week she walked out of her room having put on her own diaper (yes, probably an undeniable sign of potty-training readiness). And last night she greeted the season’s first clementine by handily peeling the whole thing (and then four more), complete with a “ta-da!” at the end. Of course it’s all an ongoing process — shirts remain more elusive, cleaning up is very hit or miss. And because she can do some things herself, suddenly she must do them — or else. But the look of satisfaction that lights up her face makes it worth the slow going.

Another recent hallmark? She’s obsessed with boys. A few in particular, and she asks about them thrice hourly, alternating between wanting to see them, hold them or eat them. At school she follows around one in particular and claims to have dreams about him at night. Who does or does not have a penis is a constant topic of conversation. Are these crushes romantic or an expression of curiosity? Is this interest innate or learned? And are we in it — the name-dropping, the pursuit, the starry eyes — for the next … well, rest of her life?

A final major development has been her language. Quite suddenly sentences tumble out of her mouth where there used to be single words: adjectives, verbs and even adverbs in addition to the familiar nouns (“When did she learn to say then?!” I just exclaimed this morning). It’s amazing to behold, and it’s cracking open her personality and thoughts in exciting, endearing new ways.

And once she started attending preschool this past fall, she stopped napping cold turkey, a relatively devastating development for all involved in her care. It wasn’t even that she was meant to nap at school, which ends at noon; rather, once she got home she was too keyed up to downshift into slumber. But recently, yet another fresh development: we’ve been able to sing her to sleep in the rocking chair — something we haven’t done since she was a little baby. I’m not sure how long this will last. But for now I’m savoring the sweet sensation of hearing her breath turn measured and feeling her golden head grow heavy and her impossibly long limbs turn slack against mine. A phase I thought we had long since said goodbye to is circling back, if only for a short while.

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