The little dude will be 20 months in a week or so. He’s now one of the older kids in the under-2 room at his creche. When he started in January, he was one of the younger ones, and those toddlers with their competent walking and their words and their haircuts seemed impossibly old.
Yesterday we had a perfect day. It was glorious weather. We went to the park in the morning. It was still sunny when the little dude woke from his nap so we took the now defunct baby bath outside and filled it with water and he had fun filling up his bucket and carrying it to the drain, then tipping out the water and watching it disappear. We picked some camellias from the hedge and showed him how flowers float in water. He tipped his bucket all over his bare legs and feet and said “oh no!”. Because we hadn’t gone to the supermarket in the morning, the cupboards were full of useless things like flour and lentils and the fridge had a jar of gherkins and a jar of marmalade and half a wilted and pathetic celery, so we got burgers for an early dinner. The little dude had bits of burger and bits of chips, and cried when he accidentally ate the amazingly delicious sauce that the burger place makes from scratch and slathers over the chips, and which is fairly spicy. He stole my gingerbeer and ran away with it like a miniature drunkard, giving me terrified visions of him tripping up and smashing it on the ground and cutting himself.
It was still warm and sunny, so we went to the beach. The little dude went down the big slide on his dad’s knee. We took his shoes and socks and trousers off and we swung him up by his shoulders and skimmed his toes over the waves. Mr Daddy made a sandcastle and the little dude smashed it completely. I bought an iceblock and the little dude had a nibble (cold… but sweet… “MOAAR!”).
I sat on the sand watching my husband and son throw small shells into the sea and felt the baby, the new baby, the one in my belly, wriggle about a bit. The little dude barrelled towards me yelling “MUMMY! MUMMMMEEEEE”. When he wants a hug his approach is to tackle me.
After he went to bed that night, I saw his shoes and felt surprised at how small they are. Is he really such a small person? He feels pretty full size when he’s awake.
Last winter when the little dude was teething and crying a lot and sleeping badly and the days were wet and dark and I was at home by myself, I guiltily wondered when I would have a day that didn’t include several moments of feeling like parenting sucked. Yesterday wasn’t the first such day, but it was notable because at no stage did I have a moment of wishing the little dude was older. Maybe it’s the effect of being pregnant again, and wanting to enjoy this period where the little dude gets my full attention (and wanting to enjoy this phase of the pregnancy when I don’t feel like staying in bed all day any more but I’m also not all awkwardly full of a baby yet). Maybe it’s because last weekend my sister was visiting with her two gorgeous boys, and they’re 7 and 10, and it doesn’t seem so long ago that they were toddlers. They grow up! Her older boy is off to intermediate next year.
I didn’t mind when the little dude went from newborn to smiling laughing baby. I didn’t mind when he went from that baby to the bigger version that could crawl and play. I liked that version a lot, the version that lasted from about 8 months til 12 months. Then the walking version came along, and he was also fairly awesome.
Now we have the running climbing talking version. His language is coming on leaps and bounds, except that you have to really know him to figure out what the words mean. Sometimes when he can’t do something that he wants to do, he says “Mummy!” in a particular tone of voice that means “help me do this thing!”. When he sees a cup or a plate in the lounge he picks it up and says “AWAY!” and takes it through to the kitchen, and puts it on the table. When I’m singing him his lullaby and he’s falling asleep in his cot, he sometimes lifts up his arms and says “Mummy” and I say “more cuddles?” and he says “yeah” and nods his whole body. When he wakes up from his nap he stands up in his cot and says “ALL DONE!”. He calls all cats “Diddis”, which I think is a combination of “Freddie”, the name of our cat, and “Puss puss”, as interpreted by someone who can’t say the letters F or P. When Freddie comes and brushes himself against the little dude’s leg, he says “ah, Diddis!” with a voice full of laughter.
He loves balls, all balls, and apparently peas are balls but the big paper lampshades over the lights in our house are the moon. He likes buttons, a lot, and has been known to throw a tantrum when we got into the lift at my husband’s office which is one of those fancy modern ones where you press the button outside the lift and it directs you to lift B and there are no buttons inside. He loves babies. His favourite thing to watch on youtube is the extended trailer for the movie Babies. He loves reading a baby picture calendar that came free with an Oh Baby magazine and has been in our house since I was pregnant with him. He loves cars and anything that goes brrm, such as ceiling fans. At my parents’ place, he rides the rocking horse that was mine when I was his age.
I know I will miss this version of him forever. It’s not that I want him to stay like this. It’s that at this stage, everything that is potentially annoying or challenging is the flipside of something wonderful. I read an article about how toddlers can be frustrating because they need to be told things a million times, but actually in terms of their brain development it makes sense – their world changes at breakneck speed because they develop so quickly, so they constantly need to test rules to see which ones have changed. A couple of months ago we were trying to prevent the little dude from climbing onto the couch in case he fell, now he grabs a book, puts it on the couch, climbs up next to it, looks at the pictures, then shuffles himself off again. Things that we perceive as constants like “no biting”, “no throwing food”, “no hitting your trucks against the window”, and so on, are just some rules among many. It’s incredible to think of how it must be for him living life in such flux. It’s humbling that in that flux, his dad and I are the sources of guidance helping him navigate his world. It’s amazing.
When he’s big enough to get up and make himself cereal and watch cartoons and let me stay in bed a while, I’ll miss these days when his dad brings him in with us for a cuddle before we get up, and he blows raspberries on my cheek and runs his hand over his dad’s stubble. When he’s big enough that he understands that he can’t run straight towards a ledge and jump, I’ll miss the days when he had complete faith that I’d be there to catch him. When he’s big enough that he talks in full sentences, I’ll miss the days when I could understand him best. When he’s toilet trained I’ll miss tickling the back of his knees after I’ve put him in a fresh nappy. When he’s big enough to understand that bad things happen, I’ll miss the way I could make things better with a cuddle and a quick distraction. When he’s big enough to walk sedately and be careful with traffic, I’ll miss the way his first response to a wide open space is running, heedlessly, laughing at the delight of freedom.
I think most of all, I’ll miss this little body he has now. I’ll miss the chubby little forearms. I’ll miss how ridiculous he looks when he’s wearing just his singlet, so small. I’ll miss how he can lean his head on my shoulder and sit in my lap while we read stories, and how he tells me he wants to do this by saying “knee, knee.”