David turned two years old last Friday, and the weekend before we had a little birthday party for him. It was small, mostly family and a few friends. We ordered pizza and made cupcakes. It was nothing like last year, when I stayed up late looking at sailboats on Pinterest, made the most complex cake I could find, finished house projects, and spent hours and hours making a slideshow commemorating the first year of David’s life.
It was a ball-themed party, so I threw every ball we owned into the back yard and served cheese balls for the kids. Theme party? Done.
Before the guests arrived, David ran outside and threw himself in the pool, fully clothed.
I would have liked a bigger party, with elaborate decorations and a performance by Jay-Z, but I’m just too tired and stressed to manage something like that right now. In fact, that sort of sums up me as a mom right now: tired and stressed. Neither of those things make any sense to David, especially the part about being tired. David’s never been tired. No, not even once.
I haven’t written an monthly update about David since he turned 21 months old. I thought it’d be ok because he wouldn’t change as much as he did in the first year of his life, but I was completely wrong. In fact, he changes every day. For example, today I asked him a question and he replied, “Sure.”
“Sure” is something you say now? Sure?
David’s vocabulary has exploded; he says so many words and phrases, it takes my full attention to keep up. Earlier this week when I put him down for a nap he said, “Turn on fan. Turn on music.” But I didn’t understand him, so I just stood over his crib offering him toys. Race car? Train? Dump truck? WHAT DO YOU WANT? He wanted mommy to chill out and get out of his room so he could sleep, that’s what he wanted.
It’s fascinating watching him make word associations and figure out when to use certain phrases. He pours water out of a cup while saying, “Oh no! Water fall down!” He gives misplaced apologies all the time, too. This week our friend’s dog barked near him and he said, “Sorry, doggy.”
This morning, while I was nursing Mary Virginia, he repeatedly hurled himself at my back, but it was ok because, before each time he said, “Oh, sorry Na-ee.”
David still calls me Na-ee, even though he can make the “m” sound. He has no problem saying Elmo or Meow. When I say, “David, say MAMA,” he repeats it with no problem. Maybe I haven’t earned the privilege of correct pronunciation, unlike Elmo our cat. It’s ok, though, I’m not alone. He calls Mary “Nary”.
Every morning, when David sees me for the first time, he says, “Oh, HI NA-EE!” I’ve spent months and months trying to convince him to call me “Mama”, but now I’m going to be sad the first time he rounds the corner and says, “Hi, Mommy!”
In fact, I’m going to miss all of his two-year old words and phrases because I know I’ll forget them. I want to write everything down and fill our house with lists and lists of David-isms, like how he calls himself “Da-did”, or when we ask him if he’s ok and he says, “I fine” or exclaims “I SEE TRACTOR!” while we’re out for a walk, or the time he called a catfish a “meow fish“. When we got home from vacation, he walked from room to room re-discovering his toys and exclaiming, “I find tractor! I find puzzle! I find blocks!”
It’s that sort of exuberance that I don’t want to lose. I want to hold it in my hand, hide it away and keep it from slipping away into yesterday.
Just as quickly as he’s learning language, David is learning the power of language. One day I told him it was time to get a new diaper. Instead of just screaming, he threw himself on the floor and said “No, STAY HERE!” When you hear your kid say something like that for the first time ever, it stops you in your tracks.
When we taught him to say please, he rifled through the dictionary in his brain and found the definition, “If you use this word Mommy and Daddy will give you anything you want.” Especially if you smile and put your hands in your lap and say, “Treat, please, Na-ee.”
You try to say no to that, I dare you.
If you do summon the courage to say no, you better get comfortable because David will ask again and again and again and will stop breathing and sacrifice his dignity by throwing himself on the floor on the middle of Target because that ball he sees? That ball is totally worth it.
David’s also growing increasingly aware of himself. He’s unsure in new situations, and likes to hug my leg or bury his face in my shoulder when he meets someone new. This side of him is interesting, because he’s such an out-loud kid; he’s the kid who jumps off the dock and doesn’t mind going underwater.
The personality trait that is even stronger than his wild side is his analytical side. He’s an observer, and he always has been. We took him tubing behind the boat and he was thrilled, but when we passed a crane, he tuned out the boat and the water and wind in his face and focused on the crane — pointing at the crane, staring at the crane, shouting CRANE! CRANE! He gets this from Tom, who, instead of doing two things at once, just does one thing well.
In social situations, he just needs a little time to assess the new people and surroundings. Once he does that he explodes into a screaming, spinning, jumping toddler who siphons attention from where ever he can get it.
It’s interesting, as a mom, to see your child develop a new side of their personality, a side that was probably there all along. It’s also wonderful to be that leg he wants to hide behind.
David still loves playing with balls, but he also loves to build with blocks, draw with chalk, pick tomatoes from the garden and to GO OUSSIDE! He loves to be outside, even when it’s hot or muggy or when Mommy needs to nurse his newborn sister. At least once a day I have to resist the urge to say, “Mommy doesn’t want to go outside. Want to watch TV?”
Like most little boys, he loves playing with trucks and trains and tractors. Every minute we spend in the car is a hunt for some sort of vehicle. I’ll point out a dump truck and he’ll stare at it, frozen in awe. Once we pass it and the trance is broken, he immediately says, “More dump truck.”
Sure thing, David, I’ll see what I can do.
There’s a lot of attention given to the first year of a child’s life. The first year is important, but the second year is when kids learn to walk and talk. Those things are huge. Those are the things that separate us from the animals.
I suppose David has the rest of his life to figure out the other things that make us human, like sleeping past 6 a.m., or the ability to spend the 45 seconds it takes for Mommy to put raisins in a bowl doing something other than melting into a puddle and screaming SHAISINS! SHAISINS! SHAISINS, NA-EE!! SHAISINS!
The biggest change in the last few months is that David is now a big brother. He’s handled this change, this huge, incredible change like a pro. Not only does he have someone else in has space, but suddenly Mommy and Daddy are tired, extra grouchy, and occasionally unavailable. Suddenly, when he lifts his arms and says, “Na-ee, hold you,” I can’t always hold him right then. Unfortunately for David, his sister arrived at the same time as his two-year molars. That’s a lot for a little boy to handle.
Sure, he’s had a few rough patches. He gave up a few naps and threw a few plates of food across the dining room, but overall David has handled this transition remarkably well.
The lessons that come with a sibling are a big. With new urgency, we’re asking him to employ patience and gentleness and self-control. These are life lessons, these are things that I have to pray for, starting at 5 a.m. when Mary Virginia begins the day, and ending 14 hours later at bedtime when David’s running around the house throwing toys, swinging the cat by his tail, and screaming YOLO!!
He’s just two, I have to remind myself. And being two is about exploration and building towers and being tucked in at night.
You are very, very good at being two. All those books and pamphlets at the doctor’s office should have your picture with the caption, “This kid? He’s two.” You’re curious and energetic and unpredictable. You’re full of tantrums and questions and have the attention span of, what were we talking about? BICYCLE! MONKEY!
You have mastered being two, and me? I’m running to catch up.
There are lots of times when things aren’t going your way and I have to pick you up and hold you to my chest while you’re kicking and screaming. In those volatile moments, I try to stay calm and create a quiet space where I kiss your head and tell you I love you; I whisper a quick prayer for patience and love. You scream through it all while I do my best to inhale and exhale. It’s in those moments that I get a glimpse of how enormous, all-encompassing, and deep-reaching God is. While I am limited, impatient, selfish, He is love. When you are inconsolable, I can offer an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine; God offered his Son to die so that we might live.
For two years I’ve been by your side; a tentative and nervous first-time mom. I hold my breath while you climb up to the sliding board, and every night before I go to bed, Daddy and I check on you and smile at you asleep in your crib. You’re always laying there, exhausted, still holding a truck or a train with your hands suspended mid-play.
I won’t stop holding your hand or telling you to be careful, but we’re entering a new phase, a scary and exciting phase where, more often what you need from me is for me to step back and let you unfold and take on the world.
But in spite of that, I hope you know that as long as you lift your arms and say, “Na-ee hold you!” I will.