Mary Virginia is sixteen months old. If you’re a careful reader you might have noticed that I didn’t write a fifteen-month update. I’ve been late with updates before, but I’ve never completely skipped one. I’ve justified it, though. After all, we’ve been busy, I spent most of last month recovering from summer travel. Most importantly, Mary Virginia is my second child. I’m also a second child, so I’m well-acquainted with the life of unfairness and inequity she has in store. So, Mary Virginia, this is how you do it: “Mo-o-om! You wrote a fifteen-month update for David, but not me! My life is totally unfair!”
To add to the injustice, since we no longer have a DSLR, all of these photos (except the last one) are from back when she was 15 months old.
Sixteen-month old Mary Virginia wouldn’t even recognize fourteen-month old Mary Virginia; she’s totally different. She has 12 teeth now, says close to 30 words, has traded her high chair for a booster seat, and has a definite opinion about what she wears every day. Some things are the same — she’s still a picky eater, she loves lawn ornaments, dolls, books, and climbing much higher than she is allowed to climb.
These past two months, we’ve set a new record. Mary Virginia hasn’t been sick at all. She hasn’t been on antibiotics or to the doctor for a sick visit in two months. That’s the longest streak since January.
There is also another big, huge difference that stands out from the rest. A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, Mary Virginia started sleeping through the night. After sixteen solid months of consistent night wakings, we put her to bed one night and she didn’t wake up until the next morning. It’s still new, so it feels both tenuous and luxurious. We’re sleeping through the night.
Whenever you say things like this in a public way, it feels dangerous. Like the universe will read this blog and start organizing efforts to ruin it. But you know what? I don’t even care. Now that I’ve gotten a few solid nights of sleep, I feel like I can take on the universe, no problem.
After sleeping all the way through the night, the first thing Mary Virginia says to us in the morning is, “DOO!” It’s how she says shoe, and Tom and I know that our number one role as her parents is to keep close tabs on her shoes. She loves her shoes, specifically a pair of Champion hand-me-downs. The only time she doesn’t wear them is when she’s sleeping or when we have to dress her. She doesn’t have a lot of patience our inability to put her pants on over her giant shoes.
Next, she asks for her milk. MIL! She says, over and over. Then, milk in hand, she starts a full-house search for her favorite outfit. Every day she asks to wear the same thing, a Virginia Tech jersey Tom got for David. She’s pulled it out of his drawer, from the dirty clothes hamper, from the laundry basket. She brings it to me, holding it out saying “dat” and drops it at my feet.
Then, wearing her jersey and shoes, she walks over to the front door and starts requesting to go outside. OUSIDE! OUSIDE! She doesn’t care if it’s raining or cold or if Mama hasn’t had a chance to drink her coffee. Most days, often by 8 a.m., David, Mary Virginia and I are all outside. She used to want to look for lawn ornaments the whole time, delighted by tiny stone kittens and bunnies, but now she just wants me to push her around in a dinky little umbrella stroller. It’s so dinky that I have to lean over to push, one I have to steer with both hands, so I can’t drink a cup of coffee while I push. In fact, its the same umbrella stroller I reluctantly pushed David in the day before Mary Virginia was born, when we went to Kroger to get a refund for the bag we accidentally left.
When she’s in that stroller she’s perfectly content for a long time. She sits quietly, kicking her feet back and forth, contemplating her role as Princess of the Neighborhood.
Mary Virginia loves dolls and stuffed animals, and she’s amassed a few favorites. She sleeps with a blanket, three dolls and a stuffed Elmo. But her all-time favorite doll is always the doll that someone else is holding. And partially because Mary Virginia is so very adorable, but especially because she is entirely dramatic and throws herself to the ground when she doesn’t get her way, she often gets to hold any doll she pleases.
One thing Mary Virginia does not love is taking baths. She used to love them, but one day that all changed. Her reaction is so strong that I’ve spent several nights trying to remember if she had some sort of traumatic event in the water. Once, she cried so hard after a bath that she threw up. We give her infrequent, quick baths that don’t require her to sit in the water. Slowly, it’s getting better. The most frustrating thing isn’t that she’s almost never clean; it’s that the whole time David’s in the bath, she acts like she wants to get in with him, raising on her tiptoes and leaning over the edge of the tub. Then we plop her in and she dissolves into screams and tears of betrayal because HOW COULD WE!?!?
Mary Virginia spent a few weeks with a giant scrape on her nose. She fell on the sidewalk, and I didn’t see it because I happened to be having a serious conversation with her brother about not hurting his sister. I heard her crying and when I turned around and saw her on her belly, I figured she was having one of her throw-my-body-on-the-ground tantrums. But she wasn’t.
From the looks of the aftermath, she tripped over her DOOs! and did a nose-first-dolphin-jump into the sidewalk. Coincidentally, David scraped up his face when he was her age, too, starting a tradition that there isn’t a page for in most baby books.
She scratched it several times, and it looked much worse before it looked better. Whenever strangers saw us, they stopped to fawn over her and express their condolences. They’d look at my little cherub with bumps and bruises, wearing a Ryan Williams football jersey and say, “Poor little guy! He looks tough!”
And I’d just nod and say, “Yes, yes he is.”
Dear Mary Virginia,
By the time you’re old enough to read this, I hope you know me well enough to know that I’m joking about the whole second-child injustice thing. I hope you know that, if I could, I’d write 1,000 words about you every single day, about how you’re growing and changing and every day you surprise us with new things you’re learning and doing. How you laugh and laugh and laugh at your brother, how you try to launch yourself out of your car seat every time I put you in it, how you always help us clean up at the end of the day, how you love to stand on top of the toy box, how you squeal when Daddy chases you around the house.
If you ever, even for a moment, wonder if you are completely loved, the answer is yes — yes, yes, yes. We love you so much, Mary Virginia. And you are completely known and entirely loved by your Creator; more than you or I could imagine. I pray that you’ll know and always remember that. It’s what I want you to know today, as my sweet cuddly 16-month old, and always.
Also, don’t ever tell David this, but you already call me “Mama,” and he didn’t start doing that until he was more than a year older than you are now. So that also helps you out in the whole family hierarchy thing.
From one marginalized second child to another.
I love you,