Before I begin, I’d like to answer the two questions people keep asking me about Mary Virginia.
First, Mary Virginia has been sleeping like a champion. A CHAMPION. Well, ok. Maybe not a champion, but she’s been sleeping like a normal toddler. She wakes occasionally at night, but no one is singing nursery rhymes from midnight to 4 a.m.; no one is on the floor in a sleeping bag. I’m not sure what changed, except that Tom took over nighttime responsibilities, and he runs a MUCH tighter ship than Mama.
Second, just as predicted, my sweet little Mama’s girl has been turned inside out and upside down by the arrival of her new brother. But we all have, and all things considered she’s doing great. She’s been a little extra fussy, David’s been a little emotional and I’ve been a little impatient. In other words, we’re all acting like two-year olds.
Actually, maybe “a little fussy” doesn’t quite cover it. Mary Virginia spends most of her day playing the role of a heroine in a Greek tragedy that has no plot.
Here’s a sample conversation that happens all day at my house –
Mary Virginia: Where’s my doll-doll?
Mama: I think it’s in the living room
Mary Virginia: UNCONTROLLABLE WAILING
I’m not totally sure what’s going on. It could be two-year molars, adjusting to a new baby, or maybe she’s still reeling over the news that Zayn Malik left One Direction. I know I am. Maybe she’s just two, and that alone is a lot to handle. Maybe it’s all of the above.
To be honest, I’ve had a few tantrums myself in the past few weeks, and I cut my molars a long time ago.
When she’s not wailing, Mary Virginia is talking and singing.
She’s so remarkably verbal that strangers even comment on it. We were at a birthday party last weekend and Mary Virginia climbed onto a bench next to a woman she didn’t know. When I went over to check on her, the woman told me, “Your daughter asked me if anyone was sitting here.”
Today, she looked at David, who had just dunked his head in the water table, and said, “Look at your hair! It’s Ah-sgusting!” and then laughed so hard that she stopped breathing for five solid minutes.
Disgusting. My two-year old said disgusting.
It is both hilarious and incredible, and just to be clear, we did absolutely nothing to encourage her speech; I take zero credit. The only possible explanation is that I listen to a lot of NPR, and Ira Glass has an impressive vocabulary.
If Mary Virginia was on Facebook, the above photo would have to be her profile picture. She is an oblivious mess in a pile of Cheetos. She always thinks she’s charming and CANNOT believe how funny she is.
When David was two he responded to discipline by head-butting me. Mary Virginia just changes the subject. Today, we had this conversation:
Me: Mary Virginia, DO NOT snatch toys from your brother! Give that back to him!
MV (walks over, still holding the toy): I’m sitting on your foot! That will be so silly! HAHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHAHAHHAAAH!
Or, she reassures me by saying, “Iss ok.” Like, Mom you’re being ridiculous. Let’s just let this thing play out, you’ll see — it’ll all be fine.
Before he left for work, I heard Tom say, “Mary! You do NOT put Daddy’s phone in the trash!” As she closed the lid and walked away she told him, “Iss ok.”
She’s a little girl who doesn’t mind picking up worms but can’t stand to get her hair wet. She is hopelessly attached to me, and wildly independent. She is petrified of men she doesn’t know, but starts every day by cuddling with her daddy. She is shy, but demands attention; cautious and prim, but wild and confident. She is quiet and sweet, and she is the crazy lady waving a picket sign DEMANDING TO BE HEARD. She’s our Mare Bear.
If Mary Virginia could, she would eat all of her food in Popsicle form. She’ll do anything for a Popsicle, even stop screaming. Every afternoon she asks for a Popsicle as soon as she wakes up from her nap. She sucks the flavor out of the ice and then hands it back to me, saying, “Just one more then all done.”
Mary Virginia will not be occupied by TV or a basket of dolls or even an unsupervised electrical socket. But if I spread a towel outside (we call it a Popsicle blanket) and hand her a Popsicle, I have 15 guaranteed minutes of immobility.
After that 15 minutes is over, I tell myself, “Just one more. Then all done.”
Mary Virginia idolizes her big brother and is fascinated by her little brother. She and David fight all day long over her toys, his toys, the couch, their snacks, which colors are “boy” colors and which colors are for girls. Sometimes everything will be completely calm when, for no good reason, David will yell at her, “MARY! YOU’RE IN JUDGE!” Which means nothing, really. But it sends her reeling, and she runs to me screaming. And as I console her, and remind David of the importance of using kind words, I shake my fist at everyone who said two kids is easier than one because they’ll play together.
I run interference between Mary Virginia and David all day long, except for the times when I’m holding Thomas. That’s when I run interference between Mary Virginia and Thomas.
Whenever baby Thomas is nearby, she is doting, touching, looking. It would be adorable if I wasn’t so concerned about her putting a raisin in his ear. She says to him, over and over, “What’s he doin? It’s ok, ba-ee Thomas, it’s ok!” and when I ask her to sing him a song, she replies, confused, “He’s not crying?”
Now that baby Thomas is here, Mary Virginia nurses her babies and pats them on the back. Instead of caring for them the way I care for her, she mimics me caring for baby Thomas.
It is, I suppose, the clearest indicator that she’s no longer the baby in the house — she’s a big sister.
A two-year old.
Dear Mary Virginia,
It took me a very, very long time to finish this post because I’m just so, so tired. Our days are long and full. They start early and move at the pace of a boulder rolling downhill. And, me? I’m in a sleepy haze, chasing after that boulder with a dishrag, trying to wipe the peanut butter off its hands before it touches the couch.
We do a lot every day, even on the days we stay home and do nothing. And all day long, as we eat snacks and play outside and try to figure out if it’s worth it to clean up, I feel a gulf between the mom I am and the mom I wish I was. When you take three kids under the age of four and mix in this mess of postpartum hormones, the result is not always a box of rainbow sprinkles.
Let me explain.
You drive me crazy. Totally and completely crazy. You are always touching me, climbing on me; you always need at least one point of contact.
“Can I come?” You ask, any time I go anywhere. No, you cannot come. Because I’m just going inside to grab something and it will take me one second, ONE SECOND! But if you come the whole thing will turn into a Oregon Trail excursion.
“Can I come?” You ask, and I don’t answer because I already know the answer. You are coming.
You drive me crazy, and yet I love you so very much. When you don’t reach for me, I find myself reaching for you.
That’s the mama I want to be, always, tender and caring, responsive and patient — reaching for you. I don’t want to be the one on the other side of the gulf, responding with terse annoyance because can’t you see how busy I am?
I am so glad to not only know you, but to be your mama. To be the lap you want to crawl into every moment of the day, the arms you want wrapped around you. You burrow into my chest and rest your head on my shoulder, then look up at me with your giant beautiful eyes and and say, “I love you so much.” But you don’t have to say it because I can feel it.
When you walk into a room with your bright smile, full of exuberance and delight, all I can think is, “Can I come?”
I love you, my darling baby girl,