I was certain this letter to you would be ready on your actual birthday. In fact, I tried to draft it numerous times in the weeks and days leading up to June 13. And the day came and nothing I wrote so far seemed right. And I re-visited it later that night and the next day and the next day… and now here I am. I don’t know if it’s the OCD in me that wanted to make sure there was a letter. I suspect it has more to do with me trying to do justice to something I started that means the world to me, something I am worried will change drastically when your sibling comes along. Because I am realistic and know that where I already fail at keeping track of photos and videos and ordering hard copies and uploading and downloading and backing up and a million other things will completely disintegrate when we have two.
So here I am, on an eve so to speak, writing to you- still, at this very moment in time, the only one who walks around as my heart outside my body. And I don’t know what to say that is right.
Two is monumental. Year birthdays are, aren’t they? Probably they don’t actually signify the moment in time as indicative of the most change but they are the milestones we live by and I fall prey to the concept too. And at two you are amazing to me. You speak, not just in words, but in sentences – in coherent thoughts that let me know your wishes and a beginning look into how you view the world. And isn’t that miraculous?
You stop whatever you’re doing when you hear an ambulance and you declare “siren!” You matter-of-factly tell people “Daddy gone” after he has left for work. You muster every adorable bone in your body to look up at me and say “pea, mommy, cheese. Pea, mommy.” And it’s not manipulative, yet. I mean, cheese is awesome. It’s one of my favorite foods too. And so we have cheese together, and you always want two. And I must still be a sucker mom still in her honeymoon phase because when you have a full-tilt meltdown over me giving you the wrong cheese or having the audacity to open a cabinet where you might have glimpsed cookies, I usually feel serene. I do. What is wrong with me?
We had a mommy-son date to The Natural History Museum on your real birthday. And I am sure I imagined it to be like a scene from an uplifting movie. Cute chic prego mommy strolls hand in hand with adorable toddler who marvels at the dinosaurs and then we share an ice cream cone. What actually happened is that I am a huge-bellied uncomfortable mom that now only wears yoga pants and eyeglasses every day and we rode the bus to the museum and I had to jam the stroller into the handicapped space and wait for a seat and then I missed the stop and the driver had to tell me which way to walk in South Kensington. And then in the museum, the separate entrance for strollers was confusing and I kept taking the wrong lifts and because I am 38 weeks pregnant I have to pee every 5 minutes so we were always looking for bathrooms and more than not they were’t handicap-accessible, so I had to do my business with the stall door wide open just so I could keep an eye on you. When we walked the corridors of the museum, you were full toddler and absolutely refused to hold my hand. And can I just reiterate how pregnant and uncomfortable I am these days? So with one hand I was pushing a stroller and with the other either letting you flail on the ground in defiance over hand holding, or I was trying to weave rapidly through hordes of people to make sure my eye never lost track of you. And boy can you run. Toddlers run. Fast. In and out, you weaved and bobbed. Every type of stuffed animal or bones you saw you would say “DINO!” and I loved every minute of it. Even though I had been defeated by a 2-year old. Even though I was rabidly and maniacally jealous of the woman whose kid was in one of those weird leash contraptions and wished so badly I could do the same. We had lunch and you didn’t want your mac & cheese, so of course I ate it and kept thinking: what child refuses mac & cheese? But you liked your juice and you liked the dinos, and even though the bus ride home took a terrible hour in rush hour with some unhelpful people aboard, I would call the day a beautiful success. Because we spent it together, just us. And that’s not going to happen a lot soon.
People always tell us how friendly you are, how open, how smiley, how congenial and not shy and how flexible and adaptable and fun. I have nothing to compare you too. But I agree. You give hugs and kisses and love saying hello and goodbye to people, multiple multiple times. You go to bed when you should and really like green peas (you say, “Tasty!!”) and you are showing an interest in the potty that is making your parents very excited. You build Legos into towers and the pretend to lick them while saying I CREAM! When you want to go outside, you bring us your shoes and sweater. When you see Daddy is leaving in the morning and it makes you sad, you cry for me to put on your shoes. We never want you to be sad and luckily one day you’ll realize what people do at offices and maybe you won’t be sad on those mornings.
Jonah, you are now perfect with all the grandparent names and some of your aunts and uncles. You know the Skype beeps mean you will be seeing one or two of them. You love the playground still and when we get close you start saying pawp, pawp, pawp, PAWP, PAWP, PAWP, PAWP! Every day you are bolder with the ladders and slides and trash can shaped like a bear. You love to turn over these cloth baskets we have onto your head and wear them as hats for hours. They make us laugh each and every time. You absolutely have a British accent that is stronger- my favo(u)rite might be how you say “Hello.” You can walk up stairs, climb onto the couch, sleep on a pillow, figure out what food is in the cabinet, stir eggs into batter, drink from a cup (with help), use utensils like a master – even chopsticks which you like to just stab at food with -, run, climb, go down a slide headfirst, jump in the water, eat bath bubbles, help clean and wipe and sweep, pat me on the knee and give hugs on command.
You love toy cars and trains and planes possibly almost more than anything else on the planet earth. You play with them for what seems like hours, always figuring out new machinations of combos and tracks and things they can do. But you still would rather play near us and so sometimes the cars run the length of the shower or the toilet seat or the middle of our fluffy down comforter. You do this thing where you love to say Hi to Daddy and me. But it has to be only when one of us is distracted with a task, or the computer, or cooking or lost in space. You meanwhile would have been playing independently, super absorbed in running matchbox cars over every surface. I have no idea what triggers it but every now and then you just stop, come up to me, look me squarely in the eyes, and then say “HI MOMMY.” with total intention, focus, energy and sweet love. And I always say Hi JONAH back. And then you’re satisfied, and you go back to the business at hand of cars and trains and planes. Until you decide to find the other parent. HI DADDY.
In the mornings after you have called for us and we rescue you, you say very simply, “Toons” and you get onto your exact toon-watching spot on the couch waiting for us to turn the tv on to CBeebies on Channel 71 and then to deliver you one peeled banana and one sippy cup of half juice-half water. I blame Daddy for you having a morning routine. It is his DNA. You hate having your teeth brushed and it is impossible to make it happen because if I stick my finger in your mouth, you bite down. And I am shocked how painful that is. You have all your teeth now and the one time I was trying to joke around and stick my finger in your mouth, the bite took me by such painful surprise, I actually wailed aloud.
Speaking of crying, when I cry you come right over to me and try to soothe me. The other day I had a little bit of a meltdown at your father. I wanted him to videotape us and he wasn’t taking it seriously and so I launched into my well-worn speech about how mothers never get to be in pictures or videos with their kids and one day he would regret that and our children would never have any proof in their adult years that their mom was young, maybe not so bad-looking and tender and loving and fun. And Daddy, as he does and as daddies do, looked at me as though he was very confused by what I was saying. So then I blamed it on hormones but the whole time I was dramatically crying into my pillow, you were climbing all over me telling me in your high-pitched perfectly sweet 2-year old voice that it would be okay, mommy. Mommy.
You’re still my baby. Still with your diapers and giggles and the fleshy fat on your forearms that meets the fleshy chubbiness of your hands in a dramatic wrist crease. Still you bounce when you run and still want to be held and picked up often. Still you babble in words we don’t understand and sleep with a pacifier (your “pop pop”) and snuggle stuffed dogs in your crib.
You’re 2 and so it’s easy to get nostalgic. I do sometimes when I look at old pictures. But nostalgia assumes that we are lamenting your growing up. On the contrary. It turns out that the worst thing I think people can ever say to a new parent is: “enjoy it, they grow up so fast.” 1. It’s a hopeless statement, not hopeful, and 2. It’s not really true.
Saying to a new parent to enjoy their baby/child now because before the parent knows it, the child will be all grown up is like saying to a bride on her wedding day: “enjoy every moment now because before you know it, your husband will be bald and fat, you will be wrinkled with irreversible sun damage and toting around saddlebags, and every morning will start out with a fight over who put the wrong thing down the garbage disposal.” But no one would say that, would they? Jonah, I know you’re 2 but I also know you have enough sense to understand.
I thrive on the wisdom of people who view parenting and parenting advice with eternal hope. Like those who say, “enjoy your baby, and please know it only gets better every day.” I know people who feel this way and I am so grateful they first inspired me two years ago. Because Jonah, I honestly think it gets better every day. I think the day you started putting the soft play basket on your head and running around was more hilarious than the day before. The morning you first said “Mommy!” in your crib so that I could swoon on the other side of the monitor was easily better than the day before. It’s more fun to eat together now that we all do Cheers and you can steal my food off my plate. When I watch you get chased by daddy, trick him, then fall into his tickle or wrestling traps while you squeal with delight… well, I know how good it is. And it makes me know that what happens tomorrow will blow my mind.
I wonder what you’ll be like as a big brother. Do you know you are just weeks, maybe days, away from being one? I know that you don’t. Because how can someone understand being a big brother until they are one. But I know you know there is a baby in my belly. You hug it and kiss it and will even share with it if asked. I see how you are with other people’s babies and I don’t worry for one moment. We are all going to fall in love with this new person, we three will.
Last week one morning I went in to make the bed. I had to pick up the comforter and try and straighten the rumpled sheets and when I jerked them back on my side of the bed, there was just one little lone Cheerio laying there. Alone. Solo. The Cheerio that got away. My brain needed only a second to fire the synapses necessary to register that it was from one of your wee early morning crawl-ins when maybe we let you have breakfast in bed and watch toons on the iPad so that we could pretend we still got to sleep for a little while. One little Cheerio on a vast white fitted sheet that made me think how precious it is to have a 2 year-old. To have little surprises of you around every corner. To not even be able to fathom that there will be a time when I might not be lucky enough to find a Cheerio in my bed. So my god did I love that Cheerio. I put it on my bedside table and every day when I thought to throw it away, I didn’t. The Cheerio had paralyzed me with meaning.
Yesterday morning you came into my room while I was folding clothes and your eagle eye spotted that week-old dusty Cheerio, and you popped it directly in your mouth. And you saved me from a lifetime of a Cheerio keepsake. And it was perfect.
You are my perfect 2-year old. I am beyond proud of your accomplishments and your imagination and your cleverness and your generous and happy spirit. I am humbled by your pure heart. I love playing cars with you, sharing a snuggle with your stuffed animal of choice and exclaiming over the goodness of shows and cartoons together. The way you run as a bounce from room to room, thing to thing, mommy to daddy, is my bliss.
Jonah Samuel, Happy (belated) Birthday my love. The greatest two years of my life. And just think what it will be like tomorrow!