Baby has far and away been our happiest baby. She laughs easily, she plays independently, she cleans up without being asked, and she’s even nearly potty trained herself. She does still wake up at night, but hey, nobody’s perfect. I am absolutely head over heels infatuated and in love with her. Sometimes I feel like she lies awake at night contemplating just how to be even cuter and more delightful the next day – and then goes out and does it. Husband, our family, our friends, our neighbors, even random people at Target comment on how she exudes happiness and adorableness. I wish I could bottle up how I feel about Baby right now and the joy of being with her and save it for later. I’ve loved this age with all three kids, but I realized this past week that this is the first time I’ve parented a two year old without being pregnant with the next baby. When Older tuned two I was 20 weeks pregnant with Middle. When Middle turned two I was 6 weeks pregnant with Baby. As it turns out, parenting a two year old is even more awesome when you are not narcoleptically tired and throwing up every day. It makes me a bit wistful to think that I might have missed out on some fun with Older and with Middle at this age because I was so busy being pregnant as well as working. I’m still not 100% sure I am done with having children but I have absolutely no desire for another one right now; in large part because I don’t want anything interrupt this time with Baby.
On the nights that I have school Husband puts the older two kids to bed and then hangs out with Baby. We have a little bedtime routine that ends in my nursing Baby, then singing to her, and then she asks for Daddy who does the honor of rocking her to sleep. When I am out at school, Baby is perfectly happy, but no matter how many times she nursed earlier in the day or how much food she ate she won’t sleep without that final milky send-off. Of course, I tried to pump a bottle of milk to leave for her. She refuses to drink it. In fact, months ago when she was still in daycare they told me to stop sending bottles; they were a waste of my time and theirs. We’ve offered her cow’s milk in every matter of drinking container. She just laughs at us and points to the cup of milk and says “Middle milk”; Middle is the only member of our family who drinks cow’s milk. If I’m around for this conversation she looks over at me with a sly smile, points at my chest and declares “Me milk!” When I arrived home from school last night Husband carried her out to me and she was vibrating with happiness at my being home, “Me waiting!” she told me proudly. Although I nursed the other kids well past two years old, again, I’ve never nursed a two year old without being pregnant and working. When I was pregnant I tried to wean the toddler down to nursing only a couple of times per day; I was so tired and honestly nursing while pregnant does not feel physically comfortable. There went whole days we didn’t nurse at all if I was working late. Nursing Baby now is an entirely different experience. It’s kind of like nursing an infant – but way better. We nurse mostly on demand and it isn’t uncommon for her to nurse six to eight times a day. But there are none of the sore nipples or bad latch issues of nursing a newborn. When I need to leave her when she would normally nurse, she just eats more food instead or makes up for it later in the day. She’s old enough that I don’t need to ever pump and even if I did she wouldn’t drink it anyway. If she wants to nurse when we’re out I just tell her that we’ll do it when we get home. I will nurse her in public if we’re out for the whole day but that is rare so it’s not an issue for us. Of course we still get all the benefits of nursing. Rather than feeling imposed upon by all the nursing I look forward to the opportunity to sit and rest several times a day. I suck (pun intended) and relaxing and I probably wouldn’t sit down all day if it wasn’t to nurse Baby. I get to snuggle with my otherwise very active child. If we didn’t nurse I think all I would get was a quick hug before she ran off to conquer her next mountain. I never have to worry about her nutrition when she goes through one of the inevitable toddler picky eating phases. Baby rarely gets sick and when she does it is a minor annoyance, never anything even remotely serious. I had thought that I might feel trapped by her still nursing so enthusiastically, but on the contrary I feel happy to have her babyhood extended a little longer. Sure, I can’t go on overnight trips right now without her but I know that I will have decades of freedom ahead of me in a year or so. This time with Baby is absolutely finite. I will never be able to recapture it.
I haven’t been very good about keeping up a baby book for Baby but I want so badly to remember her as she is now. How a few months ago we and her daycare teachers were worried about her lack of comprehensible speech. Now she counts to 10 and knows all the letter of the alphabet and the sounds they make and sings and generally chatters all day long. Just last night I was holding a happy and very awake Baby, well after 9:00 pm, asking Husband why she [Baby] wouldn’t fall asleep at a decent time. I wondered out loud if she needed a much earlier bedtime like 7:00. To which Baby smiled and countered “8:00.” She understands everything we say. Letters make her so happy. She points them out on signs as we drive around town. She tries valiantly to draw them with markers and paper and is so triumphant when she succeeds. We can spend the entire 45 minutes waiting at Older’s karate practice drawing letters and then discussing what sounds they make and what words start with each letter.
About the only times that Baby are unhappy are in the middle of the night (cruelly, we think that time is for sleeping – she stridently disagrees) or when you interrupt one of her little obsessions. I am not joking that that’s possible that she has more than a touch of OCD. She is absolutely obsessed with making sure that all the car seat buckles “Buck!” are fastened whenever we are in the car or whenever we get out of the car. No matter that the car seats are empty – there are buckles and THEY SHALL BE FASTENED (ditto for the stroller or anything else with a fastener). She likes things put away. All the doors in the hall must be closed before she can fall asleep. Everyone’s shoes go in their proper place or she will yell at you. One day this summer she took a look at Older’s dirty shoes on the floor, shook her head in disgust, and then proceeded to go into the bathroom and wash the shoes before putting them back their proper place. She has a deep love of markers and paper and frequently runs around the house with an illicit marker gleefully cackling “Mark!” while I try to catch her before she marks something other than paper. We’ve tried to ingrain in her that paper is the only acceptable surface for writing and so I find her crouched over tiny slips of paper – a fortune cookie fortune, a receipt – drawing on them with a stray pencil. She can already jump with both feet clearing the ground and do a forward roll. She is too short to reach the pedals but wants to ride the two wheeler with training wheels. She loves to be thrown in the air, flipped, spun around, and wrestled with. She is a climber and will scamper up a ladder or into a raised bed in the blink of an eye. She mothers her baby dolls, lining them up in bed and patting them to sleep. She loved Halloween and every afternoon since then she has asked for “Me choca bag” [her bag of trick-or-treating chocolates]. She laughs at every pratfall, giggles at every silly word and sound (and already thinks that the words poop, snot, and fart are hilarious). In short, she’s awesome.
Whatever the circumstances and the pain that brought me to the point of not working this year, I am so grateful that I have this time with her now.