You are so quick these days, Finch. You smoothly pedal and maneuver your red radio flyer like a pro and scale the side of your little playground like a mountain climber. When on your big boy swing, you purposely tug the cords and turn your body to make the experience more interesting. You fell off once, onto your face on the soft grass, cried for a minute, and then were on again, demanding “faster!” I live in a state of simultaneous awe and fear as I watch you move, blonde curls crazier, wilder each day.
You hate for me to comb those curls, and it’s so hard to get you to agree to anything you don’t want to do. Getting you dressed and anywhere according to any kind of schedule requires serious strategy and speed. Sometimes I have to chase you. In two-year-old fashion, you respond poorly to force, moderately to counting to three, and splendidly to enthusiasm and game-playing. Often I find myself doing absurd things — laughing like a hyena, throwing a towel over my head and yelling “I can’t see!” — just to keep you entertained.
Yes, you laugh a lot, but you’re usually more difficult to please these days. You don’t just want water, but you want it in the orange cup with the orange straw, for orange is your favorite color. You won’t wear anything I specifically pick out for you, so I have to line up three things that I’m willing to settle for, and make a big deal out of letting you choose. Even your eating is pickier: you demand soy milk, never cow; you refuse yogurt altogether; and whereas you used to clean your plate of vegetables, you’ll now sometimes get distracted unless I threaten to eat your food, a trick that works with practically everything except for berries, tomatoes, and the occasional potato, which has no real counts against it except the fact that it rhymes with tomato.
Sounds are very important, I’ve noticed. Despite the fact that your teacher claims that these days, you’re having trouble using your “listening ears,” I know that you hear EVERYTHING. I’m not just talking about how you picked up the word “sucky” last night because I wasn’t careful enough; I’m referring to more subtle things. You pick up and make up your own rhymes in ways that completely crack me up, such as when, while recently going through one of your animals books, you came up with “poor boar” completely on your own, using appropriate intonation. But you don’t just use and perceive tone in speech; you hear vocal intonation in songs with words, and understand mood in musical compositions without words, identifying certain pieces as “sad” or “scary.” You may ask us to change a song if you don’t like the way it makes you feel, or perhaps you’ll demand to hear one ten times in a row, like the Spam All-Stars’ “Ochimini,” to which you know and sing the words, despite the fact that they’re in another language. Other times you’ll ask us to fast forward to a certain part of a song, like you’re in the habit of doing now with Strauss’s “Blue Danube.” “Strauss!” you’ll shout from the back seat. “Waltz! I want the bigger part!” And when it comes around again, you’ll pulse and swing your arms in the air right on beat. I’ll turn around to watch you, to participate, and sometimes you’ll smile. Other times you’ll order me to stop. “Don’t dance, Mommy! Don’t sing!” you’ll yell, and I’ll turn away, feeling stunned and rejected, even though I know I shouldn’t.
I have to work so much harder for your affection these days. You’re so unpredictable, and you don’t give hugs or kisses as readily as you used to. Recently, when a member of my family asked you for a kiss, you responded, “No thank you. Next time.” Each morning when you awaken, I go into your room with a smile and my sweetest voice, for you’re most likely then to crawl into my arms and let me cuddle you. Occasionally, though, you’ll kick me away for reasons I don’t understand. You have the power to wound — and you know it, too. Sometimes you say “Mommy, go away,” and then shortly afterward smile and ask, “Mommy is happy?” You’re experimenting with your own power over the feelings of others. You try to predict feelings, too, like when you do something new and say “Daddy will be so proud,” or when, after I explained how sheep are shaved for wool used to make sweaters and scarves, you stated, “and the sheep will be so sad.”
These days, you’re not just learning new things, you’re concerned about relationships between things. Whereas a couple of months ago you were content with identifying a tapir, a couple of weeks ago you started asking, “A tapir is related to a elephant?” And while you still love to identify each car or truck you see, now you also ask, “a backhoe is related to a excavator?” or state that the Prius down the street “is similar to Daddy’s car.” Your observations and questions are more complex, more fun, and even more challenging for us. Recently you asked me about a bird I wasn’t familiar with. “That one we don’t know,” I said. “We’ll have to find out. It’s a mystery.” “A mystery will bite you?” you asked.
You’re learning how to classify, compare and contrast, study cause and effect. Everything is related and connected to something bigger. Your newest favorite question is “We’re on planet earth? We’re spinning?”
Yes, we’re all in this together, spinning. Especially me.