Two

I have been listening to a lot of talk lately about the heatwave we’ve had in Portland the past few weeks. This is extra amusing when you grew up in a place that was routinely hotter than 120 degrees during the summer months. But Portland is neither prepared for heat or air conditioned in any way, so I mostly just nod my head and agree and park myself in front of our window unit. Or head down to the pool with our giant sun hats and spf 50. But when I hear things like, ‘I can’t remember the last time it was this hot for so long!’ I can barely stop myself from saying, ‘ACTUALLY, I CAN.’ Because I was 9 months pregnant with Ewan. And then in labor for five days (yes, five), during an equally brutal heat-wave. I will always be grateful to the kind friends who collectively gifted me an inflatable pool for the backyard, so I could float weightless after working on my feet all day long. Every second of that month is etched into my memory–swollen toes, the dry grass and withering hydrangea, the pounds of watermelon I ate. I was waiting for the thing that I knew would change my life, although I didn’t know how. I was waiting for Ewan. And today he is two.

I’ve been allowing myself some nostalgia (because I’m a sucker like that), and thinking about all the ways things have changed, the ways that I have changed, but I have also been thinking of how much has stayed the same. Because that’s the wonderful thing about kids. You get to nurture them and teach them kindness, but they are already born complete. Totally themselves and fully formed. Hopefully, you get to spend the rest of your life getting to know them. I’ll never forget when the leader of a moms’ group I attended once told me (and the others) that we would only be able to truly perceive our babies’ personalities later on, because she was completely wrong. Wrong like whoa. When Ewan was four weeks old I wrote this post, and this line always jumps out at me, ‘His eyes are dark, dark blue, always wide open. He is calm, not particularly sleepy (alas), and strong.’ And nothing, absolutely nothing about what I wrote that day has changed.
He is one of the most observant, gentle, and thoughtful people I have ever known. And he is still strong. He is my Ferdinand. He did eventually begin to sleep, at around 20 months, but he wasn’t born with the ability to turn his brain off like most folks, so I sometimes still hear him talking or singing to himself in the middle of the night. Obviously, I will never again use the phrase, ‘sleep like a baby,’ to mean anything other than being awake 24 hours a day for almost two years. I have worried, as he has gotten older, about how much to share about him online. I’ve loved having a record of his first year, and every 52 weeks post is precious to me. I love to talk about what we are reading and the little things we do. But the question of privacy comes up more often now, as I realize what an intensely introverted person he is, and that he will have his own feelings about all this eventually. But I don’t want to let a birthday go by without remembering how he is, at right this very minute.
He loves to run. FAST. Preferably with a stick. Preferably at the park and away from the playground, where the screaming kids who never stop screaming are sometimes too much for him… and me, let’s be honest. Good call, Ewan. Often he will find a similarly minded little buddy to (quietly) dig in the mud with, or some dogs to greet, or birds to spot, and like many little boys, I think, is happiest outside, with a lot of dirt. He surprises me with his fearlessness and ability to brush off just about any fall or scrape. He is not quite as resilient when it comes to social interactions though, and we are working really hard on learning to just walk away when other kids are too loud or intense or aggressive. In case you’re wondering, that is about 95% of toddlers and at least 75% of older kids, so social outings are a mixed bag these days. But when he loves someone, he loves them with the fire of a thousand suns, and it has been amazing to see how deeply attached he is to the people in his life (both big and small) with whom he feels comfortable and safe.
He loves blocks, and spends whole mornings building, “BIIIIIG towers!’ and knocking them down just so he can start all over again. His love of coloring and drawing and painting and sidewalk chalk and working with stickers and playdoh continues to amaze me, mostly because I cannot draw a stick person to save myself. He is already practicing letters, and trees, and experimenting with colors, and trying to stay inside the lines and holy crap, SLOW YOUR ROLL, baby Van Gogh.  Just kidding. Kind of. (All mothers are allowed to think their children are special snowflakes, right?) His concentration is intense. He will focus on the same activity for hours sometimes. It used to make transitions difficult for him (with eeeeeepic tantrums), but he has made leaps and bounds in that department these last few months. Either I am finally figuring out how best to deal with them or he is learning to take things in stride. Probably both. Unless it involves Thomas the Tank Engine, in which case you’d better be prepared for a Lord of the Rings scenario.
After a long time wondering if I would ever hear much of his gravely little voice, he is suddenly talking a blue streak, and there are so many words I secretly hope he will never pronounce correctly: quen-quens (penguins), yoda (yogurt), chish (fish), and straw-babies (strawberries–which applies to the whole berry family),  just to name a few. He is starting to really communicate, ask for things, tell me when something hurts, describe what he sees, but he is still mostly a reserved little fellow who listens more than he speaks. His quest to learn to read continues, and he can identify all 26 letters, upper and lower case, and the phonics sounds for each. He ‘spells’ words with foam shapes in the bathtub (that mean nothing), but it’s so neat to see him try. When people ask us how we taught him all of this, I just tell them it was because I showered every day while the show Super Why was on, thus further cementing my ‘mother of the year’ status.
He loves counting, and music, and singing songs, but he especially loves reciting books to anyone who will listen. When you are a small person with big feelings and a limited vocabulary, the world can be a confusing place. I think books give him (and kids like him) words for things he doesn’t know how to express yet.  Someone gave him a copy of Are You My Mother, a few months back, and even though it has never been my favorite (I’ve always preferred the much more inclusive, A Mother for Choco), he has been obsessed with it. I would hear him reciting the book to himself as he played with his animal figures, or in his crib in the morning, or whenever he was feeling scared, and I never could understand why, until one afternoon when I came home after he and his grandma had spent the day together. He crawled up into my lap, laid his head on my chest, and said very clearly but in the smallest whisper,

I know who you are.
You are not a kitten.
You are not a hen.
You are not a dog.
You are not a cow.
You are not a boat,
or a plane, or a Snort!
You are a bird,
and you are my mother.

And it made perfect sense. One day he will be able to tell me he loves me, or say ‘I missed you, Mommy.’ Until then, we have a book about some birds. And it is enough. The chance to be able to get over yourself every day is a gift. To realize your preferences and tastes pale in comparison to what is being offered to you instead. And what a wonderful life it is, to get to love someone this way. To watch them grow up. To write it all down.

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