You wander bow-legged up and down the hallway, too nervous to stray from the ledge on the wainscoting, trying all the doors. When you can’t open them, you knock. When you can, you squeal, giggle, and tumble into the next room. Every day in this house is a new exploration for you, and this is your favorite game. You chatter all the time, gathering new words like shiny rocks placed in pockets next to string and a leaf you found. You sing songs and periodically shout, “happy!” You are desperate to know how everything works, and want to be in the middle of it all. Sometime during the last fourteen months, I blinked and you grew from a baby into a child.
Your hair is always a crazy rat’s nest — too long in the front and back, too short on the sides, and I dare not cut it. You are often sporting the latest bruise on your forehead from trying to run before you really felt ready to walk (so like me in that regard), and your face and hands are always grubby. Baby gates and outlet covers have become polite requests to you, rather than barricades, and you say, “no, no” to yourself as you remove them. You are joyful and curious, and mercurial in the way that comes naturally and easily to young children. You sit beside me and empty papers from the recycle bin, examining each one, discussing it in your secret language, and arranging them on the floor around you. When you find one you really like, you stop to giggle. So this is toddlerhood.
You still love me, but your sun rises and sets around your Daddy right now, and the little stuffed dog we can never pry from your hands for a much-needed laundering. I am slowly learning to share the messy baby kisses and gleeful smiles a little more each day. I am filing away in my memory the smell of your hair as you snuggle under my chin and your sing-song cries of “Ma-ma! Ma-ma!”, as I begin to realize that this time exists to teach me that you won’t always be so tiny, and you won’t always be just mine. But this evening, I will tuck you under the covers of my bed, and hold you close, a tiny furnace; and we will stare at the slowly moving blades of the ceiling fan until your eyes droop and your breathing is slow and deep. Blessed be, little one.