You are in bed now, on the night of your second birthday, having gone to sleep in your usual way: quietly, calmly, happily, and early. Your usual bedtime these days is around 7:30, but tonight you were in bed no later than 7:15. You were a tired girl, worn out by two previous bedtimes that were close to 9:00, and two minor mishaps that left you sobbing. First, you were splashing in the tub in your favorite way, which consists of throwing your whole self down into the water with great joy, when your poor baby butt landed on your hard plastic baby doll who was taking a bath with you. You cried and cried, and even though you were soaking wet, I lifted you out of the tub and held you to me while you sobbed. Then later, after we'd eaten our leftover birthday cake and ice cream, you fell on your dad's guitar case and hurt your mouth, and you cried some more.
I've started this out by talking about your crying, and although it's true that you do seem to suffer some minor injury pretty much every day, it's also true that you laugh so much more than you cry. (I hope it is always this way for you.) You love to be tickled, you love to play with balloons, you love cake, you love Mama, you love Dada, you love Molly dog. You love to list, over and over, the things that you love, in just that way. We spent a good part of our last car ride together (our trip back home from Cincinnati) this way - "I love Mama!" "I love Katie!" "I love Dada!" "I love Daddy, too." "I love Molly Dog!" "I love Molly dog, too."
I love the way you say "mama" after almost everything you say to me lately. "Thanks, Mama." "More chip, mama." "Hi, Mama!" I love the way you somehow learned to start saying "see you soon" after you told someone goodbye. I love the way you come into a room and say "Mama's hand," as you grab my hand and try to pull me to wherever you want me to go. I love the way, when I tell you that it is bathtime, you shout, "Bath time!" and run to stand in front of the bathroom door.
Today I took some pictures of you, and as I looked at them (and as I looked at you), I thought, "she is not a baby any more. She is a little girl." You are growing up so fast, so well. You are so strong, so healthy. We have never taken you to the doctor except for your well-baby checkups. You walk, you run, you climb, you talk. You demand things, you tell jokes, you sing songs, you look at books, you dance to music, you play with the dog and the cats. You love to color with crayons, and lately you will draw a series of squiggles, each one slightly different from the other. Today you drew four squiggles on my pad of paper and told me what each one was: Daddy, Mommy, Molly Dog, Katie.
Have I mentioned that I love you? I love you.
Until less than a week ago, you were still drinking milk in bottles. Worse, you were taking bottles of milk with you to bed at night and for your naps. I knew that it was bad for your teeth to go to bed with a bottle, and we'd tried to cut back on bottles here and there over the past 9 months, but then you'd get a cold or wake up crying, and we'd give you a bottle to help, and before we knew it, you never went to sleep without a bottle. I justified letting it go on partly because I knew you didn't sleep all night with the milk pooling in your mouth - about 20 minutes after you'd gone to bed, we'd hear the bottle land on the floor of your room after you tossed it out of your crib. But still, I was a little embarrassed about the bottles. Finally, last Wednesday, a day that I worked from home, I decided it was enough. No more bottles of milk. In the morning, when you asked for a bottle, I told you no. I told you you could have a sippy cup full of milk, or you could have a bottle full of water. I told you that you were a big girl now. You are so big! You are so strong! Babies need bottles, but big girls don't!
You studied me somewhat seriously when I told you this, but you kept asking for a bottle. I didn't give you one, and eventually you turned your attention to something else. (Elmo? The Wiggles? Your crayons? I don't remember.) When it came time for a nap, you whined for a bottle, and when I asked you if you wanted a bottle with water, you said, "ok" in such a pitiful voice that it made my heart hurt. But I gave you the bottle with water, and you took it, and I put you down for your nap. And miracle of miracles, there was no crying. There was no protest. You went right to sleep. It went on that way all day, and for your second nap, and at bedtime. Occasionally you would ask for a bottle, and I would explain to you that you are a big girl. "Remember?" I say. "You are big and strong, and you don't drink bottles of milk." You haven't had a bottle of milk since last week, and as of tonight, you are going to bed without any bottle at all. We got rid of the bottles, without crying, without tantrums, without any disturbance of your sleep routine.
I am so proud of you.
The lack of drama over the end of the bottle surprised me, but it is really somewhat typical. It's not that you can't be dramatic - you can spin and tickle us and make crazy faces and repeat something a bazillion times and spit on us with your raspberrying with the best of them. You will laugh maniacally, but when it comes to protests and anger, you are, for a toddler at least, a minimalist. It's possible that I am jinxing us by saying this, but I will say it anyway: you have never thrown a tantrum. The closest you have ever come is that on ten or so occasions when you have not wanted to do something that we are telling you you need to do, you will lie down on the floor in silent protest. You don't cry, you don't scream, you don't kick. I call it your "silent tantrum." After about 10 seconds, I will ask you to get up, and then I will either pick you up or you will stand up on your own, and usually when you look at me, you are already ready to smile again. (If only I got over my frustrations so quickly!)
The other day your dad called me up at work to tell me about something that you had done, and he said that the terrible two's had begun. But I am pretty sure that when most people talk about the terrible two's, they are talking about a bad attitude, usually expressed in whining and yelling and crying and tantrums. It's true that you do whine on occasion (but who doesn't?). What your dad was talking about, though, is the much-increased frequency of times that you're causing trouble! Last week you not only climbed out of your crib for the first time, you also took the opportunity of your dad going downstairs to switch laundry over to take the top off of your sippy cup, pour your milk out onto the floor, and start licking the milk up. (Someday, when you realize just how much dog and cat hair is on our floor at any given time, you may realize how disgusting that is.) And yesterday your dad called me to tell me that you had started crying after he put you down for a nap, and when he went in, he found you huddled in the corner of your crib, naked - having stripped off your sleeper and your diaper - with two piles of poop in the crib. "Poop. Two poop," you told him, and then showed him the sole of your foot, where you'd stepped in it. You had taken off the diaper before pooping. You're definitely approaching potty training readiness.
Back when you were 18 months old, your father and I made a list of all the words you knew. There were a little over 40 words on the list. When you were around 21 months old, we updated the list, and found that it had grown to over 150 words. Now that you are two years old, I've thought about updating the list, but I'm really not sure that I could. Almost every day, you say a word that I didn't know you knew. You don't say everything clearly, of course. You aren't very good at saying R's or L's, you often confuse your B's and D's (and sometimes P's and T's), and sometimes you leave out consonants in the middle of words. Bottle sounds like "doll," love comes out like "wuv," bye sounds like "die," and bubble sounds like "dull." You call our friend Rebecca "Deck" (or "Deckdeck"), and you say "Ta" for Grandpa. (You can definitely say your b's - the other day, trying to get you to say balloon instead of "doon," I asked you to say "buh buh buh balloon!" You looked at me and obediently repeated back, "buh buh buh doon!")
One of your funniest mispronunciations right now goes along with a game you love to play. You will ask for a dog biscuit, and then you will run down the hallway with the biscuit, sometimes yelling, "go, go, Molly dog!" You then fling the biscuit onto the floor for Molly to eat. Then you immediately come back to the kitchen and ask for more biscuits. You love this game so much you could play it all day. I have to admit, it's pretty funny when you come into the kitchen begging for "more dick? more dick?"
I have been writing about you since before you were born. I did it partly for me, and partly for the people who I know like to read what I write. But mostly, I did it for you. I found out recently that many of the things I wrote for you after you were first born are gone forever, because I saved them at a site that is now gone forever, along with all of the journals of everyone who wrote there. I have the entries I wrote while I was pregnant, and I have what your father and I wrote about the story of your birth. I also have what I've written from the time you were six months old on. But the earlier entries are gone - and there is one in particular that I am so sad to have lost - an entry about the first week of your life, with one section for each of the 7 days of that week and one picture for each section. When I realized that that entry was gone forever, I got really sad. Yesterday morning I realized I didn't have that entry, and I cried.
I told your dad that I might as well not have written it, because after all, I had written it for you, and you would never get to read it. I felt like I had, in a small way, failed you as your mother. (If I'd never written it at all, that would be one thing. But to have written it and then not to have protected it? I felt awful.) You came into the room, then, while I was crying and getting dressed for work, and you looked at me. "Mama sad," you said. "Yes," we told you. "Mama is sad."
"No sad, Mama," you said. "No sad."
I think this might have been the first time I've known you to show and express compassion for somebody else. And it was just this little thing, but somehow it put things back in perspective for me.
You are growing up so fast. It's hard to believe you are two years old already. I often think about what you'll be like when you are 3, or 8, or 15, or 20. I hope that we're helping you learn things that will help you to be happy when you are a grown up. Your Grandpa Bagley emailed me a couple of months ago about the qualities he had hoped to see and nurture in his children ("a list: honest, confident, independent, good-humored, appreciative of life and its trials, self-thinking, true, able to love and permissive of love (letting others love you), good worker, considerate, i wouldn't know where to end the list; of course i've been describing you and josh"), and asked me if I ever thought about what qualities I hoped to see in you. Here is part of what I wrote back to him:
"I liked your list and feel pretty proud and happy that you think I have those qualities. Those are qualities I'd like (or that I'm glad) to have, too, and I hope Katie has those, too. I do wonder about her, of course, and who she will turn out to be, what she will be like, what she will care about....I would like her to be confident and proud of her abilities. I would like her to be more loving of her own body than I usually am (I'm not sure how to teach that part, but I figure that part of it is probably setting an example, so being happier with my own body will probably reflect well on her). I would like her to be honest, with herself, and with other people. I would like her to think it's ok to cry if you're touched by something, and that's it's also ok to laugh. It's ok to be sad sometimes, and it's also ok to let go and be happy. I would like her to care about other people and to show that she cares. I would like her to keep her finances in control earlier than I did (not that I would love her less or lose faith in her if she had financial issues, just that I would like to save her some of the pain). I would like her to know that she is valuable and worthy of love (which is basically one of the things you said), and I would like her to have lots of people in her life that she loves and who love her. I would like her to be curious and creative in whatever ways she thinks her talents or interests lie."
I hope you have all of these and more. I hope that I am a good mother to you. I am pretty confident about that; I believe that I'm a good mother. Even on the days when I am unsure about how well I'm doing with other things in my life, you've given me that gift - I am proud of the relationship I have with you. I sure hope I'm right, and that someday you are proud of us, too - because baby, you deserve nothing but the best.