We were humoring ourselves watching Little Miss jump around in her crib, her now playpen, when our favorite cat sauntered into the room to check out the commotion. Then we heard a little voice demand, “Mac, get in the kib (crib)!”
My Guy and I immediately turned to look at one another and then at her, and we were both thinking the same thing, what was that?
But she repeated her command, “Mac, get in the kib!” which was promptly ignored by the cat, though it had the opposite effect on us.
My Guy reacted first: “When did she start speaking in full sentences?” and before I could answer, he declared, “I’m not ready for this!”
But we both knew the answer to his question. This was not her first full sentence (at least one that was uttered with intention and not just out of mimicry, like “I see you”). It happened last week, on our flight to DC. At the bulkhead of the plane, Little Miss grabbed a napkin and started to wipe the wall in front of us.
“I clean the wall,” she said, and we laughed, startled. Not the most exotic “first” but momentous nonetheless. We knew it wasn’t a case of parroting because clearly she didn’t learn that from us. We don’t clean. Walls, I mean. Maybe she learned it from daycare because I did catch her sweeping with a broom when I was there to pick her up one day.
Throughout the trip, apart from adding our sights to her vocabulary, “Lincoln”, “Capitol”, “Monument” “Trolley” (from our trolley tour), she started to surprise us with more complex strings of words.
“Baby is cwying.”
“Lot of people on the train.”
“Siren is too loud.”
“Sun is bwight.”
“Daddy is walking.”
“Mommy sit in the chair.”
“Daddy wash your hands.”
“Daddy’s new shoes.”
“Umbwewa is bwoken.”
Clearly the trip made quite a linguistic impression on her, but it’s no surprise that every new experience would add to her growing lexicon. Sadly, however, not all experiences will be as pleasant as this one.
Just this past weekend, she threw up for three consecutive nights, the worst being the first night, when she awoke in a pool of her vomit. We walked in and found her crying in confusion mixed with terror so I promptly explained that it was just throw up and tried to downplay it with “mommy throws up, daddy throws up, our puppy throws up, everyone throws up!” That helped calm her, which was great, because she spent the rest of the night vomiting until dawn.
That weekend she learned to say, “I throw up on the bed” - an experience that was initially traumatic but once we gave a name to the ordeal and she was able to say it, she stopped being afraid and handled the rest in a manner that surprised even us.
I know that the joys in her life will inevitably be met with sadness and pain. I also know I won’t always be able to protect my little girl from that which hurts and scares her. That night, the only thing I could do was to help her name the source of her fear. After all, even adults fear the unknown, let alone a toddler so new to this world. Knowing what it was and recognizing each wave that rose was enough to stop her tears. By the middle of the night, Little Miss asked for the little potty that we were using as a receptacle whenever she felt the bile rise in her throat and took aim. We were impressed. And humbled by the courage and grace of a 22-month-old.
Exhausted from sleep deprivation from all that retching, she managed to ask for the first time, “lay down on mommy?” and so I gently laid her body directly on top of mine. She nestled in my embrace, claiming a space that was once hers for over nine months, except she was on the inside then. As our bodies rose and fell synchronously with each breath, she easily succumbed to the sleep her little body so desperately needed. I haven’t been this close to her as she slept since she was a tiny infant.
Despite all those words she learned from me, for this moment, I have none.