Thursday, November 29, 2012

A letter to my 18-month-old

ThumperNatureMuseum My dearest littlest,

You are now a year and a half, but instead of lamenting just how big or old you already are, as I most often do these days – because, let’s face it, you’re my last baby and it’s hard to let that go – I’m going to celebrate it.

18 months is such a great age. You are now sure of your gait, although missteps and spills are still a daily, if not hourly, occurrence. You follow your sister endlessly, yet when she tries to boss you around, you’re not afraid to stand your ground, your own minute frame against hers as you out-scream her. And boy, that scream? I will not miss. But then again, it’s also a good deterrent for anyone who tries to mess with you. Even me.

We’ve referred to you as our easy, laidback baby. At the back of my mind, I was afraid Little Miss would walk all over you, but you’ve put my fear to rest. I think you’re going to do just fine.

DressUpTime Dress-up time!

When you’re not fighting, I see an emerging best friendship with your sister, and it melts me completely. I love hearing you both on the monitor in the mornings, playing, giggling. What a way for me to be awakened! You’re also often concerned when she’s crying, and you would walk over to console her. You’d sometimes even give up the toy you had first in your hand, just to appease her.  I’m not sure if it’s a little sister thing or if it’s just your personality, but if there is peace to be had in our house, it is you who often initiates it.

Lately, however, signs of the impending Terrible Twos are emerging as you continue to push your boundaries, climbing on tables, spitting and hitting when upset. I know this change is inevitable, and maybe it’s all the more reason for me to capture you as you are now because today, you're an absolute delight.

I admit, we still think it’s adorable when you’re pouty and cranky. We also have the luxury of blaming your undesirable behavior on teething woes, but this won’t last very long, I know. You’ll soon have all 20 baby teeth (you already have 16!), and the tantrums won’t be so cute anymore.

 CheekyLilThingThe cheeky and mischievous look? Still cute.

But I digress.

Let’s get back to the part where you’re awesome. Because you are. I love that you’re so goofy and funny, even though only a handful of people – the lucky few – are privy to that side of you. Ever since you were born, you’ve always met people, familiar or otherwise, with the same serious look on your face, as if you’re studying them behind cyborg lenses, waiting for all of the digital information to appear before you would make the decision to open up to them (see the movie, Terminator, for reference, although she’s far less menacing than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character).

Serious face.

See? She can be goofy.

Your smiles and giggles, often synonymous with your trust, are reserved for those who earn them. Thankfully, I have, because goodness gracious girl, when you burst forth with your twinkling eyes and belly laughs, I just want to swallow you whole – in a good way. In contrast to your tween-in-training sister, who’s often sullen these days, I find your easygoing nature such a refreshing change. A warm, gentle hug on icy days.

Because I’ve been home with you, we spend a lot of time snuggling and talking. And when I say talking, I mean you point and say words that I guess at and get right most of the time, not all. You started forming words at 12 months, but it was at 15 that they rapidly multiplied.

Your doctor was surprised that at your 15-month visit, you knew that many words, but then again, she could barely tell what you were saying. She doesn’t have the stay-home-all-day-with-you advantage like I do. I also learned that it’s crucial to note the context surrounding your words because when you say “Beebah”, it could mean zebra, pizza, or Beeka, your sister’s pink bunny, her favorite sleeping buddy.

“Duck” could mean duck, truck, or stuck. Context is king. When you’re struggling to get out of a tight spot and you’re yelling, “Duck! Duck! App! App!”, it’s safe to assume that you’re saying, I’m stuck, help, and not that you’re afraid of ducks.

You’ve lately been putting together two- to three-word sentences, like “Bye Bye Mama”, “Dinkiew (Thank you) Dada”, “No! Mine!”, “There it is!”, “Where Dada go?”, “Dada mo doop mees” (more soup please), and “This my butt-butt”. That last one was uttered on the changing table, with a finger aiming at your naked behind. Very important stuff.

You also make up your own phrases, like “Down me!” when you want to get down, and even though you know how to say cat, you continue to refer to ours as “Mau” (Meow). I love hearing that because that’s exactly how we say it in Cantonese, and I’d like to pretend you know another language. My own mother tongue, nonetheless!

Something else you’ve been doing recently that utterly disarms us is that you’ve started to relate your surroundings to the hierarchy in our family as you understand it. For example, when you see similar shapes in different sizes, you point to each and assign them roles you grasp well: mama, dada, baby.

We noticed that when you pointed at the stars in your story books. The biggest star was “dada”, medium was “mama” and the little ones were “baby”. And all this time, I was thinking, once you start to understand and learn the words of our language, the world will open up to you, when in fact, I’m only half right – you are opening yours to us too!

And what a wonderful world, my dear girl. I feel like I’ve written so much here, yet it doesn’t even come close to capturing just how incredible you are. You, who completed our family when you arrived 18 months ago. You, who is still, and perhaps will always be, my baby. I call you that so much that when we ask you your name, you reply with, “Baby!”

You, who is the bright start of my morning, and the highlight of my night as I think back upon some of our sweetest moments together throughout the day. You, who were the catalyst for one of the biggest changes of my life yet – from being a full-time working mom to a stay-at-home mom.

However, every time I think about the career from which I veered away and the lifestyle we’ve had to sacrifice because I chose to stay home with you, I don’t feel a sense of loss at all. In fact, I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling and rewarding than to be here, right by your side, deciphering your sounds, making sure that your “tuhdle” meant you wanted to eat some noodles, and not a turtle.

I love you more than the mama, dada and baby stars in the sky. More than you’ll ever know.

Your mama.