Before you were born, I worried that I wouldn't like you. I'd sit and look at my swollen belly and wonder what in the world I was thinking when I decided to have a baby. I don't even really like most kids, I'd think to myself. I don't even like kids! I feared you'd come and I'd resent you and think you were ugly and loathe everything you had changed about my life. Everyone assured me that this wouldn't be the case, but I didn't believe them. I was seriously worried. And then, on December 30, 2006, I started having regular birthing contractions. And I was in labor for the next forty-five hours. Maybe that doesn't sound like a whole lot to you, but let me tell you: it was. It was two consecutive nights without sleep, plus twenty-four hours of what the natural birth community likes to refer to as "intense pressure sensations" and I like to refer to as "something akin to having your entrails stirred and mutilated by a hot poker." But at the end of all that suffering, there was an epidural, followed by a sunrise, then a little nap, then fifteen minutes of pain-free pushing, and then....miracle of miracles...there you were. A little bald purple head popped out into the afternoon sunshine and started looking around. And even before you'd even wriggled your little way all the way out into the delivery room, I had fallen in love. And every day for the past two years, I've fallen a little harder.
Your dad and I will talk about that first day with you, and he'll usually say something like, "It was great to have him, but he sure was weird-looking." And I'll say, "Are you kidding me? He was beautiful!" And he'll say, "Rach, sweetie, he's cute now, but at the time....well....he was purple. And his face was all scrunched up. And he had a serious cone-head. " And again, I'll repeat, "Well, maybe, but that doesn't matter. He was beautiful!" And we'll even sometimes pull out the pictures of our little newborn baby, look at them, look at each other, and simultaneously say, "See? I told you!"
This morning you decided that it was time to go somewhere. With your current verbal skills, communicating this to me involved repeating, "Go? Go? Go?" multiple times while pointing to the front door. I was wearing my most hideous sweatpants and an ugly pink t-shirt and had not been planning on going anywhere, but your big blue eyes, like your father's, have a persuasive capacity that I am not easily able to withstand, so I relented and said that we could go for a little walk outside.
The walk morphed into a visit to the little boy (Koen) who lives next door. He is also two. You were a little shy about the visit and very sweetly acquiesced every time Koen took a toy away from you, handing it over and looking for something new to play with. But then Koen started hitting. What broke my heart was the look on your face when Koen would suddenly-- and without malice, really, just a sudden impulse-- wack you as hard as he could. I've tried so hard to surround you with gentle kindness, with an environment of love. Except after we've been bitten particularly hard, your father and I have always touched you gently. We work to emphasize the importance of touching nicely. And for the most part, you try to be gentle. You don't always understand, and sometimes you're just plain unempathetic, but for a two-year-old, I feel that you do pretty well. So when Koen hit you, for a second you would just stand there, looking surprised and hurt and heartbroken, and then crumple into tears and run into my arms. This made me want to cry. It was a reminder that I won't be able to keep you safe and little forever. I hate that it is inevitable that your innocence will slowly be broken down by the harsh realities of living in this world. I want you to live forever and ever with that crystalline shine in your eyes, with that glowing trust in your own safety, in the confidence that everyone around understands your worth and loves you. As I watched you play with this little boy, I worried that you would pick up on his behavior and start hitting him back. But you didn't. I hope that this is the way that you one day deal with all of the disappointments you will encounter in your interactions with humanity: that you will discover that a great many people are cruel, apathetic, self-centered, sarcastic....but that you won't even consider the possibility that you, too, could become like them. That you will continue to strive to be kind, aware, open, charitable. (And also come to your Mama for comfort and hugs.)
All month long I plague people with stories of your cuteness. And then I sit down to write these newsletters and they've all flown away. But these are the things that come to mind right now:
-Your vocabulary has really grown this month. You've begun to take more risks in attempting to say words that you understood before but couldn't/wouldn't pronounce. My favorite is that you call raisins "Ceecee," which is the same thing, as you might recall, that you call Jesus. You must find raisins truly divine. I also adore the way you request hugs: "Uck?," ask for more: "Mer?," and praise your own accomplishments: "Yeeeeaaaah!"
-You've taken an interest in the potty, which you refer to as the "Peepee." Whenever one of us mentions to you that we are going to "put our peepees in the potty," you always run to the bathroom gate and start removing your pants and diaper. I let you sit on your little toilet on these occasions, but the pottying act has yet to coordinate with the brief moments you spend sitting on the seat. I may start pushing this more heartily with you next month. On the other hand, it might be best if I wait until Liam has been around for a few months and things have settled down. I just don't want to miss any valuable windows of potty-training readiness.
-For some reason that I can't remember, you've begun joining me during my morning bath this month. I've been bathing instead of showering during this pregnancy because standing up for long periods leaves me breathless. Bathtime had become a special mommy-only time in the morning, in which I would bask in the water and periodically call out, "Soren? You still alive?" To which you would always reply, "Yeah!" So when you decided you wanted to join me, and I decided I would let you, I thought I would resent the loss of this alone time. On the contrary, your company has enlivened bathtime and made it even more fun. Now it's a special Mommy-Soren time. We play with bath toys (it is particularly fun to drive your little red bus over the cliff of my belly), sing songs, and splash. This morning we played a funny game that involved me peeking down at you from behind the mound that is your little brother Liam. You found this to be profoundly hilarious.
-Which reminds me: you have a delightful laugh. It is very full and round and hearty. I wonder if you will grow up to have a booming voice like the men on my mom's side of the family. Right now your voice is little and makes me think of the voice you might hear on an elf or a sprite or a brownie. I, of course, think it is sweeter than the voice of an angel.
-You love books, but not for the stories. You love them as a source of information. You are happy to spend large chunks of time on my lap with a stack of books on hand, pointing to pictures and learning new words. You love to make connections with the things you see in your books and the things you see in the world around you. For example, one morning you found a picture of a woman in a book. You showed the book to me, pointing at the lady and saying, "Mommy!" You then pointed at me and declared, "Mommy!" You were beaming.
-You take a profound joy in organizing and sorting things. You love to line things up. You sort your blocks by shape. I wonder, particularly in reflecting back on this summer, when you would insist on touching each pine bush in a neighbor's yard every time we passed in the stroller, if you've maybe got a little obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although if cleanliness is any indication, we don't have anything to worry about.
-You are at the lovely age in which all small children adore their mothers. I love to be your source of joy and comfort. We mutually light up when the other enters the room; that's a fun feeling.
You are my little darling. I'm so glad we've had these two years together. Happy birthday, baby.