I remember hearing parents say things like "oh, he's twenty-two months" or "she just turned fifteen months" and thinking . . . huh? Why not just say one, or two, or a year and a half?
Now I get it—the months matter, because so much changes in a day, a week, a season. E is so different as time moves on and layer upon layer of his personality builds. My sense of motherhood keeps spinning, too, and I'd imagine neither of these realities ever fades away.
At eighteen months, I've got a spirited toddler. A true child who runs wherever possible, goes up stairs in a flash (only to peer behind at me with a big smirk), wants to walk up the slide in our backyard. He recently discovered "no," which I don't think he fully understands yet, but does enjoy shouting it at the dog . . . probably because he hears us say it a lot. Whoops.
He loves books, and learning, and letters. He willingly gives hugs and kisses, says "nigh-night" before bed and dances when we put music on. Every morning, I hear a little voice peep, "Hi!" and I can't help but smile. He's into stickers, and balloons, and carefully inspecting each piece of dirt or rock or dust. He'll sit for a movie, even two or three or them. He adores his grandparents, all of them, and his little "peeeas, peeeas, peeeas" (please, please, please) when he wants something just about does me in because it's so damn cute. He's adaptable, easy-going, curious, and honestly fun to be around.
I never really thought about what it'd be like to build a relationship with my kid. We're on the tip of the iceberg, and as his traits start to break away from the sense of "baby" I once knew, into something more fully formed and uniquely his own, I feel vulnerable as a parent.
That, for me, is the big lesson of a year and a half. Once I got past pregnancy, birth, those early crazy months, the breastfeeding and the introducing solid foods and the crawling and walking, now, I'm like—oh. You are a person. Really, my job going forward is to keep you safe, teach you our family values, and let you grow. And we all know what growth entails: failure, falling, pain. You cannot grow and evolve without those things, and I am stunned by how challenging it must be for parents (since I still very much feel like a newbie mother) to make space for it.
In small ways, I practice. When he can't get the blocks to stack. When he wants the plastic baseball bat to stand up straight on its own (dude, it's not gonna happen, but okay). When he trips on his own feet. When he lands knees-first into a puddle of water. When he touches hot food after I said like a MILLION TIMES IT'S HOT, OW, and then sobs silently.
As much as I want to swoop in and help, I try to discern where I need to do that, and where I need to step back, because he is learning.
I'm also amazed at his tenacity. The other day, he found a jar with loose change and immediately dumped it out before putting the coins back in. Repeat times infinity. Watching his fingers work the quarters, his mouth pursed in concentration, his eyes flitting to the container, to the ground, to his hand processing what to do next—it's cool. Kids are little sponges, soaking everything up, and it's neat to watch.
Still, each time I turn on the news or glance at an article, my heart pounds. I remember rolling my eyes at my own mother who seemed gobsmacked at every terrible story about someone else's child in the world. But once you're a parent, you're constantly reminded that it could be your little one. Anything can happen. You're not in control. And all those other children are just like yours. Which is fucking terrifying, and occasionally I have to close a tab or turn the channel with a lump in my throat and a prayer on my lips.
I feel like a mom, finally. And a pretty capable one. I say that with a sense of wonder, since I wasn't sure when that feeling would click. I recall looking at myself in a passing street window while pushing E down the street, thinking, "Huh, that's me, with a baby, weird." These days, I pick him up from daycare and he runs to me, shouting, "Mom!" with joy on his face and crumbs on his shirt and I swoop in for a bear hug feeling right where I'm meant to be.