Two years seems like such a short amount of time. It feels such an eternity, Ariadne, that we’ve had you with us. It’s hard to remember what life was like before you came along – I know your papa and I had many long years together, before you, and that two years is only a drop in the hat of time we are all going to have together. But I have to keep pinching myself, thinking, has it been two years since my little baby was born, already? And then in the next moment, has it only been two years? Hasn’t it been a century of our little family, together?
A year ago, back when I was filled with New Mom Woe at the idea of my little baby turning a year old, not so baby anymore, growing, grown, practically a teenager already, college on the horizon – your aunties Emi and Lizzie told me, oh, but that one-year old age is such a fun age. It’s so great. They’re like little monkeys, they can play and explore but they still need mama, they’re still babies.
At the time, I didn’t believe them, or I didn’t want to believe them. I knew every age with you would be precious, unique in its own ways – but that baby stage is so magical. It’s so hard to let go of. It’s why we keep having babies, to try and reclaim that sweetness and that innocence and that magic, just one more time. I didn’t believe toddlerhood could be as magical as babydom – but it has been. Emi and Lizzie, of course, have been so right. One-into-two years old has been such a blessing and a joy with you, my darling.
You are my little monkey girl, my little angel babe, my faerie mae. You are my goblin child, you are all sweetness and light. You are absolutely my bestest best friend, and I delight in our time together. Since you were born, you have given me this drive – this personal urging to be better and do better, and lately, that driven has manifested itself as a pull to be present. To see the world with wonder, as your eyes do – or to at least be open to it. To be as delighted watching Coco for the fortieth time, like you are – even if, from my perspective, I’m just delighted to be holding your plump little body, warm and fresh from the bath, your candy floss, baby-bird-wing-soft blonde hair still damp and drying in long strands down your back.
Thank you for all you have taught me, in the past two years. Thank you for reminding me that the Now is where we are meant to live, and not in the regrets of the Past, and not in the worries of the Future. Thank you for reminding me to slow down, that having a routine is good — but it’s not necessary to force ourselves to stick so strictly to a schedule. Thank you for refreshing my world view — for reminding me how magical it is to see new things. Thank you for helping me appreciate the sky and choo-choo trains and the feel of grass under our feet and the wind in our hair. Thank you for making me see lovely things about my own self — because I see the same things and admire them in you. Thank you for teaching me to love myself radically, even when that seems like the absolute hardest thing to do — because I want you to grow up loving yourself, and never be plagued with the self-doubt and body hate that troubles me and so many of my lady friends. Thank you for making me strong — thank you for being the reason I’m learning to make harder decisions, push to create boundaries or change situations. Thank you for being the reason I am trying to learn to be a fighter — so I can stand up for you, for us, for anyone vulnerable — and teach you to do the same. Thank you, above all, for the sweet love you bring to my daily life — thank you for the kisses, and the way you grasp my shirt like you cannot be parted from me, the way you light up and do a little dance-dance when you see me for the first time after a long time away. Thank you for needing me — at least right now, at this young age — as desperately as I need you. Thank you for the healing you have brought me, thank you for the peace I feel in my soul when I hold you in those quiet evenings.
Just as I wanted to catalog every second and every emotion and every new action when you were a baby, I want to horde every detail about you again, I never want to forget. You are so tiny, still, in the grand scheme of things, people always think you’re much younger than you are – but you are absolutely brimming with personality.
So much of that personality is joyful – it is one of your defining characteristics, and I hope you never lose that. Oh, how you love to laugh, oh, how Papa or I doing something stupid (makes you giggle, and then laugh and then belly laugh. Oh, how you make us laugh at you laughing so hard, and then you laugh harder because we are laughing. (And no one makes you laugh harder than your Papa — you climb him, he bounces you, he tickles you, he hides from you — anything he does makes you collapse in giggles.)
You can tell she is so loved, and she comes from a joyful home, my mama, your Marmee says often, and it makes me feel strangely bashful when she does – because it’s true, although not every day is easy and some days are hard. But I almost feel like – well, of course. Of course we are joyful to have this girl in our lives. How could you live with this little angel goofball and not just be overflowing with happiness?
You talk now, so much, you express yourself. Your power of language exploded in the last couple months! It used to be, your papa and I would compare at the end of the day, oh, she started saying buhburries for blueberries today, and then the next day, hey, she can say noodles if she wants to. Now there is no keeping up. In one day, I’ll hear you start using elbow and frog and sink and up and knee and neck and cheese, and compound phrases, Mama shoe, Papa water, Ari wet.
Help, you said one day, wanting off the bed, and then thank you, and then you toddled out of the room full speed – bye-bye. All these words, in rapid succession, longer meanings, more complicated concepts. The way you say belly is incredible and I will never be able to recreate it, simultaneously one syllable and also four thousand b’s and l’s. Blebbleh? We love your baby pronunciations, your best attempts at speech that we don’t even want to correct because they’re so cute, until we start mimicking them – bobble for bottle and poppy for potty. The first time you said, I did it, I about fell down in the floor and died of those mama feels, and then you said it again and again, really just rubbing salt in the wound, I did it, I did it, you are growing, you are learning, you are so clever and smart.
You adore music, like really, obsessively – driving around in the car, I play whatever I want for you – sometimes we jam out to David Bowie or Tom Petty, and sometimes classical or choral, and sometimes Beyonce or Florence or Janelle and sometimes Tangled or Moana and Trolls, and you’re so stinking, adorably appreciative. Doesn’t matter what I play, any genre — at the end of every song, you say, yaaaay, and clap your hands. That was a good one, wasn’t it? I ask you, regardless of who it was, even if I’ve just been listening to the same Ellie Goulding song three times in a row, and if I’m not fast enough getting the next song playing, you start to fuss. More, more? More, more?
You really, really, like, really love water. Owter, as you call it. It doesn’t really matter if it’s the sink baths I’m still giving you, in our new house with the bigger, deeper sink, meaning I can pretend you’re wittle for a bit longer – or if it’s in the kiddie pool out back or careening down the big water slide at Dixon Springs in my arms. Water soothes you, as it always has, since you were maybe about a month old and had your first bath and didn’t cry a single second. You love it when your Auntie Nini or I glide you around dog-paddling almost, you love sitting on your papa’s shoulders as he bounces and splashes, you get this look of awed daring if you lean back and float in my arms for a single second. And you love careening into the kiddie pool with Lucy – you did not know belly-flopping was a thing until she showed you. You love to splash with her, shrieking with laughter, you love filling measuring cups and pouring the water back into the water, or over your head, or into a flower pot, or over the side of the sink counter.
You call yourself Baby, and it is the sweetest, most precious thing. We’ve just called you Baby since you were born, and sometimes you even call yourself Mama Baby, because I tell you over and over again you’re mama’s baby. Your papa has started using Ari and Ariadne more, wanting you to learn your name – but you do, sometimes, but not as much, not instinctually. Right now, nothing could get me to stop you from calling yourself Baby. When you are hot, your pronounce Baby and blow hard out your mouth, trying to cool the air and the asphalt and the hot car itself, as we’ve taught you to blow on hot food. Baby shoes? you’ll ask, bringing a pair over to us so we can put them on you. I Baby, you remind us, when you want something, or feel you’ve suffered an injustice. Baby more more? you ask at supper time, or Baby bite? when you want to steal a bit of whatever it is your papa and I are trying to enjoy.
You do love to eat. Man, you love to eat, and we are lucky there, and also not surprised. You’ve reached that age where every food is your food. (Except tomatoes, you’re really not into tomatoes, and even then, you keep trying them like you might change your mind.) You love veggies and fruits just as much as you love cheese and crackers and the occasional ice cream or cookie. You love all food, and we are grateful for that as you shovel down mouthfuls of broccoli and zuchinni and squash and carrots, or beg for more grapes, more blueberries. Sauces are your jam, it doesn’t matter what the sauce is – you’ll be needing some of it. I’ve seen you eat plain ketchup with a spoon before – heaven forbid, I put some mustard on my plate and not on yours. The other day, your papa and I went to lunch at Los Garcia without you, on a day you were at daycare and we met quickly for lunch. It’ll be nice to enjoy these chips and salsa without Baby, I admitted, without either trying to keep her from shoveling them all in her mouth or worrying about her spilling on herself or spilling on me or spilling on the table.
You have all these little friends now, these blossoming friendships. Juju, you ask frequently, or Cici? You pretend to talk to Jude or Lucy on the phone all the time, you pick up a framed picture of you with your friends and kiss it. Watching playtime with you and you friends, Lucy, Jude, and Sylvie, warms my heart, and the hearts of my mama friends. I don’t know anything much sweeter than friends who have known each other for years upon years, watching their children play together. Sure, we have to referee, remind you all to share more and more often. (You share very nicely with Cici and Juju, usually — usually — but you have a harder time sharing with Sylvie. I think it’s because she’s littler and for once, when she’s around, you’re not bottom of the totem pole.) Sure, sometimes feelings get hurt and we have to take a minute to regroup. But for the most part, you and your friends play with glee, giggling and shrieking and tearing from one room to the next. You are all little balls of wonder and joy, and together, you amplify that joy until everyone else can feel it. I’m not sure I’ve known a better night than the evening your Aunt Ali was in town, and somehow, all of us thirty-something (or nearly so) grown women ended up outside, in my backyard, wine in plastic tumblers, camp chairs spread out — just watching the babies frolic and squeal in the kiddie pool. A different sort of scene, from when we were 17, 23, even 26 — but we had the best time, watching you.
Your growth has been remarkable – no different from any other child, I suppose, but it feels special to us, because you’re ours, and our first, and we’ve never really seen the miracle quite this up close and personal before. We have our bad days – days when you are tired and cranky, or teething, or just seem determined to push our buttons, see what you can get away with – but really, honestly, completely truthfully – we love being your parents. We love being this little family of three. We love scooping you up in between us, standing in the sunny kitchen, before I run out the door in the morning, and having a group hug. Ohhhhh, you say, anytime you hug me or Papa or Nini or Elmo or Kitty, ohhhhh. We delight in your every new accomplishment, and that is where the magic comes in, after the first year. We are so incredibly delighted by the way you learn a new word or a new trick on the trampoline or point out letters or try and hum along with a song – I can’t imagine what it will feel like when you write your first little short story or put on a costume and perform a dance, just for us.
I look back, now, at pictures of infant you, chubby-cheeked eight month you, even observant, curious, 12 or 13 month old you – and I think, oh, look, this is before she could sit up, or this is before she could really walk. And yet – in those pictures, your spirit is always the same. I always see the you of today shining through. I see your cheek-to-cheek grin in a picture where you lounge, centerless, on your cushion, and I see the same gap-toothed smiling soul of my toddler, grinning back at me after you run to me and I toss you onto my hip with glee. I think about what it will be like, a year from now, three years, five years, to look back at pictures of you at two, and think, oh, that was before she could turn a cartwheel, that was before she sang songs non-stop like her father, that was before, before – before whatever skills will becoming defining characteristics of you as a child, a teenager. And yet I know, I will see that same Ariadne spirit that I know better, and deeper, and longer, shining in you know just as brightly as it burns in you in the future.
At two years old, I think about conversations. We are starting to have the barest fragments of conversations, as you learn to express ideas, or at least strong emotions, as you piece together words and mumblings and make your opinions known. I start to wonder what it will feel like to have a genuine conversation with you. I see other parents with their kids, or children with their siblings, and hear them spout out these specific, unique, original ideas, and I wonder what yours will be. And I wonder too, how I will respond to you. I think of all the tough conversations we’re going to have to have – the ones that are a part of life, no matter who you are, and the tough conversations we’re going to have to have because our world is the way it is. The hardships and injustices I’m going to have to explain to you. The hurt that I feel and you feel and everyone feels. I’ll have to explain the worst parts of life along with the best parts.
I hope that we always understand each other, as well as we seem to now. And while I know that’s a longshot, that there will came days and weeks and even a few teenage years where it will seem you and I are speaking completely different languages – I at least pray we always have the willingness to try and understand each other. I hope that despite the natural clashing-heads of a parent-child relationship, we always feel the most at home with each other. I hope that my embrace when you are troubled will always calm you as much as it does now. I pray that me stroking your back and murmuring, it’s OK, sweetheart, Mommy’s got you, will always soothe your troubled heart, even the slightest bit – even if everything won’t be exactly OK. I hope you always know that you are first and foremost in my heart, and that I will always do whatever I can, as much as I can, to make the world an OK place for you.