May 4, 2015 by 8junebugs
Dear Gray —
You are my heart, kiddo. You crack me up every single day (especially when you try to say your whole name).
(You like “using” chopsticks.)
Everyone warns new parents about the Terrible Twos (and Threenagers), but you’ve kept us on our toes since day 1, so we felt prepared for this bit. You are definitely 2 — some days, you are more 2 than other days — and you are as stubborn as the day is long. But watching you discover the world, having actual conversations with you, and getting knocked over by your fierce hugs is worth every tantrum, every time out, every drop of spilled milk.
The most challenging manifestations of “2” in you are the stalling and the bargaining. You decided to try to potty-train yourself a while back — while you also had croup and weren’t sleeping well, naturally — and that kicked off the co-reign of Underpants Man and Diaper Dude. We’re not pushing the potty because you’re still a bit young to manage it (and Mama read a great article last year about the problems pediatric urologists see in kids who are pushed too soon), but you know that we value and celebrate Potty Time, so you ask to go potty when it’s time to go to bed. And then you ask for ice water. And then you beg me to read a McDuff book. And then, you’re finally pajamaed and sleepy-sacked and snuggled into your blanky, you request a song (“Change!” = “Change in my life”) and agree to snooze when it’s done, only to interrupt with a new request (“Baby!” = “Baby mine”) during the penultimate line.
You are a born negotiator, buddy. You know the meaning of “One more time,” “In a little bit,” and “Right now,” and you wield them strategically. We use a timer to keep things moving along. You are highly motivated by “times” and things that go “beep.” Yesterday, you were all psyched up to go to Miles’s house for your half-day of nanny-share time, and I had to set the timer for 45 minutes so that you could settle into waiting for the beep.
You dearly love books and music and animals and birds (“Hi, pidge-uns!”) and other kids. Most of the time, you’re pretty gentle with anyone not in your immediate family. We take the brunt of your 2-ness, and innocent bystanders just get to see you rattle off the letters you see on the sign at the pharmacy.
Speaking of letters, by the way, you recognize most of them. You will point out the “W” in one of the books with a visual alphabet in it, then turn the book upside down to show us the “M.”
You love the trash truck and the trash man more than pretty much anything in the world. You are shy, but less so with kids than with adults. We ask if you want to say “hi” to grown-ups, and you say “no,” and frankly, kid, I wouldn’t want to, either, if I were you. Tsa-Tsa Grace (you still call her that, and she hopes you always will) is the biggest exception to that rule. You also love your babysitter, Leah, who may be in charge but is also small and not quite an adult at 16, no matter how responsible she is. If adults in your path would like to discuss whatever is foremost in your mind right that very moment, though, you’ll deign to converse with them.
You are a master jumper, and you’re a solid enough climber that I was THISCLOSE to getting you a small jungle gym and mat for your birthday. Instead, we’re getting you a somewhat heavy-duty indoor trampoline that will live in the playroom.
We stopped counting your new words long ago. You speak in full sentences most of the time and delight in making demands, describing what you see, and trying to explain the world around you:
“Mama all done work at walk time.”
“Gray walk wit Mama over dere.”
“Mama, Daddy, and Gray are eating dinn-ter.”
(You’ve started inserting a “t” between “n” and a vowel sound. I’m pretty sure it started with “Easter bunn-ty.”)
“Unnerpants Man goes peepee in the potty. And poop!”
“Mama, may I get down, please?”
(You’ve got please down and know it as the Magic Word, and you’ve managed “Thank you” a few times.)
“Gray go downstairs for cockpit time wit Daddy.”
“Gray read book about Max wit Mama.”
(“Where the Wild Things Are” is still a favorite.)
You also repeat what we’ve told you to reassure yourself when you’re startled or uncertain:
“Mama always comes back at Miles house.”
(Mama says “Miles’s,” but that’s close enough.)
“Maggie’s just loud.”
(Nana and Papa’s dog does yap a bit.)
“Dey’re going to holp some-un.”
(Sirens are also loud.)
And the corollary that just melts my heart:
“Gray go holp some-un in assi-dent.”
There are apps and lists that tell you when to expect a baby to start saying “mama” and “dada,” and there are requirements that tell you what’s expected by the start of kindergarten. In between, there’s a rapid-fire learning cycle through which you continue to smash, head first. Once you learned that words could make people do things, communication became Priority 1 for you. We have no idea what’s “normal” (we don’t really care, either), but you’re definitely a verbal little dude. Daddy and I have to make a point of telling each other when we’ve figured out one of your more cryptic efforts — “lawnmower” still sounds a lot like “nightmare.”
“Weedwhacker” is a pretty easy one to decipher, though. (You pick these up during walks — we don’t have a lawn.)
Sometimes, you come out with stuff on your own and we know you’ve picked it up from us, but we have no idea when. It’s fun to see what you remember, and how. When I’m working at home, I can sometimes hear Daddy say, “What was that, buddy?” Then you repeat whatever new construction you’ve come up with, and Daddy just cracks up. Last week, you started holding your water bottle out to me, saying, “Want some?” And when you want to watch something on the TV, you will say, “Xbox, ON!” Which you learned from Daddy, and which Daddy now says like you.
I think you will be sorely disappointed to learn that not all machines are this responsive.
Also, you didn’t like the larger screen of the TV until this month, preferring to watch YouTube videos on our phones or on a tablet. You like the opening to the animated “Robin Hood” and a couple of Pentatonix and other a cappella videos, but what you really want to do most of the time is “Watch Westies!” or “Watch Blue Ainzhullls!” (“Blue Angels”), both of which have basically busted your father’s heart wide open. Between videos of Westie puppies and the growing series of McDuff books on our shelves, the chances we’ll have a puppy in the house by Christmas are pretty good.
We have to carefully manage what we say, and how, and when. We absolutely can’t talk about fun things we’re going to do unless we’re ready to do them RIGHT AWAY, which is why you don’t know that we’re also getting a family membership to Oakland Zoo for the year, starting today. You haven’t been before, and I’m a little curious about what’s going to happen when you find out you can’t pet a real bear the way you pet the bear statue in the park.
You remain easily lured by responsibility. When we need you to do something, we give you a job. “Mama and Daddy have to go out for a while. Can you show Leah how to make spin bubbles?” “Grayson, Mama and Daddy are having dinner with our friends tonight. Will you take care of Nana and Papa and make sure they eat dinner?”
This is also the only way I was able to keep you outside with me while I weeded the unfenced plot in front of the house. I showed you how to go under the porch and asked you to find rocks to put in your buckets. I didn’t get all the weeding done before you got squirrely, but I got the biggest, ugliest stuff out, and you and I had a sunny, unhurried lesson in street-side boundaries.
We’re also trying to get you to be better about picking up after yourself, but that’s a long and winding road that takes a lot of reinforcement. Your first act of the day is usually to find a container and dump out whatever’s in it, or pull the dishtowels off of the dishwasher handle. You love the song “Chin Up,” so I’ve altered the first line to “Clean up, clean up, everybody loves a tidy space!” You’ll sing it, and you’ll keep repeating “Clean up! Clean up!” as you’re swiping a Swiffer around the floor. Most of the time, though, you prefer to have all the toys, chalk, books, etc., dumped out where you can see them.
Dude, I recognize that this “Give you a job” thing is manipulation, but it’s in everyone’s best interest. When you have a puzzle to solve or a new experience to explore with a purpose, your abundant energy is directed away from oncoming traffic. The only downside I foresee is an overdeveloped expectation of assuming responsibility for things, but that’s already in your genes. And if we have another kid, you’re going to have to bear the heavy burden of eldest children everywhere.
Basically, son, you’re pretty fantastic.
I love you,