Dear Grayson –
Boy, you are on FIRE. I don’t even know where to start, kid, so let’s just bounce all over.
At 18 months old, you are all toddler, and your tantrums are usually short and sometimes hilarious.
You’re still pretty much always in motion. You can get up and down stairs on your own, but you will always take a hand if it’s offered…or grab one if it hasn’t been offered yet.
You’ve figured out that you can open the gate at the top of the stairs. This would be scarier, but this one time, you opened it, closed it behind you, and went downstairs to play. Silently. We thought about being terrified, but apparently your careful efforts re: the stairs have paid off. Baby snuck down stairs without falling = parenting WIN.
Also, you usually check in with us when you want to open the gate. Sort of.
Mostly, when it comes to the babyproofing, you’re a conscientious partner in managing your own safety. You don’t dig into the garbage can — you direct our attention to the unlatched lid and try to help us lock it back up. It is also your job to lock down the toilet lid if you follow us into the bathroom.
Hey, everybody’s got chores, kid.
At the same time, you typically have one speed, and that speed is FAST. Which means that you’ve already experienced skinned knees (boy, do you hate that Bactine bottle…) and more bumps and bruises than I like to think about. Just when we started working with you on watching where you’re going, you started walking backwards, just because you could. You remain utterly delighted with the whole experience. The other night, you started to go up the dog stairs BACKWARDS, standing upright.
Because why not?
You do show some pretty good judgment, though. When you can’t find a banister or something else to hold onto, you will back down stairs on your knees. I like to reward this decision with the same back-it-up beeping I do when you walk backwards. Making Mommy narrate your actions (or crack up) is one of your favorite cause-and-effect games.
…On the other hand, you have also been practicing stepping off the couch onto the floor when our backs are turned. You watch us (when you should be watching where you’re going) and glow with mischief when we catch you stepping over the edge.
For the record, you are not able to successfully step down to the floor from the couch. But you take the fall well.
You climb. I think you have always climbed. I honestly don’t know why you haven’t climbed out of your crib yet, but I’d be thrilled if you could continue to not do that. You can climb into your high chair, and you have generally heeded our advice about going up the front instead of the side…after trying the side route once and taking a pretty nasty fall. You attempt or pretend to attempt to climb up the appliances or cabinets when you’re pissed off at us for being in the kitchen when you want to be somewhere else (usually outside or in the living room). You used to climb up the futon-type sofa in the family room, but now you scale it with a running leap.
You love to move all the chairs around. (You get this from Nana, whose favorite pastime is rearranging furniture.)
You have a hard time being gentle, especially when you’re really excited, but you have a very tender side and will often give Rodney kisses unprompted. You also LOVE to share; you’ll offer toys to others (including Rodney — you know just which wooden blocks he likes to chew), and you love to feed people. I have no idea if your increasing toddlerness will override this; for now, we just encourage the hell out of it.
Lately, one of your favorite games is to act like a puppy. We’ll ask you what Rodney says, and you’ll throw yourself to your hands and knees and crawl around making growling sounds. This prompts you to try to play with Rodney the way puppies play, chasing and head-butting and rearing up. Sometimes he loves this and you guys play for a while; sometimes he’s grumpy and runs for shelter. Sometimes he doesn’t like it, but after you get pulled away against your will, he changes his mind and undermines our authority. And when you’re mad at us and looking for attention, you know that the fastest way into the tight embrace of a “Time In” is to try to kick Rodney.
To be fair, you’ve never tried to kick any other animal, or other kids. I think Rodney is your canine “home base” the way I’m your mommy home base. You’ve never tried to bite anyone other than me, either (that was a short but worrying phase).
Daddy and I started talking about and working on a form of discipline somewhat early. You’ve always been pretty headstrong — and body-strong — so evidence of the so-called Terrible Twos long in advance of your second birthday was not a surprise. It’s not your age so much as your stage. You understand SO MUCH and can say so few words…it must be very frustrating to be you. (I have started spelling out words. Telegraphing certain things before we’re ready to do them invariably causes a meltdown.) You jabber on and on, point, take us to where you want to go…and sometimes we still don’t get it.
Also, you’re on a constant mission to control your world and get really mad at us when you don’t get your way immediately.
Reasonable explanations work more often than I’d have expected. “Grayson, we’re going to get in the car and go get groceries, but first we need to change your diaper” will send you toddling into your room as often as not. Reinforcing it with “If you want to go get groceries, you need to have a clean diaper” helps, too, but we say it as an explanation (with a calm, sensible nod) rather than a threat of not going. (You love going grocery shopping. SO MANY THINGS TO SEE! AND GRAB! AND ALSO THEY HAVE BALLOONS THERE!) It seems bananas to say that we reason with you, but…sometimes we do. We’ve been narrating/explaining what we’re doing to you for a long, long time, and it does seem to sink in. Eventually.
And you’ve picked up that sensible nod, and use it with an air of gravitas:
Me: “Grayson, did you pee?”
You: **nods with deliberate certainty**
(You never nod about poop. You always, always say no about poop, and you are almost always lying.)
In the last six months, we’ve taken you to Vermont and Cape Cod, to the North Bay, and to Nana and Papa’s house in Nevada. Auntie Lilly took care of you while we rowed in Petaluma, and you had a great time playing with your cousins. Nana and Papa stayed with you for the second race of the fall, and Auntie Grace called dibs on the last one, which is coming up.
About New England — You had a blast, for the most part. You were a dream on the red-eye from SFO and a nightmare coming back from BOS (Daddy thinks some other kid on the plane woke you up). You did as well as we could possibly hope for a kid who thrives on routine; we did our best to keep mostly to our routine, but you were pretty overtired and DONE by the time we got down to the Cape.
Anyway, we played with all of your second cousins (once removed? whatever — mommy’s cousins’ kids) and you absolutely adored your cousin, Peyton. You met almost all of your great-aunts and -uncles, as well as the only great-grandparents you’ve got, and Grandpa was able to hang out with us for almost the whole week!
You and I went in Aunt Joy and Uncle Butch’s pool, and you were thrilled…until we had to get out for the thunderstorm. (Thunderstorms don’t bother you. You are clearly my child.) You really didn’t want to stop playing in the pool, though, so we decided to do a round of baby swim “lessons” when we got home. (Those were not nearly as fun.)
We had a wonderful time with everyone, and I got the impression that you didn’t care about adults when there were other kids around. Honestly, you’ve never met a cousin you didn’t love right away. They get your best smiles.
Which is as it should be. (You did play peek-a-boo with your great-aunt Jane, though!)
You and Daddy both had your first sail on Shamrock, which put you straight to sleep…sitting up, in your little lifejacket. You stayed asleep on the beach and we left you in the capable hands of Aunt Marianne and Uncle Andy and took a walk by ourselves. You were pretty mommy-centric throughout the trip, so the walk was really, really welcome.
“Home base,” indeed.
Let’s see, what else? You understand boo boos enough that you kissed a band-aid I wore over a blister on my hand, and you know where the band-aids live. (You know where almost everything lives.) When you fall and I ask if you have a boo boo, though, you point to your knee, even if you’ve whacked your head. A skinned knee was the first boo boo we really discussed as such, so…points for trying, kiddo!
You eat new things every now and then, but only on your own terms. Meat that isn’t in nugget form is an absolute no. When we have our wits about us, we give you what we want you to eat first. You’re more likely to try something new if we’re in the car or eating out or at someone else’s house. You’re still growing out of all your clothes on the regular, though — mostly on smoothies made with yogurt, pouched baby goo, and milk — so we’re a lot less concerned than we we used to be.
Re: language — You work harder on words that are particularly important to you, like “ice,” or words that you seem to find amusing, like “eggs.” (You don’t want to eat eggs, but you do like the word.)
We think your first “sentence” was probably “No walk!” but these days you say, “I did it!” after you complete some task or figure something out. It seems a lot more intentional than the other. Sometimes, based on timing, I think you say, “Thank you.” But it sounds a lot like “I did it!” so it’s hard to tell.
You like to sing the E-I-E-I-O in “Old MacDonald…or the “Way-o, way-o” from “Walk Like an Egyptian.” We’re not always sure which, but it’s adorable either way.
You love to point out planes, buses, garbage trucks…all things that go. Cars and trucks go “VROOM VROOM,” but you keep your lips shut when you do it. You know the names of lots of body parts and you like to play “This Little Piggy.” We start with “This little piggy went to Trader Joe’s,” though, because “market” means nothing to you, but Trader Joe’s…that’s practically Mecca.
You love, love, love your stuffed lion…which is actually my stuffed lion — a gift from your Uncle Chris and the only stuffed animal left from the menagerie of my teens and 20s. Asking you to “snuggle lion” is often a good way to get you to calm down when you get squirrely before bed. You can also make a lionous roar…but, again, with your lips shut.
You have a few favorite toys, but really, nothing occupies your time more than reading. We read book after book, over and over. You’re pretty hard on your books, though…much like your clothes and certain toys (seriously, kid, those wooden puzzles are supposed to be indestructible). And we love your Pavlovian response to “Jamberry;” when we get “Strawberry ponies / strawberry lambs / dancing in meadows of strawberry jam!” you get up and do your little jig.
You’re pretty good about sleeping. You get really upset when it’s time to stop playing and go to bed, but by the time you hit the changing table, you’re usually like, “Bring me mah blanky.” We have bad patches here and there, such as when you’re cutting teeth, but you typically sleep about 10-11 hours at night — sometimes 12! — and hover around 2 hours for your one daily nap. And you almost always wake up in a good mood, at least in the morning.
You’re a riot, little guy. I’m not gonna lie — you do wear us right out. But the truth is that we love you an awful lot and like you more and more as we get to know you, and as you get to know you, too.
And the books…buddy, you couldn’t have picked a more direct route straight through my heart.