Yesterday you turned eighteen months old.
Eighteen months. One-point-five years old. A year and a half. One-twelfth of a full citizen and a legal adult. I suppose that means that you are no longer a baby, but are now officially a little girl. I suppose this also means that in no time you’ll be sulking in your room, blasting obnoxious music on your stereo and texting your friends about how lame your parents are, perhaps quite possibly because they still use the word lame in that woefully dated fashion. Fortunately for the both of us, that time hasn’t arrived yet.
Which isn’t to say it’s been all peaches and cream this month either. One might say that you’ve come completely out of your shell this month, and that observation would be correct. One might also add that not only have you completely out of your shell, but you went back to it and smashed it to itty-bitty bits with a sledgehammer, rendering forever impossible your reversion to the quiet, docile infant you once were, and that observation would be absoeffinglutely correct as well.
You are now fiercely independent, decidedly opinionated, and deafeningly vocal. Thank God you’re cute, little girl, because otherwise I’d think you were hellspawn.
For example, whenever we leave to go to work/daycare in the morning, we need to walk down the patio stairs in the back yard to get to the car. In the months past, you were content to either be carried down them or, at worst, descend them hand-in-hand with me, loudly announcing “Down! Down!” with each step. Now, however, you request — nay, demand — to go it alone. I wouldn’t mind this so much if, say, your legs were actually as long as the stairs are deep; as it is, you wobble precariously forwards and backwards as you plunker your way down, using your bottom, your face, and (occasionally) the side-rail to slow your descent. And slow is the operative word here: more often than not, by the time you actually make it to the bottom step, dusk has descended and we have to turn right around and go right back up them, like some suburban Sisyphus.
You’ve also decided that reading books with your daddy is soooo last month. You still avidly read your books, but the only role your mother or I serve in this activity is to retrieve them for you from particularly high shelves. You are still so particularly enamored with Shoey and Dot that you call for it by name (Dot? Dot? Dot?), but you’ve taken to reading anything, including magazines, instruction manuals, and cereal boxes. On the one hand, I’m all for you developing an erudite appreciation of the written word; on the other hand, I’d rather you not end up like Henry Beamis.
Then again, I doubt that will happen, as you also have a healthy appreciation of the wonders of the idiot box. I try not to let you watch too much television, partly because I want you to play outside and draw and be active, but mostly because I fear having to watch Dora the Explorer with you every morning. Nevertheless, there’s not a day that goes by that you don’t want to watch an epidose of signing Time, and given that your signing vocabulary is over 100 words now — including signs you’ve picked up by watching Blue’s Clues, I happily indulge your infotainment requests. Especially endearing is that you’ve begun to sing the songs from Singing Time — like the Rainbow Song or the Family Song — and on many occasions you even dance to the songs. I’d like to say I let you watch your signing DVDs for your personal edification, but really I do it ’cause you’re cute as hell to watch.
This month you’ve taken an interest in expressing your opinion about everything. Your food, your clothes, your choice of media entertainment… you name it, you’ve got an opinion about it. For example, if it’s time to change your diapers, you demand to make the diaper choice, and can take upwards of twenty minutes to find the perfect pair of Huggies from the drawer full of completely identical diapers. I’m not sure if this speaks more to an unshakable faith in the existence of diapers on which Winnie the Pooh is not flying a kite with Eyore or a soon-to-be crippling case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but you are certainly the most thoroughly informed diaper-changee I’ve ever known.
Getting dressed is another matter altogether. You open up your dresser, chaotically tossing your clothes about the room until you eventually find something with a duck, strawberry, or ladybug on it, and then demand to be dressed in that. Once a covering for your torso is selected, you stride over to your shoe box and select two shoes that occasionally bear a passing similarity to one another, but more frequently are completely independent of each other and, in extreme cases, require that you posses two physical left feet (as opposed to the metaphorical two left feet you currently posses). When I tell you that I can’t dress you like like due to the fact that your desired ensemble consists of, say, a shirt three sizes too small, or pants that don’t match the shirt, or in fact no pants at all, you burst into tears and continue sobbing until either (a) I give into your requests because you’re currently standing neck deep in your own tears and are in danger of drowning or (b) you find something else to be opinionated about, such as politics, religion, or yogurt.
Speaking of drowning, this month you’ve discovered the spa in the back yard, or as you call it, the pool. It’s a lot like the bath tub, except that (1) you get to wear your cool floatie bathing suit in it, (2) mommy and daddy can fit in it with you, (3) it makes lots of cool bubbles and (4) you can pee in it with impunity. You’ve also discovered that you can stand on the contoured rim of the spa and leap with reckless abandon into the water without fear of watery death since (a) your floatie bathing suit would keep you afloat and (b) you always conveniently aim for one of your parents’ guts to break your fall. Your mom and I purchased the spa as a means to soothe our muscles and relax our tensions away after a long day in class; as it turns out, after each trip to the spa with you, I go back to school to teach machine shop convicts and parolees just to relax.
I suppose, little Ladybug, this is all just a part of you changing from a helpless baby into a full fledged little girl. And while you’re temperment as a Spicy Guizhou Girl has never been so apparent as it is now, I find I love you more and more every day. You are funny and smart (or as you say, Mmmart! and clever. And despite all the grief I’m giving you here, you are one of the best bahaved little kids I’ve ever known, and I have four younger siblings and about eighty-two thousand cousins. And while I can’t swaddle you in a teeny onesie and cradle you next to my heart with one hand anymore, I can play this game with you now–
–And that smile makes everything else all worth it. I love you, Young Ladybug.
— Ba ba
See more pictures from your eighteenth month of existence over at Flickr.