Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Eyes of a Toddler

The eyes. Windows to the soul. They are revealers of secrets, and divulgers of desires. Absorbers of beauty, expellers of truth. But so much more. The eyes of toddlers are so. much. more.

It is the look in her eyes that warns you seconds before she intentionally tips over a bowl of soup. A beautiful gaze that signals: "cancel all phone calls and trips to the bathroom for the next 38 minutes, I will be screaming maniacally." With a bat of the lashes, you know. You just know that accidentally breaking her Magnatiles tower was an act of war, and you will either spend the rest of the afternoon bowing to her wishes or you will have no rest of the afternoon. With one glance you're informed that she will not be letting go of your shirt, whether you're flashing the entire congregation or not.

It is those same eyes that automatically switch from panic to relief as she seeks you out in a crowded room. In them you see gratitude for building the Magnatiles tower with her inside, forgiveness for handling the soup situation with less patience (and more volume) than necessary, and some remaining maniac as she winds down from the tantrum. Pure sincerity as she asks you for just one more cookie. And that same look as she requests another one. With a hint of mischief in her eyes, she selects the longest book for bedtime reading, with a look of boundless excitement she hides in the usual hiding spot. It is not just with powerlessness that she begs you to avoid entering her room (for more time to smear diaper cream everywhere, you suspect); it is also with deep comfort. Pure, simple love, as she prepares you for her strongest bedtime hug. And determination, hours later, as those gorgeous eyes of your sweet child remain open, in bed, at midnight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Apology To My Infant

Little munchkin: I am compelled to apologize for certain facts of your young life.  None of these incidents are, individually, overwhelmingly negative, and most occur simply by virtue of your birth order. However, it will be years before you reap the benefits of being second born, and in the meantime I have some ‘splaining to do.

First, I'm sorry for sometimes emphasizing developmental milestones you have not yet reached. "Well the baby doesn't even walk yet! Of course she doesn't have to eat tomatoes." You see, it can be a useful tool in getting your sibling less hungry or less nude. Just know that by no means are you expected to walk or sing or eat soup by one month old.  People double your age can't even do so.  And I assure you that what sounds like an insult is always a last resort attempt to protect your face. "Let's play in a different room, the baby can't even catch a ball."

In addition, I didn't intend to suggest to your sister that your every movement results in poop, but that's what I have inadvertently accomplished. Sometimes it's for your own safety- "don't touch her, she just pooped!" Sometimes it's an explanation. "I'll play with you as soon as I clean the baby's poop." It can be an excuse - "Not sure what that smell is. I guess the baby pooped" - or a lazy response to your sister's curiosity - "that face she's making? Must be pooping." We should have focused on your sweet and contagious smile, but this poop thing took over.  My bad.

I must apologize for our choice of entertainment too, as I have recently realized how depressing 90% of Russian kids songs are. Your father and I are experiencing a cultural awakening of sorts, which boils down to this: Soviet era poems, nursery rhymes, and songs from children’s cartoons and movies. Upon researching the song lyrics and reading them at the pace of a 6 year old, it turns out they are all unbearably nostalgic and almost exclusively about lost youth.   Upbeat tunes that should sing of frolicking in sunny fields instead describe the rapid floating away of time.  Yesterday? Gone.  Seriously, little child, it's gone forever but hey, the best is yet to come.  (A reference, I assume, to jobs, bills, and car repairs).  It seems that a Soviet childhood is incomplete without awareness of the simultaneous loss of childhood.   The other 10% of songs bear the distinct aftertaste of communism ("a good friend doesn't ask too many questions").  Please accept the Russian language that I hope you will retain as an apology for this poorly timed reminder to carpe diem and avoid the KGB.  And in that vein - you might have a Russian accent as you enter preschool. It’ll fade, but will be hilarious while it lasts.

You may have expected to be the only one waking throughout the night, and for your sleep, at least at night, to be otherwise undisturbed. I'm sorry that's not true in real life. Your toddler kin has begun waking for water (which she requests extraordinarily loudly and suddenly) or for a good old fashioned 2 a.m. tantrum. When that happens, I can almost see you rolling your eyes. "For all the time you spent putting me to sleep, one would think you'd try harder to keep me asleep. It's fine, I'll just nurse all night." You may have some choice words for your sister as well. Do I take responsibility for this situation? Yes. But know that I'm not thrilled about it either.

"Honey, is the baby sleeping?" "Nope"
Finally, no apology to you would be complete without explaining why I allow your sister to "help with the baby." They say it encourages bonding, decreases resentment. In fact, there has been a lower incidence of toddler-on-infant violence at our residence when our big girl puts on the baby's socks (minus a toe or two), unzips her onesie, or carries her to the car. Kidding about that last one, but you know who to thank when you two become best friends. Can we agree it was worth the occasional cold toe or rough unswaddling? I'll ask again later. Way later.