You turned two this month, and I have devoted no small amount of time into figuring out how to bottle you, to preserve the essence of you at what I can only imagine is peak cute. I keep thinking the formula is nearly perfect, and then, every time I test it out, the Oompa Loompa turns into a huge blueberry and rolls away.
But first it wakes me up at 5:17 in the morning and demands a muffin and a glass of milk.
So I guess that you are going to keep on growing in the way that you have for the past two years, and I will just have to trust in the photographs and videos and, yes, this blog, to remember what you were like RIGHT NOW, barely 20 pounds soaking wet, in your goofy little frog hat that shades you so nicely from the sun.
I will have to remember your uncanny ability to wedge yourself so precisely into the space next to my body, and your almost palpable satisfaction at doing so with both white fuzzy security blankets in your arms and your thumb in your mouth. We spend lots of time like that on the couch, where we read, over and over again, books about trucks and about dogs, and you still get mad when the back cover of the board book will not open, and you try to pry apart the layers of cardboard in an effort to squeeze out just one more little bit of story. But you’re learning to flip the book back to the beginning and begin again. And each time we see that dump truck or the “six quiet dogs,” it’s just as thrilling as the last time.
For your birthday, we are buying you some leverage with your older brother in the form of two particularly coveted Sodor Railway trains. That brother of yours, one of his favorite questions is, “How come Isaac always wants to do what I want to do?” He sounds a bit put out by the whole younger sibling thing, and to some extent, he is. After all, one of your favorite phrases in relation to him is, “Coming too.” But I’ll tell you both a secret: pretty much just as much of the time, he wants to do what you’re doing, too. The two of you will disappear upstairs or into the basement for half an hour or more at a time, and your other mother and I are learning to back off just a bit when the two of you play. Because, when we do, when there’s no authority figure to provoke, your older brother becomes protective, solicitous of your toddler needs, nurturing. Many times, we’ll hear a bump, and then your cry, and then his voice, asking if you’re okay, if you want a hug or your blanket or some water. And, more often than not, you’re fine, trusting in him to make things better. He likes to lie down with you while you nap, swearing up and down that of course he will not talk and he will go to sleep. And then the two of you giggle and wrestle and natter and mess around until we finally have to escort him, protesting, from the room.
You doubled your lifespan over the past 365 days, and will double it again and again and again and still be younger than me. During that time, you learned how to walk and to talk, to feed yourself, what the telephone is for and how to climb into your own car seat. You paint, you sing, you dance, you sweep the floor. At playgroup the other day, you planted your first red runner bean. You like to mix up batches of pretend oatmeal in the sandbox and serve them to anyone who’s hungry. You are enamored of tea parties, a particular stuffed doggy, and the cats, even though the big one occasionally lets you know when to cut it out with the poking her with pens and paper clips. You have an uncanny ear for motorcycles and ambulances, and like to imitate a truck backing up, beep-beep-beeping as you shuffle carefully backwards.
You are a second child, who knows of things like ice cream and Pokémon well before your older brother ever did. When you wake up from your nap hysterical and inconsolable, your other mother and I feel bad for you but we do not worry, we do not feel desperate and wonder what we did wrong. You have grown up, thus far, not under the weight of our anxiety but rather our bemusement. Has that made a difference to your personality? Is that why you have the sense of humour you do, screwing up your face into coy little grimaces, pursing those rosebud lips into your series of funny faces? Rowan likes to get you to perform your tricks like a trained seal at a party: “Isaac, do baby laughing!” he’ll say, and you will oblige by breaking out in a series of jolly guffaws. “Isaac, do baby crying!” he’ll say, and you’ll wah-wah-wah for the audience.
And even though you’re two now, we still do think of you as a baby, our tiny, smiley little guy. You made a spectacular entry into the world, and I often find myself in the bathroom, marveling at the spot of linoleum right near the cupboard where the doula laid you carefully onto a towel before rushing off to grab some piece of equipment or other. Your other mother was on the phone, paging the midwife, who was parking her car in our driveway. Your big brother, seven months older than you are now, was asleep in his bed, barely 20 feet away. Time slowed down then for me, so that the entire world consisted of our two bodies, still joined, and the maybe six square feet of bathroom floor we occupied, me on my knees and breathless and thrilled at the turn of events that let me have you at home instead of the euphemistically named Regional Health Sciences Centre. I’d spent the day in labour, breathing through contractions and thinking about what it meant to open, to make that kind of room within myself and without, imagining you as my partner in this process and working with me to get you here, each of us trusting in the other’s instincts and decisions.
Even your 5 a.m. wakeup calls will eventually cease. On my mornings to get up with you, you eat your snack and then we cuddle up in your big brother’s abandoned bed for 45 minutes or so. You start off a foot or so away from me and slowly inch your way closer until we are spooning, me breathing in the scent of your strawberry-blond hair, nuzzling your skin, holding your tiny body close to mine for as long as I can until you turn over and sit up and say, “Go downstairs.” And I sigh and heave my weary body up and say, “Okay.” And you reach out your arms and say, “Coming too.” And we go downstairs together and squeeze out just a little bit more of the story.
Happy birthday, baby.