Sometimes I catch you practicing. “Moo,” you say. “Baa. Woof woof. Meow.” You are studying for our frequent quizzes. A few days ago all the animals said “baa.” Another day they all said “moo.” I think you actually know when you’re not doing the right sound. You’re telling a joke.
You’re working on so many words this month. You use “ball” pretty consistently, and for the last week you’ve been getting so much better with “shoes” (“zooooooos”). But by far your favorite word in the whole wide wonderful world is “bye.” Your goodbyes are amazing. You wave solemnly. “Bye,” you say, nodding your head as if to say, “I have considered it, and indeed, our interaction has come to an end.” Then, at first with lots of prompting from mom, but lately all of your own accord, you begin blowing kisses. You are so proud of yourself, smiling after each kiss is sent off into the world.
Turns out, your favorite person to say goodbye to is me. The other day, your dad picked you up to give you a hug goodbye, and instead you clung to his neck, and turned to me with a defiant “bye.” Yesterday at the park, you stood up on the first step to the slide, turned around, and bade me farewell. I walked a few steps away, and then turned back to find you delighted, still waving me away.
I know you love those goodbyes so much because they are a prelude to more hellos. When I go into your room after a long nap or a good night’s sleep, I find you on your tummy hugging Bubbles, or standing up with your arms hanging languidly over the railing, and you open up a smile like the sun and reach out for a huge hug. Sometimes during the day when you are playing, you will tug me down to the ground so you can run toward me and throw your arms around my neck. One of our new games is Push-Kiss, where you stand behind me while I sit on the ground, and push me forward. When I bounce back up, I whip my head around and plant one on your cheek. Sometimes you give me kisses, too, and your kisses are huge and wet and frequently involve putting your whole mouth in my mouth. I’ve been working on teaching you to pucker.
Last month your dad described you as deliberate, and that quality is evolving with more and more clarity this month. At the apple orchard a few weeks ago, you chose carefully which apples to pick, and you increasingly point exactly at a food you want or a place you want me to take you. You develop complicated plans, and you cannot be deterred from them, trying them again and again until you have a breakthrough. This month a primary goal has been to walk in a pair of our shoes, but you are hampered by your inability to stand on one foot while you get the second shoe on. No matter. You drag the shoes one by one over to us, so we can help you live out your dream.
This month, we have spent hours and hours at the park. It’s been a gorgeous, warm autumn so far, and the neighborhood is alive with parents and kids. I’ve made some new friends, and I’ve gotten to see you evolve in the way you interact, both with the park itself (when did my little baby learn to go down the slide all by himself?) and with other kids. I watch you follow small groups of older boys around, watching what they do, and I watch you try so hard to wrap your brain around how to share a ball with another toddler.
We have friends at the park, but your true love will always be Veronica. You two spend hours together each week. Veronica, a quick talker, is already saying your name, shouting “Ezra!” as you amble towards her. (You haven’t said Veronica yet, though you do frequently spend minutes repeating “Gup GAH” to yourself, and it’s possible you are just practicing some version of her name.) A few weeks ago at a mommy gathering, the two of you wandered off into the far reaches of our friend’s yard, where you found a playhouse and entertained each other for fifteen minutes. No crying, no moms. Just you and Veronica, figuring out how to play together.
Perhaps your stuffed animals are tutoring you in all this learning about how to play. I used to lay you down for bedtime or naps in a drowsy state, and you would sleepily hug one of your buddies and settle in. (Or, let’s be honest, wake with a start, stand up, and start screaming at the top of your lungs). Recently, more often than not, you are totally awake when I put you in the crib, excited to see your buddies and talk about your day. We call it Monkey Party, and it can go on for fifteen or twenty minutes, with you giggling and chatting away. Luckily for us, after a little while Bubbles gently reminds you that it’s time to settle down, and slowly your babbling fades away, and you sleep.
With much love, many blown kisses, and a million monkey hugs,