This is your last monthly birthday before you become a big brother (probably). Right now, every little trick you learn is fodder for these letters; with a new baby girl in the house, you may have to step up your game. New words and animal sounds aren’t going to cut it. You’re going to have to start filing for patents, or at least learn how to drive. Ask your mom for the keys.
This past month, it’s been just as amazing as the previous eighteen. If I had the energy to draw up a chart of time vs. vocabulary, it’d be one of those power-law curves, where it hums along for 18 ticks and then shoots skyward in an instant. Used to be, for you to learn a word, we’d have to repeat it for days, or even weeks. Sometime recently, some linguistic neuron snapped into place, and suddenly you’re able to pick up on sounds in a flash. You’re not great at getting the whole word, but you are consistent in what you do get. Cereal is “yull.” Gorilla is “ola.” Bird is “byu.” Bath is “bow.” Kitty is “ki’ee.” It’s kind of Cockney, now that I think about it. “Mama,” “dada” and “baby” are all spot-on.
Your mimicry has accelerated at the same pace, if not faster. It took you months to learn to wave (and then forget, and then learn again). Now you pick up gestures after seeing one or two times. You throw up your hands in a flex motion when we you hear “strong” in a book. You tickle yourself like the storybook bees do, and butterflies make you flutter your hands in a way that we both swear we can’t remember doing ourselves. The bigger joy is seeing you mimic the everyday behaviors we don’t even think about: taking our keys and trying to put them in the lock to open the door. Wetting a washcloth in the sink and patting it to your face. Blowing your nose in a tissue and saying “achoo!” And of course, your favorite, talking on the phone.
My god, the phones, you are obsessed with them. You’ll gladly talk on anything in vaguely a phone shape, but you save your true love for my iPhone, dropping whatever you’re doing when you see it, and calling after it with a plaintive “Hello? Hello?”. I knew I was entering dangerous territory when I taught you — taught you! — how to swipe it open. But I also knew I wouldn’t be able to resist your clamoring forever, so better to give in early and teach you how to use it properly. And actually, it’s worked. For a while all you could do was hit the home button. Now, you swipe your way toward the screen that holds all the kids apps, and you actually play with them. And bless you, they keep you entertained for dozens of minutes at at time. (Your favorites are the charming Peekaboo Barn and the rather boring but educational I Hear Ewe.) You even have learned how to flip off the vibrate switch so you can hear the animal sounds. I do realize this could easily be your first step down a deep descent into technological addiction. Please promise me you’ll use these newfound preternatural powers for good.
However much you can say and gesture, it’s clearly nothing compared to what you can understand. We basically always talk to you in direct, complete sentences, and yet we’re always in awe when you understand what we’ve said. “Turn off the light,” we’ll say, and you’ll walk over to the foot pedal and press it. “Hand me the book,” and you’ll do that. “Pick another one, please,” and you’ll turn around and get another. “Make me a Mahattan,” and you’ll look at me awkwardly and shrug, as if to say, “You know I can’t reach the top shelf, Dad. Go make one yourself.”
You do all this while constantly affecting a cheery mood, giggling and running around, chasing me and letting me chase you, without exhaustion. I think all these new communication skills have lowered the stress of not being able to get what you want, which had caused you much woe in the past. Just in time, too. You’re going to need to be a lot more self-sufficient with the new kiddo around. I’m looking forward to see you quickly develop into an awesome big brother. I know it’ll suit you perfectly.