Natalie Right Now: Two and almost-a-half

  This blog has been pretty Olivia-centric lately. They say that it’s the second child who gets the short end of the stick, but during the last several weeks (mostly since Olivia’s sleep regression started) I think it’s poor Natalie who’s been neglected.

“Natalie, I need you to be patient while I feed Olivia.”

“Natalie, can you sit in front of the TV while I rock your sister for 45 minutes just so she’ll sleep for 15?”

“Natalie, please just raise yourself for the next few days; Mommy’s too tired to be useful. You know where the peanut butter and jelly are.”

And even though she’s not quite two-and-a-half, even though she has the attention span of a typical toddler, even though she’s been feeling out of sorts and jealous of her sister, this child has been, by and large, a saint. 

She’s amazing. Every time I turn around she’s learned something new, made some connection I thought she was too young to understand, or showing an incredible level of empathy for Olivia.

And then she turns around and yanks Olivia’s toy out of her hand and runs away shrieking with laughter, because, you know, two-and-a-half. 

Natalie right now…

Loves play-doh and wants me to help her make snakes and trains and balls every day. When she’s done she announces it’s time to “pick up pay-doh” and meticulously sorts all three of the colors back into their original containers. There is no mushing together of colors, oh no, not in this house.

Is a bottomless pit. She’d eat twelve snacks a day if I let her. She also uses this as a stall tactic and declares almost every day before naptime, “So hungry, mama, so hungry.” Mmm-hmm, you must be starving after a sandwich and a clementine and a piece of ham and sliced cheese and a glass of milk. So hungry, indeed.

Adores her baby sister. For every time that she rips a toy out of Olivia’s hand, there are three more when she rubs the top of Olivia’s fuzzy little head like a good luck charm, drapes herself over Olivia to give her a hug, or retrieves Sophie when Olivia chucks it on the floor for the millionth time.

Is a Stage 5 Clinger. Good god do I love this child and I would go to the ends of the earth for her…but I’d also like to be able to pee alone without tiny fists banging on the door while she shouts MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA from the other side. Thirty seconds, child; no need to try and push your fingers underneath the door. She also won’t let Will do anything. And I mean anything. Diaper changes, wiping her face after she eats, helping her out of her booster seat, giving her a bath, even walking downstairs with her. NO NO NO NO MAMA DO IT MAMA DO IT MAMA DO IT!!!!

At first it was kind of sweet, like, aw, my baby loves me better than anyone else in the world. But now? I totally hit the wall this weekend after everyone, including myself, was sick the whole week and I hadn’t spent more than a few minutes away from one child or the other. Every time Natalie grabbed my hand or started to tantrum because she wanted me to do something, I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. Touched out. Completely. It passed, thankfully, because that’s a really horrible feeling to have. But also a good lesson, because that’s what happens when I don’t take time for myself.

Anyway, back to Natalie. She…

Doesn’t understand the concept of Christmas or presents, but asks to listen to Christmas music (“Tis-mis music”) every day. My sister’s birthday party was this weekend and Natalie kept trying to distribute Leslie’s presents to everyone else at the party. She should be entertaining on Christmas Day. 

Thinks the whole world works at either the shop (what she calls my uncle’s business, and it’s true, most of the people in her orbit do work there) or Hobby Lobby, where my sister works. Only she pronounces it “Hobby Obby” and I’m going to be so, so sad when she starts saying the letter L. 

Parenting her feels like higher stakes than it used to — I mean really, it’s not like you “parent” a baby; you just take care of their basic need for food and clean diapers and affection. Sleep training kind of falls under that umbrella but it’s not the same as what we’re doing with Natalie: trying to raise a decent, empathetic, thoughtful, curious, and ultimately independent human being. NO PRESSURE. 

Higher stakes but higher rewards. The daily grind of “no you can’t do this/eat that/throw those” is finally starting to pay off, little by little. Not without many, many setbacks, of course, but she’s absorbing at least some of what we’ve been striving to teach her. 

And it is rewarding. When she throws her wiry arms around me and presses her sticky little face to mine and shouts “I got you, mama!” I think to myself, “You have no idea, kid.” 

She’s got me, alright. Hook, line, and sinker. 

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