Archive | Dear Natalie

Dear Natalie: Two Years!

N-24months-web

Dear Natalie,

You’ll notice that this month we abandoned the chair that has been a constant in your photos for the past year. The main reason for this is that, quite simply, you were having none of it. You’re over having your picture taken, you’re over sitting in the chair, and you’re over doing anything I suggest simply because I’m the one who suggested it.

(Yeah, we might be dealing with a tiny bit of rebellion as you sort out where you stand now that Olivia has joined our family.)

At first I was chagrined that they wouldn’t all be the same. I’m going to level with you: it bugs me that this one is different, and my first choice would be for you to just sit in the darn chair for one photo (your OCD-tendencies had to come from somewhere).

But then I realized: you’re not a baby anymore. You’re a person, albeit a small one, with opinions and desires and preferences all your own. And if you don’t want to sit in the chair, well, that’s not a battle I choose to fight. I respect the fact that that’s not something you’re interested in right now.

But MAN is that hard to do. I want you to do what I say, because I say so.

Except that’s not the way it works, because you’re growing up. The days of being able to set you down someplace and you staying there because you’re literally incapable of walking away are LONG gone.

This is where your free will comes in, and that, sweet girl, is something you have in spades. IRON will, for sure, an indomitable spirit that laughs in the face of because I said so. 

This trait will serve you very, very well in the future. It can be terribly frustrating to parent such a spirit at times, but it’s a learning experience for all of us. And that’s really what this past year has been: frustrating. No, I’m kidding. A learning experience.

In the last letter of your first year, I wrote that the adventure was just beginning and that I still have so much to learn about being your mom. And it’s true — I still feel at times like I’m navigating this whole motherhood thing blindfolded, stumbling down a rocky path littered with the toughest challenges I’ve ever encountered.

But I’ve never felt as proud of anything in my life.

I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome the last two years with you have been, and I mean that in the literal sense: I’m in awe. Of you. Of the person you are, of who I see you becoming, of how much your dad and I have grown just by being your parents.

Onwards and upwards, my girl. The adventure continues.

Love always,
Mama

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Dear Natalie: 23 Months

N-23months-web

Dear Natalie,

I’m in total shock that this is the last letter I’ll write to you while you’re still an only child. You’re about to experience a paradigm shift of epic proportions, and there’s nothing we can do to prepare you for it.

We’ve read books about being a big sister. We’ve read books about how babies are little, and they can’t do the things that big girls like you can. We hug your baby doll and encourage you to be gentle with it. Overall you’re pretty good with that, but like any toddler, you still spend plenty of time dragging your baby around by her ankles and flinging her out of the doll stroller to make room for crayons and stickers. Priorities.

We talk a lot about the baby sister in Mama’s belly, but at this stage, it’s just not a concept that’s sticking. At all. When we ask if you can say, “baby sister,” you grin and say, “baby ELMO!” You can sort-of say the word “sister,” so my theory is that you realize full well how funny we think this answer is and you’re milking it for all it’s worth.

As a fellow oldest child with a younger sister, I can tell you that there will be moments when you’ll question our judgement in adding to our family. Why on EARTH did they think bringing this annoying little thing into the world, MY world, was a good idea?

The answer, my sweet girl, is simple: you.

You made us parents. You changed our world in life-altering, life-affirming ways. You opened our hearts so wide that we knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there’s absolutely room for another person (maybe more!) in our family.

What it comes down to is this: you are AWESOME. If you weren’t so awesome, if we didn’t love being your parents so much, we wouldn’t be having another. But you are and we do and ready or not, she’s on her way.

She’ll be awesome too, of course. How could she not? She has the best big sister ever.

Love always,
Mama

 

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Dear Natalie: 22 Months

N-22months-web

Dear Natalie,

It  made sense to take your photo this month in front of Grammy and Grandpa’s house, since that’s where you think you live these days.

When I get you out of your crib this morning, you ask for Grammy (sometimes Elmo comes first, but usually Grammy). While I make breakfast, you stand at the window that faces their house and urgently point across the street.

Buh-ba? Buh-ba?

(That’s how you say Grammy and Grandpa right now; they both share a name.)

Sometimes we walk over for a visit, and sometimes we don’t. Since, despite what you may believe, they don’t actually want a toddler in their house ALL THE TIME.

But somehow you and I have come to a terrible misunderstanding. You think that whenever we put on shoes, it’s so we can go visit Grammy. Whenever ANYONE puts on shoes, it’s to visit Grammy. This means that several times a day you follow me around the house, attempting to put sandals on my feet while I’m still walking, insistently saying, “Shoes? Shoes? SHOES?”

You bring your own sandals to me and thrust them in my face. “Shoes? Buh-ba! Shoes? Buh-ba!” This does not always end well for you, since very often the plan is not to go to Grammy’s. And so you launch your very own Plan B, wherein you grab me by the hand and attempt to drag me to the front door.

Kiddo, I outweigh you by quite a bit, especially right now. You are an exceptionally strong, capable, determined little person…but it ain’t happening.

Sometimes you’re able to shake off this setback like it ain’t no thang at all, and you go back to playing with your sticker book or stripping the clothes off your baby dolls or trying to share cheese sticks with the cats.

But sometimes it feels like the end of the world. You stand in front of me and sob, giant tears rolling down your cheeks, and incoherently bleat requests at me, not just to see Grammy, but for your other favorite things in life, too (tops on the list right now: Daniel Tiger/Curious George, ham, blueberries, or a squeeze pouch).

I’m not going to lie: in those moments it’s really hard not to open the fridge and kitchen cabinets, grab you whatever your heart desires, and then turn on the tv. I also will not lie: there have been a few moments when that’s exactly what I did. But mostly I just try to distract you, which is not an easy task.

If I try to pick you up, you push me away.

If I invite you to sit with me and read a book to calm down, you wrench it from my hands and fling it on the floor.

If I ignore you, you cling to my legs and beg to be picked up…and then when I reach for you, you try to drag me to the door.

Sigh.

It’s so tough being you, little one, and I mean that sincerely. You have all these feelings and all these things that you want to do, and you’re starting to learn that we operate within a framework, aka the real world, that doesn’t allow us to do whatever we want, whenever we want. As a toddler you certainly have more leeway than most (your Aunt Leslie and I joke frequently about how we wish we could adopt some of your strategies, like bolting away while screeching and flapping our arms whenever anyone asks us to do something), but there are still plenty of limits in your life.

You’re testing everything right now and it is completely exhausting. Your dad and I frequently ask each other, “Is this a battle worth fighting?” Sometimes we decide that it’s really not. You want your plastic horse at the dinner table with you? And you want to pretend to feed it green beans? Fine. Sure. Let’s go with that. You’re at the table with us and you’re eating plenty of your own food, so we just roll with it.

But sometimes, it really is worth standing our ground. Not because of table manners, but because it involves your personal safety. Yes, you need to hold our hands while we’re in a parking lot. No, you cannot run around the yard holding that javelin-length stick that you found. Yes, you need to sit in your highchair until we help you out of it, and no, launching yourself over the side is not a valid exit strategy.

Sigh.

I know eventually all of this will us pay off and you’ll decide it’s not worth fighting us on these things, since you cannot win. We mean it. So, maybe in 15-20 years?

And in the meantime, when I’m frazzled and you’re ricocheting around the house like an amped-up pinball, and I feel like I’m totally out of options for entertaining you that don’t involve our dear friend Elmo, I know I still have one trump card left.

Let’s put on SHOES! And visit GRAMMY!

Love always,
Mama

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Dear Natalie: 21 Months

N-21months-web

Dear Natalie,

HOW are you almost two years old?? You are every inch a toddler now, though, with barely any trace of baby left.

On the one hand, this makes me a little bit nostalgic — mostly from looking at pictures of you taken one year ago when you were roly-poly from head to toe and you’d sit exactly where I put you down.

But on the other hand, I love you at this age. And every age, now and forever (mandatory mom disclaimer!). But there’s something extra delightful about you at this point, especially discovering more and more of your personality every day.

If I had to describe you in one word right now, it would be focused. Not that you don’t do your fair share of ping-ponging around the house, cycling through 12 activities in the span of 4 minutes, because…obviously. You’re 21 months old. But you study things. Intently. And you want them to be just so, a trait that you inherited a double dose of from your dad and me (sorry about that).

When we color, you recap your markers. All of them. With the right color caps.

For the most part, you cheerfully help clean up your toys. Putting things inside other things is pretty much your favorite hobby right now, so it stands to reason that returning your toys to their basket makes you beam with pride.

You collect all the pens in the house and, as deliberately as you can, put them in the plastic holder they came in. You get frustrated and ask me to help if you can’t quite get them in the right slots. When you’re done with that activity, you take them all back out and line them up over and over again, carefully nudging them into place. You usually count them as you go, which is utterly adorable because you can’t count yet. You’ve got the sing-song counting pitch and rhythm down pat, but the numbers definitely aren’t in English. Except for “one,” which you pronounce as “none.”

We have a reusable sticker pad with several different scenes and tons of different animal stickers. This, for you, is about a 20-minute activity (an AMAZINGLY long stretch of time!). Sometimes you need help peeling the stickers off their sheet, but you figured out pretty quickly how to do it yourself and don’t usually need me for that. You study the scene and consider where to place each animal before setting it down, giving it a quick double tap to keep it in place before moving on to the next. I don’t know if most kids do this or not, but you place the stickers right-side up 98% of the time (same thing with books; when you’re “reading” to yourself the books are never, never upside down).

I’m making you sound like such a serious, withdrawn child, but that’s definitely not the case. You’re a ham. You see the humor in things, which I always find completely astounding. We made a person with a sense of humor. How incredible is that? One of your favorite games right now is making any adults in your mealtime vicinity blow on your food to cool it down, even (or especially!) if it’s clearly unnecessary. “HOT!” you declare with a grin as you present us with a piece of cheese straight from the fridge. We dutifully blow on it before you stuff it in your mouth, throwing your head back and laughing at how silly we all are.

You’re picking up new words like gangbusters these days, even though we don’t know what half of them are. It’s like living with a tiny Ewok that jabbers at me all day and gets incredibly annoyed when I have absolutely no idea what you’re asking for. We muddle through, though. Even when I’m being purposely obtuse when I know full well that you’re asking me to turn on the TV to watch Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger.

We have our fair share of challenging times, especially as you’re learning to process feelings like frustration and disappointment and anger. These are tough emotions, for sure, and most adults don’t even handle them in a good way 100% of the time — myself included, but knowing that you’re watching me and soaking up EVERY SINGLE THING I SAY AND DO is really, really good motivation for me to practice processing those feelings in a better way.

I’m certainly not perfect, and neither is your dad. But we love you, oh my gosh do we love you, and we’re working on setting the best example that we can.

Love always,
Mama

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Dear Natalie: 20 Months

N-20months-web

Dear Natalie,

Well, here we are in Tennessee, and you couldn’t be happier about it.

Really, what’s not to love? When we left Boston, a “balmy spring day” was about 40 degrees. There was still a pile of snow on our front lawn. We had plenty of scheduled activities, like Mama Beast and playdates, but the bulk of our time was still spent with just you and me (not that I mind when it’s just the two of us, of course, but I did frequently find myself at a loss for what we could do that didn’t involve Sesame Street).

Since we arrived, we’ve rotated into a much more summery wardrobe of t-shirts, shorts, and adorable dresses. You get to walk on the grass barefoot (although this is less frequent than tearing across the lawn in your sandals, since you still find nature on your feet offensive). We’ve spent time with Grammy and your Aunt Leslie every single day, and I’ve even gotten to do terribly exciting things like grocery shop all by myself while you hang out with them.

Our routine is still a bit up in the air since we’re finding our footing and getting used to life here, but you’re settling in just wonderfully. Aside from two no-nap days when we first arrived, your sleep schedule has been fantastic. We’ve made no changes to your bedtime, but you’re sleeping in until after 7 a.m. every day — almost a full hour later than what you were doing in Boston. This makes your very pregnant, very tired mama very, very happy, because it means get to sleep until 7 a.m. every day.

Your dad is getting used to his new job and his new commute, and we’re currently house-hunting. We probably won’t be all moved in to a new place until sometime after your sister is born, and that’s ok. This next house is the house you’re going to remember. It’s the house of which you’ll have your earliest memories, the house where we’ll be living for the 5-10 years, fingers crossed. So we’re taking our time with the hunt.

While we’re doing that, you’re practicing your comedy skills. You’ve really blossomed with the eyes of an audience besides myself upon you, and you play it up, girl.  You know when you’re being funny and it’s nearly impossible not to laugh, even (or especially) when it’s behavior we don’t want to encourage. Like casually running your fork through your hair at dinner, flinging things into the air and shouting, “OH NO! OH NO!”, or standing up and dancing in the bathtub that doesn’t currently have a non-slip mat in it.

You were doing just that during your bath the other night. I tried in vain to be stern and convince you to sit on your butt in the tub rather than shake your bubble-covered groove thang, but the giggles got the best of me at the pure joy on your face. You turned to me, quite suddenly very solemn, just as I was telling you once again that we sit in the tub.

And you stuffed a plastic bath toy straight into my mouth.

Then you laughed hysterically and continued your bathtime boogie.

I guess we still have some work to do with those sitting skills.

Love always,
Mama

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