I started writing this post in March, and - can you believe it? - I got sidetracked and put it aside. This is what I wrote:
You gave me a kiss for the first time last week (you had already smooched daddy and River a few days before and I was waiting anxiously for my turn). It was a slobbery open-mouthed face mash and just about the sweetest thing ever. It was evening, you were warm and cozy in your pajamas after bath time and your dad said, "Okay, Lila, it's time for bed. Give mommy and River a kiss." You hit us with your mushy love, waved and said "bye bye," and then led the way to your bedroom. Amazing. I think about the fact that you only just learned to walk a few short months ago, that it's even less time since you stopped putting EVERYTHING into your mouth, and I realize how quickly you've gone from baby to toddler.
My heart breaks a little bit to think of those baby days as "past." To know that you won't ever again be a little 8 lb beauty practically floating in my arms; that I can't repeat those precious moments watching you discover your own hands; that I'll never again kiss those impossibly tiny toes. Of course it's not a tragedy because I get to hold my 20 lb big girl as you chatter at me, and I can watch you discover how to hold a spoon or fork, and I can kiss those impossibly cute cheeks (and toes) anytime I want.
I wanted to share this with you because it's such a sweet little kernel of "Lila-life" and I don't want to forget it. You have become quite an adept - and frequent - kisser, and every exit and goodbye is accompanied by a sweet smooch from you. But should I try to request a kiss outside those parameters? Don't even think of it, buddy. I used to worry that you would never be a cuddly kid. You're so independent; you have never needed rocking and holding the way River did. You have always pushed away too much affection and demanded your personal space. But slowly, right about the time you finally deigned to let us have your sweet kisses, you started to allow a snuggle here, a hug there, until now, you will frequently occupy my lap for a long cuddle. The key is that YOU must initiate. If River or I go in for a hug (as we so often want to do), you will resolutely reject all advances. This affection thing will occur on your terms or not at all. It's something I love about you.
Your ability to fend off unwanted advances extends beyond people. I remember a moment from last spring when we were at River's school to pick him up and one of the other parents had brought along their hyper, jumpy little puppy. She was bouncing around from kid to kid and when she approached you for a quick nuzzle, you looked sternly at her and gave her a little "no, no, no" wag of your finger. Every adult around dropped their jaw, then burst out laughing. "Oh my," said one of them, "you don't have to worry about her at all." We'll see.
While you don't want affection thrust upon you, you don't have the slightest compunction about thrusting your affection on animals. Our long-suffering kitties have born the brunt of your rough love, enduring full-body tackles, sticky finger petting, and the occasional fur-pull. Poe is smart enough to move away when she's had enough of your "love," but Edgar is too lazy to move; or perhaps so needy for affection that he is willing to put up with all sorts of indignities to get it.
You love all kinds of animals! You gravitate toward animal picture books and whenever we're outside you're sure to point out the birds and squirrels and bugs that you see. For a while you used the "bird" sign to point out small creatures, making a little "cheep cheep" sound as you pressed your thumb and index finger together. Ducks made the "quack quack" sound, which you imitated quite well, but all other animals were ferocious beasts who made a deep-throated growl. Elephant? Growl. Tiger? Growl. Alpaca? Growl. After learning a series of real and made-up signs, you now know how to distinguish a monkey from a fish from a dinosaur. For all the other myriad creatures you don't know the name for, we now sign "animal." I miss the growl a little bit.
You are a little expert at sign language. I know we could be having full conversations in sign by now if I could learn it more quickly, because you pick up a sign within the first few uses. It's helped us tremendously in communicating with you. You let us know when you're hungry or thirsty, when you need to potty or sleep; you point out things you see like flowers and helicopters (for which you've created your own sign of "air train"!). And while you're moving at your own pace in speaking, you are definitely not missing out on sharing your ideas with us. Sign came in handy a few months ago when you insisted on calling any grown-up mommy, even your father. I taught you the sign for daddy and instantly you were able to say the word. Now grown-ups are divided by gender into "mommy" and "daddy" - which is pretty amusing when you attack a stranger with a hug and an exuberant "Daddy!"
I mentioned your use of the sign for "potty" above and I don't want to skip over the fact that at 21 months you have effectively potty trained yourself. River loves to hear the story I tell about how this came about, so here it is: You followed me into the bathroom one afternoon having nothing on but a diaper. We had taught you the "potty" sign in anticipation of using it down the road, and you signed it to me then. I said, "Yes, mommy is going to go potty." You kept signing and started pulling your diaper off. Finally it clicked and I asked if you wanted to try to go potty. You gave a resounding head nod, so I pulled out River's old training seat and set you up. I figured you'd be there for a few minutes and get off. When I asked if you were done you shook your head no, so we waited a bit more. Finally, I heard a little tinkle tinkle in the pot and I couldn't believe my ears. We decided to seize the opportunity and get you into panties for a training weekend. It went so well that you're now in them all the time (except sleeping), and we have lots of days with no accidents at all. I'm so proud of you.
There is still one area where your independence waivers a bit, and that is blankie. River has his stuffed bear as a sleeping companion but for you, it's always been the little punk rock quilt I made for you. You've never taken a pacifier to sleep, and as I mentioned above, you're not really a cuddler, so most nights your bedtime routine is a few books and songs in a chair, then we lay you down with blankie, you pop your thumb in your mouth and fall asleep. But blankie is such a comfort item for you, you've started carrying it around whenever we let you. And when you have it in your hand, you almost always want to lay down on it with your thumb in your mouth. It's the cutest Pavlovian response I've ever seen. It's really the only time you suck your thumb - but you simply can't resist when you have the pink and black blankie in your arms.
Lila, you are growing into such a fun and amazing person. I've loved watching you transition from teeny baby to independent toddler. You love to follow River around and try to do everything he does. As a result you're quite a good climber and have surprising dexterity. You love music and will dance to the beat anytime you hear it. You are funny and happy and so easy-going. And while the two's are on the horizon, and I know they won't pass us by unscathed, you have already shown us your basic approach to the world: enjoy life, laugh a lot, and don't let the little things stress you out.
I love you my baby girl. To the moon and back.