Thursday, October 18, 2012
YH sits at the dining room table, carefully scooping yogurt out of a bowl.
He selects an O with his thumb and index finger and places it on the tip of the spoonful of yogurt.
"Good moring O, good morning 'ogurt" he says, laughing out loud before popping the whole thing into his mouth.
He chews and says "Mmmmm! Mom! Mmmmm!"
There is yogurt on his forehead, and a tiny smudge of it on his glasses frames.
He smiles at me and lowers his spoon back into the bowl, ready to do it all over again.
This kid is so full of joy.
After breakfast we head to his preschool. He attends two morning per week, in a class with seven other two-year olds. His teacher is sweet and kind, with a quiet gentle manner. YH *loves* school. He spends the car ride over listing all of his classmates names.
"Mom? Mom? 'Mmily. Ooown. Oz. Tom. 'liza. 'livva. 'Omi. Kaaaai. BEA!"
We open the door to his school and enter the lounge-y common area. Moms and babies are making good use of the sofas and comfy chairs, chatting before heading out to their cars and bikes. YH makes a beeline for whatever baby is closest and leans over the infant.
"Hey baby! Good morning baby! Tickle tickle.."
After his initial greetings are delivered to all of the babies present, he makes his way around waving to the adults and finally makes it into his classroom. We sign him in and wash his hands before heading outside to the play area. He finds a truck to push around and gives me a cheerful kiss goodbye.
I dawdle for several minutes before leaving. The leaving is still hard on me. (Not so much on YH, though he is always happy to see me when I come to pick him up.) I don't know what to do with myself when we're not together. More times than not I take the dog for a walk, belatedly remembering all the important errands I *should* have run.
YH has been with our family for five months now.
In that time he has made amazing (AMAZING!) strides.
When we first met, YH didn't play with toys so much. He picked up toys, and smashed them down again with great force. Or he pulled them apart bit by bit and discarded the shreds in an unsentimental heap. He moved with lightening speed from one destruction project to the next with few signs of engagement or imaginative play.
After a few weeks in our home he began to use toys for play. Pure play. He developed an interest in toy cars first. He would spin the wheels and zoom them around the house silently. Then his brother taught him to make zoom zoom noises and now we live within the deafening roar of a never ending speed trial.
But the toy cars don't just zoom around--oh no. Now they are nurtured by YH as well. Technically they are not allowed on the dining room table but YH will cautiously set one next to his placemat at snack time and say "Mom. Mom, car food mom. Car food." and pretend to feed the little car bites of cracker and GOOD LORD PEOPLE. How can I resist such a display of cute?
Last week he started making the cars talk to one another.
"Good morning orange car!"
"Good morning tractor!"
**followed by several strings of gibberish, punctuated by laughter.**
He makes the cars hide under a napkin and then pulls it off with glee yelling "Ta-DA!"
His language skills are hugely improved. He now speaks about 65-70 English words, mostly in two or three word sentences. I am probably the only human on the planet who can distinguish these 65 words--but still. We count them. Some of the words surprise me ('unbuckle' being a prime example). His receptive language skills are also vastly improved. He follows directions easily and delights in cleaning up and other daily routines.
One of my friends remarked on the Facebookery that it seems like there was a certain point in time when he started *smiling* in every picture that we took of him. She's right. After I read her comment I went back and clicked on each image, watching his tiny mug stare back solemnly at me through June, July, August, part of September...and then. Then the grins began. The big goofy grins, the sly smiles, the mugging for the camera. (Happy cry. Big giant ugly happy cry).
YH's tantrums have also changed recently. At the beginning of his time with us he would dissolve in tears or screams multiple times per day. He couldn't tell us what he wanted and we couldn't understand his desires. More importantly: we were not the droids he was looking for. The mere fact that he was hurt and sad and his best people--his favorite people--were thousands of miles away only added to his distress.
As his language skills have improved (and our toddler-mind reading skills have improved) the screaming-because-nobody-knows-what-I-need has lessened. I can read the signs of stress on his body before it escalates to tears. I know what times of day are hard for him, when he needs a snack before attempting a task, when rowdy play will be too much of a sensory overload for him. I can swoop him onto my lap and rock him back and forth while whispering sweet nothings in his ear.
He used to stiffen against me and put a forearm between his chest wall and my body when we would sit this way. He was ready to push free at a moment's notice. Now he wraps his arms around my back and gives my shoulder blades a few gentle pats as we rock. It always get to me--that he can softly thump out love to me, even while in the middle of a giant wailing fest. It's like he's saying, "Hey! This is rotten, isn't it? You're doing a good job mama."
Earlier this week he had the first tantrum I've seen that was very clearly a "Hello, I am two years old." tantrum (and not a grief tantrum, a life isn't fair tantrum). I told him to get the toy train off the table at breakfast. He looked at me and said "No." And then he tried it again, but this time with a raised voice,"NO! No. No. No. Noooooooooo." and he flung himself to the floor with dramatic flair.
And I have never been so happy to watch a two year old writhe and flop at my feet.
He's two. He's my baby and he's two.
On November 30 we will drive to San Antonio to stand before a judge and legally cement our lifelong commitment to one another. We will dress in fancy clothes and go out for dinner afterwards. We will laugh and cry and at least two of us will fall asleep on the car ride home.
And the next morning we will wake up to forever.
I can't wait.