Before Nico was born, I worried some about what kind of mother I'd be to him. I knew my failings, could list them out without much hesitation: quick-tempered, easily frustrated, prone to Type-A overplanning, occasionally besieged by doubt. I was shocked by how mellow I became during my pregnancy, but chalked that up to hormones and didn't expect it to last. I was surprised to find that I remained mostly low-key throughout his infancy. Part of it, I'm sure, was due to the fact that he was an absurdly easy baby. Once we got past our initial breastfeeding struggles, things were pretty great.
Over the past two months or so, Nico has truly begun to embrace his toddlerhood. He's asserting his independence, expressing his own opinions, and just generally testing the waters. I think the weeks since he started walking have been both the most exciting and the most challenging for me, as my easy sunny even-keeled baby morphed into a grown-ass child who is sometimes sassy, opinionated, and downright whiny. (If I had a nickel for every time I've heard MB respond to a full-on toddler whine with "Nico! Use your words!" I'd have a lot of nickels.) So far, I feel like I'm doing okay. I'm usually patient, almost never lose my temper with him, am able to let things slide and go with the flow more than I think I ever have before in my life.
If Nico had a blog, I bet he'd complain about my reaction to his beautifully theatrical tantrums. When thwarted, he will fold dramatically to the floor, wailing. Once prone, he writhes about, looking for toys that he can pick up and throw. He'll sometimes come over to me and lift his arms, only to slide pathetically and intentionally from my lap as soon as I've picked him up, as if to demonstrate how unbearable it is to be in my vicinity. And nearly every time, I laugh. I realize that will probably infuriate him when he gets older. Probably I should stop doing it before it psychologically damages him. But really, staging such an extravagant performance because I wouldn't let him rip the keys off my laptop / play with my phone / dance on the couch is pretty funny.
One thing is for sure, though...all bets are off now that toddlerhood is here. Sometimes he takes two epic naps a day, sometimes he won't nap at all. Sometimes he hoovers up carrots and pasta and a banana at lunch and is asking "Eat cereal?" two hours later, other times he seems happy to subsist on rice puffs and dry Kix. Sometimes we take him out to dinner with us and he charms the entire restaurant, other times he howls in the parking lot and then has periodic crying jags at the table that require me to pull him into my lap and rock him, lest we become the people that child-free people complain about on the internet. I take him out to the backyard to play with his lovingly assembled turtle sandbox, and he spends fifteen minutes marching up and down the sidewalk carrying the dog's empty water dish. I walk him to the playground down the street and he refuses to ride in the swing or climb the slide, instead rambling around the grass with his favorite board book clutched in his hand.
But then we can take him to Target without a nap and he merrily kicks his feet until he falls asleep in his stroller, snoozing through 45 minutes of shopping. I take him back to library story time after their month-long hiatus and he remembers and requests the shakers as soon as we walk in the door. I stand him on the side of the pool at swimming lessons so he can practice jumping in, and he is so overcome by joy that he scrunches up his shoulders and laughs uncontrollably. Basically his mission in life is to keep us guessing, I think.
I did take him to the playground tonight, and he did wander around rather than try out the swings or the slide. While we were there, a handful of teenage boys were playing basketball in the adjacent parking lot and I realized that in no time, God willing, I'll be looking at my firstborn as he approaches 18 years rather than 18 months, he'll be walking down to that playground by himself to play basketball with his friends while I sit at home and try to remember what he was like when I first took him to that playground to play. I want to weather his tiny storms with calm care. I want to wait out the tantrums and praise the good behavior and manage not to fret over the barely-eaten lunches. I want to be present for him, to rarely tell him "Mama's busy, not now," when he brings me a book or a truck or a plastic spoon. I want to catch all the moments of now, hold them up to my face, breathe them in, before they slip through my fingers and this beautiful, inquisitive, sometimes impossible little boy is just a memory in the wake of a nearly-grown man. Some days I'll succeed and some days I won't, but always, my heart is so full.