You are twenty months old today, and growing fast. One day recently I picked you up from daycare and I swear I could tell you’d grown substantially since that morning.
You’re growing in other ways as well. You stacked nine blocks into a tower. That may seem like a small feat, but it wasn’t too long ago that the very concept of stacking was elusive, and even after you learned how, you didn’t have the manual dexterity to make a tower of any height. Now you can make a tower as tall as yourself.
Well… that was an exaggeration. But you get the idea.
A couple months ago I made a list of all the words you know, but I couldn’t do that now. There are too many. Also you’ve gotten pretty good at repeating anything we say. So it’s difficult to know what words are really yours, and what’s just an echo, but it’s clear that your vocabulary is increasing. It’s particularly adorable to hear you attempt big words like tortellini or cock-a-doodle-doo.
You still don’t string words together in a sentence much, but you’re starting to do that. You said, “Bye bye Mama” the other day.
Even so, you are now more than capable of carrying on a conversation. It’s clear you understand far more than you can articulate yourself. You’ve been able to follow simple instructions for some time, but now you’re able to do more complex multistep tasks — when you feel like it.
You are developing a strong will. A couple days ago you didn’t want to get in your bicycle seat for the ride home from daycare. You insisted on walking the whole way. Nine blocks is quite a distance for a little girl like you. I carried you across major intersections, and held your hand when we crossed the smaller streets, but you protested strongly each time. You wanted to walk, on your own. I allowed that; in fact, I encouraged it. I think it’s good for you to be able to assert yourself and get a little exercise.
But when you tried to pull the same thing the next day, I had to lay down the law. It takes a long time for you to walk that far, and unfortunately I didn’t feel I had the time that day. It made me wonder: Why are we always rushing around in such a hurry? It would be a better life, a better world, if we felt we could slow down and walk home at toddler-speed.
You’re at a new daycare. One of the main attractions was the meal service: freshly prepared, locally grown, organic, vegetarian. They say you are eating extremely well. In fact, they are all amazed that such a small child can eat so much. You’re the youngest one there, and everybody has taken a proprietary interest in your welfare, even the other children. You seem to be thriving there, though a couple minor incidents have given me pause for reflection. I’ll recount them here, not to make a big deal out of nothing, but so that some day, when you read this, you might have an understanding of where my head was at.
- A couple times I’ve come to find you and the other kids gathered around a monitor watching an educational video. I’m not a control-freak, and I don’t think I’m overly protective. Parents can agonize over the deleterious effects of a thousand different things, but I’ve focused only on two: lead and video. The former has been a source of some frustration and anxiety; as for the latter, that’s based on a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They say not to let kids watch videos until they’re at least two years old. They cite a study which offers fairly convincing evidence that early exposure to video is correlated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. So we’ve steered clear of the baby genius video industry, though we’re by no means fanatical about avoiding all exposure to television. I did talk to the daycare admin about this, expressing my desire that you not be plopped in front of a monitor for the next few months at least. They said they’d comply but I’m not sure they are.
- One day when I picked you up you had a book in your hand with the title, Jesus Loves Me. The daycare is housed in a church, after all, so perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But then your previous daycare was also housed in a church, and we never encountered any religious literature there. I hasten to add that I like this church a great deal. They have opened their doors wide to the community as we attempt to rebuild after the floods of 2005. My nonprofit meets there regularly. I even have a key. And I’ve often said I don’t want you to be a stranger to the inside of a church. Nor am I necessarily opposed to the glorification of Jesus as a culture hero, as that can be done in many ways, some good and some bad — the devil’s in the details. This was just one of those little things that surprised me, but I didn’t do or say anything about it.
Speaking of books, your new favorite book is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It’s a great book, but the strange thing is you seemed to connect with it just as the movie version came out into the theaters. Personally I can’t imagine how that book could be made into a movie, but it’s getting some good reviews. However, there’s no way you could know about that. So it’s kind of a weird coincidence.
I’ve been teaching you the alphabet and the numbers and the colors all at once. You don’t quite have the hang of it yet. Your answer to “how many?” is always “two!” and all colors are blue (or purple) as far as you’re concerned, but you are clearly learning. Just yesterday you started repeating all the numbers after me, and you’re able to pick the first three letters of the alphabet out of a lineup. I’m also teaching you the musical scale, do re mi. That’s a lot of fun. And we’ve got word books that you enjoy, especially My Very First Book of Words by Eric Carle.
More? There’s so much more. When you want more food or drink, you demand it: “More!” Only in your diction it comes out a little funny: “Moy!” Anyway, I could probably sit up all night writing about your twentieth month of life, but it’s late and this letter is already too long and I need to go to bed.