It’s so easy to adore babies. The tiny weeny hands and feet, the new smile flickering like a broken neon sign, the evolution from squashed little old man to chubby cherub.
In the year that follows their birth, time for adoration is gradually eaten away by patchy sleep, illness scares, and incidences of ‘Now what do I do?!’; then toddlerdom arrives, and we wring our hands at the tantrums and opinions (NO!) and willpower (MINE!), and adoration seems a distant memory.
Yet lately I have come to realise I am enjoying this stage of my son’s development as much, if not more, than all previous. I won’t deny that part of this is his new and apparently durable habit of sleeping from 8pm to 6am, a truly amazing development for a human being who once nursed every two hours morning and night, and was still waking at least once a night a mere month ago. I take no credit for this; we have been observing much the same bedtime routine since he was one. He sleeps wonderfully during the day, too—today he even voluntarily went to his cot to nap. That’s the big change: he comprehends what it is to feel tired, and knows that lying down and having a snooze when you do feels good.
So what do I adore about my 22 month old?
He announces ‘HUG!’ at the drop of a hat and rushes over to envelop me in a miniature bear hug.
He kisses my husband goodbye in the mornings, but hasn’t quite got the pout right, producing a sort of affectionate chipmunk look with two upper teeth showing.
He proceeds everywhere at an urgent trot, often while babbling vowel sounds to himself, so I always know where he I-I-I-I-S because I can H-EA-EA-EA-EA-R him B-OU-OU-OU-OUNCING along (this is my current favourite thing).
He is gaining several words a day, and I never know which he’ll imitate next – among ‘helicopter’ (“DOT-DAH!”) and ‘blue’ (“BOO”) is ‘happy’ and ‘pasta’ (“PAH!-STAH”).
He often says ‘thank you’ (“ANK-GOO”).
His heart is entirely on his sleeve: when he’s excited, he’ll jump up and down on the spot; when he’s surprised or intrigued, he’ll do the biggest :-O face you’ve ever seen; when he laughs, he abandons himself to hilarity.
Toddlers are a new kind of adorable – interactive, challenging, and independent. They need you but don’t always want you. They build (and strain) your patience muscles, run straight for the traffic, collapse in your lap. The same courage they use to get to the top of the slide and down with a “Wheeee!” gets them onto the chair and then the dining table, again. There can be no fair weather friends here; toddlers are proof that it is possible to love someone who is driving you crazy. HUG!