Sunday was Charles' second birthday; my baby is two years old. They've been the hardest, the best, the longest, and the quickest years of my life.
Charles is a gentle kid, who loves to wear his doll and hold it to "nurse" alongside him. He sees his world through people; he doesn't see things: he sees their relationship to someone he loves. A tractor is not just a tractor; it's Grandpa's tractor. That puzzle is not just a puzzle; it's a puzzle that Nana did with him on her last visit. That chair is the chair that Pop & Mimi brought to him. That floor heater is the one Papa bought for him. His play-kitchen is what he and Papa assembled together. Charles exists in community; his sense of separate self is not yet mature--other people define his environment.
Now, this gets exhausting, because the flip side of his awareness of and care for others is that he always wants to be with someone. Not just next to, but engaged with. We spend quite a lot of time playing, reading, and communicating... but sometimes, dishes and diapers must be washed, calls must be made, and dinner must be cooked. Charles struggles to occupy himself during these times, and I struggle with guilt as I watch my little crying puddle of a child pitifully say "please!" so I'll come sit with him. But I know that sometimes the most difficult traits of a toddler can blossom into beautiful ones in an older child and adult if they are handled and directed well--I pray every day for wisdom in how to do that!
Charles is goofy. He giggles at funny noises and faces and makes plenty of his own. He loves when Mama dances all crazy or Papa uses funny voices. He rolls his eyes and runs around laughing. It's so fun to see a little mischievous streak coming out in him as he approaches boyhood.
Like his mama, Charles may have a bit of OCD. He's incredibly orderly. He prefers things in sets: if he has one, he needs two. If he has two, three is the magic number. He then lines these sets up or arranges them just so on a surface and is quite put out if those arrangements are disturbed. He loves doing this with all his cars: almost every day there is a new car line stretching along the couch, with each vehicle facing forward. (I mess with him sometimes and turn one the wrong way when he's not looking. It doesn't take him long to notice and remedy the fault.)
Of course, I think he's a genius. He can spontaneously identify and say about half of the uppercase alphabet, and he can count to two (which is appropriate). It's funny that he is so letter-oriented, because he still really doesn't say too much. He has a name for everyone he frequently sees, but otherwise his word list is rather small compared to a lot of 24-month-olds'. The past couple of weeks I've noticed an uptick however. The day before his birthday, he started saying "NO" for the first time. So much less pleasant than a head-shake, haha. Despite being taciturn like his papa, he has no problem communicating what he wants when he wants it! He combines signs, sounds, words, and body language to make himself perfectly understood pretty much all the time by those of us close to him. I've commented to Trevvor that he has a very high-context language: when he bobs his head and points at the mantel, that means he wants me to play music on my phone, because I normally keep it on the mantel when we have music going.
Charles has continued to breastfeed a few times a day, when he wakes up and when he goes to sleep. He seems to be less picky about food than a lot of toddlers; we continue to mostly be able to feed him what we eat, with a few kid-friendly extras like banana chips (I think those things are nasty). He thinks lunchbox peppers are candy. He'll eat carrot sticks because the rabbit in his book eats one. He prefers beans over meat, but when he does eat meat it's usually chicken, and he'll say, "glum glum!" (which is his version of cluck cluck), which makes me wonder how much he connects those dots... Mix something into sweet potato and it'll be a hit. Eat some spinach out of the bag yourself and he'll be asking for some too. Give him a green smoothie like it's a big treat and he'll drink it down. I've found the best way to get him to eat something is to eat it in front of him but not offer him any. He'll eat anything as long as it's his idea!
Socially, Charles loves babies, and can be friendly with other toddlers as long as I give him a pep talk before we arrive at a play-date and they don't threaten his snacks. He mostly prefers adults and older children, I suppose because they're not "competition" for attention, but rather people who will give it to him. Speaking of loving babies, that's another example of how Charles sees the world through people-centered relationships: give him two big things and one little thing (like two large acorns and a small acorn), and he'll say, "mama, papa, baby." He'll add family members until the whole group has been categorized. (Sometimes he'll say "mama, papa, nyuh-nyuh," because that's his name for himself--but in these contexts he's using it as a title like "baby" rather than a name.)
Charles loves to serve "food" from the pots in his play kitchen to family members. I've eaten so much pretend veggie soup I could bust! He also brings me "tea": his cup has a mushroom in it and mine has half an apple. He enjoys building block towers with me (not on his own), and loves to "fix" things with his new tool-set. Many evenings while we're waiting for Papa, we'll spend an hour reading board book after board book--he loves to read. Charles also loves music, especially songs with motions like Baby Bumble Bee and Eensy Weensy Spider. The other day he was his playing his xylophone and singing, "Ra! Ra! Ra! Ra!" I finally figured out he was singing The Ants Go Marching (Hoorah! Hoorah!) He also loves playing outside in his new Cozy Coupe car, at his sand-table, or on his play-set.
There are so many other details, like how he only sleeps with his head in one particular corner of his crib, how he kicks his house-shoe off while we're sitting at the table, how he sees animals in his almond butter (it frequently looks like an alligator or elephant), how he has ridiculous spatial memory (on our neighborhood walks he remembers where we saw a school bus a week ago), how he's so very cautious and thoughtful (most of the time), how he swings down the stair-railing with us holding the other hand... Charles is such a full, complete little person.
He is my greatest joy, and my greatest challenge. Some days are hard, some days are REALLY hard, but this is all going by much too quickly nonetheless. I am so thankful that God saw fit to make me this precious boy's mother two years ago. Charles is truly a gift.
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