Saturday, March 7, 2009

Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dogs' Tails

My son is 20 months old now. Just the other day, while getting him ready for bed, it struck me that he was no longer a baby. Maybe it was the long limbs, maybe it was the way he helped me by taking his shirt off; whatever it was, it hit home that he is really a little boy now.

This little boy is discovering more of his world every day, and more about the people in it. When someone kisses the top of his head, he looks up to see who it is instead of just carrying on with whatever he's doing. Lately, he has also been studying our faces - mine, my husband's and the au pair's. He is no longer afraid of the big slide at the playground, though he does go down carefully, on his tummy, feet first. And where he used to largely ignore the other kids around him, he is starting to notice them and sometimes attempts interaction now.

He is a true toddler, but in many ways still our baby boy. He babbles constantly but has yet to form real words. He is fully aware of his bodily functions, but refuses to use the toilet. He can sleep in his car seat and stroller but will not go down for the night unless I am next to him on the bed.

In month and a half since the au pair's arrival, my husband and I have managed a half-dozen or so dinners out with friends. We usually come home between 1030 and midnight, and each time our son is waiting patiently for us, very tired and very sleepy. 

Yesterday, he had an unusually short nap. My husband and I had dinner with friends who lived half an hour away so we thought this would be the night our son went to sleep on his own. At 1045 pm, the au pair called. Little A had fallen asleep in his stroller, but woke up half an hour later and was furious that we weren't there. He cried and cried until he threw up everything he'd eaten for dinner two hours earlier. We rushed home.

I walked through the door and saw my son with tears in his eyes, clutching a framed photograph of himself, my husband and me taken on his first birthday. As soon as he saw me, he ran to the door, looked at me closely, then ran back to his corner. His stroller was upside-down on the floor where he had thrown it in anger. When my husband came in after parking the car, Little A did the same thing, looking at him closely, but approaching neither of us, perhaps because he felt betrayed.

According to the au pair and the day girl, while crying, Little A searched the flat for us, looking in the bathrooms and opening and shutting all the cupboards and drawers in the kitchen. He then indicated that he wanted the photograph, which was hanging on the wall, and when they gave it to him he kissed it, went to look for us, and failing to find us threw the photo on the floor. He picked it up again, kissed it, and went on another hunt, with no success.

I quickly popped him into a warm bath to clean up and then he went to sleep immediately by my side. Early this morning, half asleep, he sat up in bed and felt for me to be sure I was still there. Later in the morning, while playing, he looked up from his toys and studied my face for a long time. 

I have a trip to Hong Kong scheduled next month for work, and was hoping to leave Little A with his dad and the au pair for the two nights I will be gone. After last night, I may have to rethink leaving him behind. But there's a month to go. Who knows, by then he may be able to fall asleep on his own. When that time comes, he will have realized he no longer needs me, but chooses to spend time with me because he wants to. I wonder how I will feel. 

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