Friday, April 20, 2007

22 Months: Dear Max

Dear Max,

Tomorrow you’ll be 22 months old. Your father and I talk every day about what a big man you’re turning into, and how amazed we are at your ability to do so much on your own, and at the same time still be that baby that we fell in love with. It seems like every time we turn around, you’ve got a new trick that seems to highlight all of the things that you’re still not quite grown up enough to manage on your own—you can do a somersault, but you can’t say somersault; you can feed yourself, but not with a fork; you can scale the fence that used to keep you roped off from the dangerous part of the living room, the part with all the cords and electrical devices and the machetes and hard drugs, but you can’t scale it without falling on your head and crying.

Last night, after you went to bed, I went out without you or Daddy. I went and met a new friend for drinks in Alexandria, and I had a great time with her, a better time than I’ve had in a while with anybody besides your dad and you. I think she’s the first real friend I’ve made in a while, and that highlights to me how I’m still the same as I used to be, how hard I struggle with being shy and never being the one to make the effort to be friends with someone. If there’s anything I hope that you don’t inherit from me, it’s my shyness, because I’ve felt lonely for a lot of my life because I simply lack the ability to be the first one to speak. Having met this nice lady, though, is reassuring for me because I met her through her blog, and the internet makes me feel safe. And I am reassured that you won’t inherit my crippling shyness because you are so much like your dad in that way—you have the effusive and outgoing nature of a born politician. You are the Bill Clinton of toddlers.

Two weeks ago, we got on a plane and went to California. To my horror, we were absolutely those people, the family with the inconsolably screaming child on the plane, and nothing we could think to do helped you at all. You wanted to get down and play, and talk to the other passengers, and investigate every aspect of the plane, and we couldn’t let you, and you were furious. We even planned to fly at your bedtime—but you didn’t want to sleep, you hate to sleep, sleeping is stupid and Mommy is stupid and Daddy is stupid and this car seat is stupid, and nothing will ever be good again. Having to de-ice the plane wings on the runway in Denver did absolutely nothing for my anxiety level, which is naturally kind of high, made higher by the fact that you were clearly miserable, and of course just brought to a head by the fact that in two hours, we would be on the ground in San Diego with my mother, your Grandma, who I love but who makes me bite my nails with anxiety just by her mere existence. But, as it turned out, San Diego was mostly all right, even though Grandma worried constantly about pretty much everything all the time. I see now why I am the way I am.

You were so cute at the beach. We took off your shoes and socks and rolled up your jeans and set you down in the sand, but instead of taking off running for the water, like your Daddy and I both thought you would, you whimpered, took ahold of the bottom of my shirt, and clung to me, asking to be picked up. I don’t know what scared you, if it was the waves rushing at you and retreating or the noise or just the feeling of the sand under your feet, but you were afraid, and you wanted to be carried. Daddy and I took turns trying to encourage you to play in the sand, to splash in the shallow water, but when we set you down, you would turn and make a beeline for the boardwalk, or ask to be picked up again.

In the last few days, I’ve tried to keep you away from the television. Earlier this week, there was a shooting in Blacksburg, Virginia, and you are much too little to understand this, or the pictures on TV, or why all of these people are so sad. Parents everywhere are trying to give their kids age-appropriate explanations for what happened to the 33 people who died, and you are too little for any explanation at all. I know it will happen again, and I will have to explain it to you then, but I don’t know how, and it’s things like this that make me wonder how I will ever manage to let you out of my sight. It’s one of the ironies of parenthood: we are working so hard at making you enough of a grownup that you will be ready to leave us behind and face dangerous and scary things without us.

I am dismayed by your passionate love affair with “Blue’s Clues.” Your father and I were able to keep most annoying kid’s TV out of your realm of awareness for the 14 months that I was at home with you, but since I went back to work and you went to daycare, it doesn’t seem to be a possibility. For the longest time, we thought you were saying “new shoes,” which didn’t make any sense, but then your babysitter explained that you were talking about “Blue’s Clues.” Shortly after that, you began referring to any person or thing that you particularly liked as “Steve,” after the host. It made for some strange conversations with you. “Max, what do you want for dinner?” “Steve.” “Goodnight, Max, it’s time for bed.” “Okay, night-night, Steve.” You refer to Daddy’s computer as Steve since that’s where you watched DVD’s on the plane, and you also call the television Steve. The best part about you and that show is the awful, atonal singing that you attempt when Steve sings the mailbox song. Clearly, also inherited from me as well, as my singing voice can melt the paint from the walls.

I have to admit something: I am stealing the idea for these letters to you. The woman I’m stealing them from writes such unbelievable letters to her daughter, and I can’t help myself because it’s public knowledge how hard she’s struggled with motherhood, her fight with motherhood is famous, and yet, her letters to Leta paint such a realistic portrait of how much she loves her daughter and what parenthood has meant to her and made her realize about herself. The fact is, I haven’t had half the challenges that this woman has had, a fact I’m grateful for every day, but you’re just as worth fighting for. You’ve been just as powerful in my life, and every hard thing I do, I would do over and over again for you if I had to.



1 comment:

Bringing Up Ben said...

I found your blog through Girls Gone Child.

Your little guy is adorable!