Spit, vinegar, and sweet-gold honey

29 03 2016

Unsurprisingly, as nothing has intervened in the usual processes, “that baby” has resolutely and gleefully become “that toddler.” She’s the first of ours to throw screaming little tantrums and refuse the thing she just asked for for no discernible reason, the first to frequently try to nurse while kicking me in the arms or slapping me, to deliberately kick me in the boobs at the changing table, and to shove her sister out of my lap whenever possible–every group snuggle is a battleground these days.  (Sometimes it feels like every everything is a battleground these days.)

Little Miss Innocent sweetly practicing her manipulation of food on forks, giving no warning about the high-volume scene this would become if one of us dared to try to put that noodle on a fork for her, or God-forbid bring it to her mouth.

And books? Forget books. Both girls love to have books read to them, but we don’t read much these days, because Tabitha picks a book, listens for 3 pages, says “no,” shuts the pages on my thumb, and runs to get another, and if Ev (who is yielding less ground than ever these days herself) takes a turn choosing, Tab will scream that “no” twice as loud and try to swat the book from my hands; if I manage to keep my grip, she’ll storm around the room screaming and dismantling things trying to force me to attend to her drama instead of the book. To make the best of this jealousy, the family entertains ourselves by playing games, like having Evanny choose a parent to snuggle after dinner, which immediately provokes Tabitha to need to be in the arms of that parent, so Ev will switch, and then Tab will have to switch… She says “no” a LOT (which, as predicted, has become a bit less cute). She also has a charming little screw-you-and-whatever-you-just-said-to-do raspberry and a til-she’s-scarlet banshee shriek that we don’t wonder where she came by.

The smug mug of a little sassafrass who has inexplicably but quite proudly stolen all of the sidewalk chalks after I refused to placidly yield to her command that I stop drawing.

She’s the least verbal of the three by age, so whereas by now her sister had proto-grammatical sentences and her brother mostly grammatical paragraphs, Tab is still on single words, and while she’ll sometimes toss out two or three of them at a time (“Daddy car bruh-bruh”), it’s entirely up to the listener to invent a connection between them to puzzle out a message. (Daddy and Caleb are in the car? Daddy needs the car to go get Caleb? Daddy has Caleb’s toy car? Caleb should give this toy car to Daddy?). We have no worries about this difference–she’s perfectly on her developmental trajectory and third kids always talk later than their predecessors–but we definitely see the corollary rise in toddler-frustration. The bigs didn’t have to resort to toddler-tantrums to show how vexing it was to be misunderstood, because they skipped ahead to speaking clearly enough not to run aground on that sandbar. Tab and her angry sandy feet just have to plow through it, and us with her, and we know now that it’s not just a TV-toddler thing: at our house, too, the struggle is real.
Fortunately for all of us, she’s still all in all a very, very sunny, happy baby, if a bit louder and greener in hue.

Despite being typically resistant to coaching, this toddler has managed to get rather good at blowing bubbles, and seems to enjoy even those opportunities to do so wherein her mean Mummy only lets her “hodo” the wand and not also the full bottle of liquid soap.


At 20 months, Tabitha loves Mumma and “Dad-DY,” “Bruh-bruh” and “Aagn,” cats and “Kah-dja” (Katy), swords and “Sha-djo” (Star Wars), Papa and “Woof,” toy cars and “baba” dolls of all shapes and sizes, putting them to bed over and over and over again, taking them for stroller walks around the living room, and asking me to put on and remove their clothes (“Nigh-nigh.” “Walk!” “Desh.” “Naynay?”). She asks several times a week to talk to “Yayo” on the phone, she loves (also not surprisingly) to copy everything her sister does, and when possible treasures the chance to stretch that habit into emulation of her brother too. Her first word when she wakes up in the morning (even when “morning” is 3am) is “Mumma” to the dark room, of course, but as soon as I bring avenue for rescue, the first thing she says to ME is “Aagn?” And every day when we’ve ascertained for certain that Daddy is at work, she asks if “bruh-bruh?” will be accompanying him home.

Plucky, happy adventure-baby, heading off down the boardwalk to explore the bog with her big sister, about 45 merry seconds before she toddled *off* the boardwalk and into said bog, a mishap which dampened her spirit for only as much of the rest of the day as it took to get warm again.

She’s starting to turn into a little girl before our eyes, squabbling over toys, weeping at miniature rejections of attention, taking an interest in pigtails even though she won’t yet commit to leaving the elastics in, coveting Evanny’s participation in gymnastics class and escaping onto the spring-floor whenever my hands are busy helping Ev with shoes or coats at the end of a lesson.
Tabitha is more of a cling-film than I remember Ev being at this age (she had her days, but for “Tabba” it seems to be all the days), making dinner-making a nightly torture exercise for all, as she refuses to be put down without prolonged screaming, and I cannot cook with my arms full of toddler.Paradoxically, though, she’s also happier than the other two were (a bit moreso than Evanny and a thousand times than Caleb) to play by herself, running around the room, singing to herself, and attending to busy little baby-projects–it’s just that she’s a cat, so she’s like this on her schedule, with utter disregard for the daily clock and the demands of dinnertime.

Watching Ev’s gymnastics-class warmups and practicing her posture so she’s ready when her turn comes.

Tabitha-at-one hasn’t quite got the hang of jumping, but she can walk, run, and climb almost anything. She can also execute a competent forward-roll, pretends to count, triumphantly identifies the key concept of “two!”, pretend-recites the alphabet, warns us that the oven is “hot” in the play-kitchen, brings us tasting-forks of all kinds of invisible morsels, “yeeds” books, vrooms cars and adds “weeooo weeooo” sirens, nurses baby dolls and stuffed animals alike, desperately wants to pet both the shy and mean cats, and loves to “go!” out anywhere requiring “shoes” and “coat” like “shops!” and “yaibee” and “zhoo.” Because we’re GoT fans, our favourite of her little words, which works in part because she says it so often, and often over and over, is “hodo,” Tab-ese for “hold,” often cried at a defiantly insistent pitch when denied immediate access to the object or implement she wants to possess or manipulate.  “Hodo.  HODO!”

The big brother, the little sister, the loving gaze.

Two requirements of sisterhood enacted simultaneously: if one sister is eating, the other must have some of what ever it is at once, even if she’s full and even if she doesn’t really like that thing.  And if there’s a space one can fit into, both should wedge in together.

Most rewardingly for the mummy trying not to pine about her status as my last (and no, not for a minute, do I want to do all this again), Tabba is more of a lover than her sister was (although Ev, in addition to the exuberant and sometimes bruising affectionate leaps-and-tumbles she’s best known for, has become a great, sweet stranglevine of petting hands and lingering hugs and death-grips on parental fingers in the past few months as well). We (especially Matt, who was spoiled by Caleb’s cuddliness and wasn’t usually at home with baby Evanny to spend his days hung off of like a sloth’s favourite tree) used to bemoan how Ev’s version of a snuggle resembled a 3-second speed-wrestle with an octopus made entirely of knees and elbows, how only if she was ill, and then also under duress, would she lie or sit still in our arms a moment longer.Tabitha, on the other hand, still endeavors to spend an hour or two a day snuggled into my boobs (and likes to pretend they’re pillows and nose-boop my nipples when she’s full as a way to drag it out), wants a lap as often as possible (especially if anyone else has one), loves piggy back rides as a way to throw her arms around her horsey’ neck, and spent almost an hour the other day sleepily sitting in Matt’s lap watching Poppy Cat while he napped on the couch. She doesn’t just nurse, she nurses while petting my belly and boobs with gentle, sweet little soothing motions, like a horse-whisperer trying to tame the wild Mummy and entice her to stay still just a little longer.  She cannot stop touching Evanny, pretty much any time except when she first wakes up and Evanny has missed and thus cannot stop touching her, and then they spar over this and Tab sulks dramatically away into a pillow and cries “no!” until she breaks down under the weight of a look or a tickle and they fall into giggling instead.

Little love-bug’s hands around my neck.  THE FEELS.

Doing everything together includes trying on Papa’s giant hats and playing his guitars.

She still tucks her head under mine in a sweet-spot monkey-cling when feeling small (or wanting to prevent separation) and won’t go off to naps or to bed at night without a whole ritual array of kisses, preferably flying kisses, delivered to her sister, her dad, her brother if he’s there, her sister again (“head!”), and the cat if she catches sight of him on our way. She loves being touched and petted like a little cat herself, and will go to great lengths to try to get her sister’s belly or to free her own from the confines of a onesie for the getting.  Tonight, when the bedtime drama was dragging on way, way too long, and Tab and I were back in Evanny’s room for the umpteenth time trying to coax her to sleep, tired-Tabitha threw a fit because my foot was in her way, but when I finally moved the foot just to stop the noise, it became clear what the issue was: she wanted to climb the bed-rail and lean her little body as far over as she could do, crushing her ribcage in the process, so that she could copy my hands and pat her sister to sleep too.

This is the punk who likes to install herself in the dolls’ stroller and demand that someone “puss” her all around the downstairs, which almost always works, because if you *could* say no to that face, the giggle-reward would still be irresistible.

The drama is mountain, or better, sky, high–she’s got a smug way of taunting with that little face when she gets her way in defiance of someone else’s wishes, and she’s definitely the first of our lot to routinely throw herself belly-down on the floor to wail if denied any impulse, at home, out at dinner, anywhere–but the love is higher, warmer, bigger, better, and however much it drives her daddy crazy (lots!), we four could not adore this hardly-still-a-baby more.

In the week since I began this post, in the way toddlers dash through their lives and learning-curves like half-mad drunken rockets, several of these statements have become untrue, replaced by next-stage advances, new achievements  unlocked.  She still can’t jump, other than on the bed, but she got so mad at Evanny the other day for holding the smaller of two toy horses (and of course, because it was the one she didn’t have, it immediately became the only on that Tabitha had ever wanted) that she strung a whole three-word utterance of fury and determination together.  Repeatedly, loudly, until we begged her sister to relent, encourage the language, and for-the-love-of-all-that’s-holy, let her “HODO.  BABY.  HORSE!”

Dancing curled in the crook of Daddy’s arm: one of this sweet baby’s most requested activities (“Oh-oh-oh? Dass!”)

(You may also notice that above, “baby” was still “baba,” but now it’s not: the word-ending “y” sound has been unlocked as well.  Any day, I’ve started telling people.  Any day, she’s going to hear it in her sister’s name, and “Aagn” is going to become “Agony” (which will especially resonate with how baby Evanny used to call our friend Andrew “Ouch”).)

She makes it a fun ride, altogether.  There are certainly many days–pretty much all of them–wherein Tabitha does exasperating things, but at least for me, having been exasperated by her sister plenty, and knowing now that the feeling may always return but the ways won’t stay makes it easier to talk over the tantrums, smile lovingly at her sassy refusals, calmly deny her the things she asks for if she persists at chucking them, and generally roll with the glory of toddlerdom as she’s decided to gift it to us.  It won’t last–it never, ever does–and growing through it together gives us plenty of bonding opportunities while we smile over her silly little dandelion head, or plug our ears to offset the screeching, or try, again, to convince her or her sister that snatching and smacking aren’t likely to lead to any where that either of them wants to go.  Since the things she wants most are the people who do this smiling and ear-plugging and snatching and smacking, I think we’re doing a fine job, really: the love is getting through.  A little person is unfurling in there, one wild shriek of joy or anger at a time, and I’m grateful every day to get to be here with her while it happens.




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