The Toddler

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Oh, this one.

He is complicated, this one. His energy is boundless. He hates to sleep, I mean truly hates to sleep. He’d stay up all night until the sun comes up if he could and many nights he goes to bed long after I do. He rarely naps. If there was a way to force a child to sleep, we would have done it by now. Aside from taping his eyelids shut, we’ve tried everything. My husband — the other night owl in the family — stays up with him most nights on the couch (our boy also refuses to sleep in his own bed) hoping he’ll wind down at least by ten, but sometimes it’s closer to eleven. Sometimes, it’s after midnight as he finally succumbs to the last pulse of electricity exiting his sweaty little toddler body for the night, clad only in a diaper because he also refuses clothing.

He is the most difficult of the three, requires the most patience and triggers the most “time outs.” Time outs mostly for me. Stepping away for five minutes behind a closed, locked door taking deep, cleansing breaths is often what it takes for me to conquer his fierce determination and tornado-like force. It’s funny, I never used deep breathing to get me through labor contractions, but I’ve employed this tactic numerous times to get me through the “twos.”

He will without a doubt be the source of my gray hairs.

On the flip side of this bullish, headstrong boy’s make-up is a deeply loving spirit full of intense affection and loyalty. He is tender at the core and perceptive too. He knows how to take a person’s emotional pulse better than some adults I know. If you’re melancholy, he’ll know it and he’ll move in with a gentle hug or a stroke of your hair to let you know he knows.

I can already imagine him as a teenager or young adult, the life of the party, demanding all the attention in the room, the last to leave after holding court all night, but the first to listen and let you know he cares and that all the hell he’s put you through with his crazy, stubborn antics is worth it because at the end of the day, he loves you deeply and he’ll show you with his words and gestures.

He’ll probably be true blue like that, no mincing words for him.

He does everything with gusto. He eats like it’s his last meal, commanding his fork like a mini backhoe, excavating every morsel off his plate, savoring and punctuating bites with “mmmm” and “dat’s yummy, mama.” He loves to sing and he does it at the top of his lungs like an “American Idol” contestant, not caring if he’s off-key or belting out the wrong lyrics. As for his speaking voice, it’s high-pitched as only a toddler’s can be, like he inhaled an entire hot air balloon filled with helium. It’s LOUD. He’ll let you know he’s entered the room with that voice.

Every morning, he swings open our bedroom door until it slams against the adjacent wall, a little bow-legged cowboy entering a saloon. And mama, he’s thirsty.

“GOOD MORNING!” He declares, predictably for us, but as if it’s the very first time for him.

Amid all the madness he can stir up with his cyclone of a great, big personality, with his demands and tantrums and screaming and insistence that anything and everything go exactly as he wants it to go all day long. With all the days he’s caused me to sweat profusely through my clothing in public places because he JUST WON’T GET IN the damn stroller or get out of the damn stroller or stay in the damn stroller and he wants that cookie RIGHT THIS SECOND, when I snuggle with him at night and his eyes, which were turquoise as a baby, then turned gray, then green and are now somewhere in between hazel and brown, meet mine, I see into him, through all the chaos, through all the resistance and mischief and storminess brewing inside and even if for a brief second I think to myself this is exactly what a matador must feel staring down his bull, I see nothing but the purest, most unadulterated love inside him.

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