I remember reading somewhere that the period from 18 to 22 months was a challenging age. That was reassuring to me at the time: I wasn't the only one struggling with how to parent my child at that age, and there was a light at the end of the tunnel. And it really was true. Around the time Adriana reached 22 months, things did seem remarkably easier. I feel that in the past few weeks we've reached another challenging age, and I am starting to wonder if these things go in four-month cycles. There are more days lately when I feel my patience wearing thin. I wonder if it's just me--am I not eating right, not getting enough sleep--or if it's something about Adriana. It's probably a little of both, although I think there's more of the latter. She's testing limits right now, and getting frustrated with them. She pours a cup of water on me--because she wants to see what will happen, because it might be funny, because she can--and then throws a tantrum when I refuse to give her the cup back. She puts on her shoes when I ask her to do so, and then kicks them off as we are about to head out the door, smiling her most charming smile as I grit my teeth because we needed to leave five minutes ago. They are nearly all just little things, but over the course of a day they start to add up and by Friday afternoons I am usually watching the clock, counting down until Brian gets home.
It's a good thing she's cute and clever to make up for her shenanigans. She gives me a tight-lipped smile, sticking out her chin, when she knows she's been mischievous. She bounces and moves from side to side very solemnly when we ask her to dance. She throws kisses to people when she says goodbye. She knows nearly all of her letters (X is usually confused for a K), and shouts them out when she sees them. She surprised me by spelling out "Petsmart," reading the letters on the big sign out from the of store, although she did call attention to the 'A' several times as she went along--it is her letter after all. She recognizes numbers and will point to the one you ask her to, but she doesn't label them the way she does letters, instead just pointing them out as "number" when she sees them.
She talks constantly. It's not exactly that I wish she would stop talking, although the thought has crossed my mind when I've heard, "Mom, now!" a few too many times in one afternoon. Even though she likes to have what she says repeated back to her, she is usually content to babble to herself, and that's what she does as she rides on the back of my bike or in the car, and when she is drawing or playing with blocks on her own. She labels everything--"blue car, white car, purple truck," she says as we walk through a parking lot--but she is also really beginning to speak in sentences now, more than just the three- or four-word commands she's become an expert on. "I put my new shoes on my feet," she told me a couple of weeks ago, and when I looked she had indeed put her new sneakers on. Each word is it's own exclamation, so instead of a natural sounding sentence, there's a very staccato feeling, but she is very excited to be telling me everything, so it is fun.
I've been particularly interested lately in watching her friendships develop. At this age they are mostly too young for anything beyond parallel play and fighting over toys, but she does take an interest in what the other children in playgroup are doing. And they do interact beyond the little squabbles: she runs to greet her friend Samantha with a hug when she spots her at the park, and when her friend Douglas comes over to play they go straight for her bed, where the alternate between jumping and snuggling down to pretend they are sleeping.
She seems so grown up these days. Part of it is that she's just getting big. Her pants all seem a little too short, and she outgrew her shoes rather suddenly a few weeks ago. She fell asleep in the car on the way home one day recently, and as I carried her snoring up the stairs, I realized that even with her head resting on my shoulder her feet were dangling all the way to my knees. But it's also her personality. She remembers more things, and talks to me about the things we've done. She gets herself out of bed after her nap a lot of the time, instead of crying for me. There are times I miss having her as a baby, but this imaginative, funny little girl is a pretty good replacement.
Adriana has two baby dolls. One is about ten-inches long, and has a plastic (but phthalate free!) head and limbs and a soft body. The other is completely soft, with a stitched on face. When I bought that doll at Christmastime, I thought it would be a nice toy for Adriana to snuggle with, since it was so soft. But the first baby is by far the favorite. She does like the second baby--its shirt and diaper are easily removed, so it is good for really playing mommy. But Adriana is nearly as content to mime a diaper and outfit change with the doll she calls Little Baby. I think soft face that so enamored me is actually what turns Adriana off. She has definitely shown a preference for dolls that look more like real babies; at the little school we go to, she shuns the Cabbage Patch Kids and dolls that look like older children in favor of the dolls with baby faces. Plus, its smaller size makes it perfect for cradling in her arms to pretend to nurse, or to have tied to her with the scarf that she likes to pretend is her own little Moby wrap. And so it has become Adriana's constant companion.
I did try to encourage a "lovey" at one point, maybe about a year ago, offering Adriana a stuffed monkey that a friend had given me in college. Adriana does adore the monkey, and he has been a favorite at times. But she has never been attached to him the way she is attached to Little Baby. The doll comes to the grocery store and the farmers' market, to the doctor's office and to friends' houses. It has played hide-and-seek in Dolores Park and listened to stories at the Red Rock story hour. When we get into bed at night or naptime, Adriana makes sure she has Little Baby, and she holds the doll to her chest for milk as she rolls towards me to nurse. In the night when she wakes up, she sits up and finds Little Baby again before settling back down to sleep. It's sweet to peek in at her and see her sound asleep with her doll clutched tightly in her arms.
I do live in a bit of fear of losing Little Baby. When we're out and about with the doll, I constantly check to make sure Adriana still has it in her arms or that it is peeking out of the pocket on the diaper bag. It has become a family joke to place the blame for missing items on the cat, and Adriana accepts this for a lot of things, but I think if Little Baby were to disappear, there would be trouble.
As we were leaving the farmers' market, Adriana announced that she had a dirty diaper. I knew I had exactly one baby wipe in the diaper bag and that I would have to be efficient, but when we got back to the car it seemed her announcement had been premature. Still, she was a bit wet, so I put a fresh diaper on her and we went on our way to the park. But as we were leaving there, she made her announcement again, and this time it was clear that she meant it. There weren't any families we knew at the park, but I headed over to one group of moms and explained my situation, and they laughed and one gave me a few wipes. And then we headed over to the restaurant for lunch so I could use the changing table there. And so I was standing there in the restroom with Adriana on the table when I discovered that the diaper I'd put on her at the car had been the last one in the diaper bag. Hedging my bets, I put Adriana's pants back on her and headed back out to the table outside where Brian and his parents were waiting for us. I explained what had happened and we all laughed, and Brian headed up to Longs to buy a pack of diapers.
Everything was fine until Adriana announced, "Pee."
"Should I take you to the potty inside?" I asked her.
But then the expression on her face changed. "Pee," she said with more urgency. And then my father-in-law pointed out the growing puddle beneath Adriana's chair.
Honestly, I think these were the kind of mistakes I was supposed to make when she was a few weeks old. Shouldn't I know to check what I have in my bag before leaving the house by now?
Whenever we read The Runaway Bunny, Adriana points out the mom and the baby on each page. She'll make other comments about some of the pictures, too, but those vary from day to day. Except for the picture that shows the mother bunny as a mountain climber, climbing to her little bunny who has become a rock high above her; when we reach that page, Adriana tells me the same thing every time:
"Baby," she points. "Mom. Baby! Get down!"
I guess she knows what happens when babies climb up too high. And I suppose I should be glad I only have to pluck her off of the kitchen table and the back of the couch, and occasionally climb up a tall play structure at the park when my baby is making me nervous.