The annoying age, as I like to call it - the age where Nora became less of a happy-go-lucky infant and more of a demanding little Napoleon-type figure - is over, or, at least, has morphed into something entirely manageable and often funny. Approaching 15-months-old, Nora does something new, it seems, every minute of every day. I know every parent says the same of their child, but I believe it now, as I see it. She remains eagerly inquisitive, asking us what everything is, however mundane, like the bushes we pass on our walk down to the water, or the characters in whatever book we're reading before bedtime, so that I'll sometimes hear J's voice from the guest room (where we relax with Nora before she goes to sleep) saying something like, "That's a teddy bear, that's a teddy bear, that's a teddy bear, that's a ball, that's a teddy bear, the ball again, that's a mouse."
Now, more than before, she'll try and repeat what we say every once in while, adding new words to her catalog.
But no word, it seems, approaches the exquisiteness of "num num," which applies to any and all food and drink that Nora loves so dearly. The intonation varies - the sight of a banana always results in a "num num" followed by a high pitch squeal, a sippy cup of milk yields a quiet, loving "num num," and when we passed the cupcake display at the coffee shop the other day, Nora screamed "NUM NUM NUM NUM NUM NUM," gesticulating wildly at the baked goods as though we starve her at home. As though those cupcakes would save the world from climate change and poverty and sickness if she could only eat them, please GOD CUPCAKES.
She loves food, and while she recently has begun rejecting things without reason, as I've heard toddlers often do (why garbanzo beans but not corn? why an English Muffin but not pasta?) her passion is real and the worst - and I'm talking the worst - thing a person can do to her at this stage is give her food and then take it away. Which...I sometimes have to do because, despite the fact that she's learning, she still, at times, stuffs her mouth so completely that I worry she's going to choke. Like, she'll be taking nice bites of her waffle and then I'll look away for a second only to look back and see that she's put an entire half of a waffle in her mouth. Could she handle it? Probably, but since her not handling it means a call to emergency services, i don't chance it. So at that point I have to take the waffle, or whatever, away, and then the world ends. I mean, this is her most sincere crying. Not when she falls. Not when she doesn't know where one of her parents are. Not when I wake her up from a nap, because I really think we need to get out of the house and have a latte. But when I take her food away.
It's worse when she's tired, as everything is with children. Just this morning, I was on the phone with our pediatrician's office trying to schedule Nora's booster H1N1 shot, when I felt a little tug on my pants leg and looked down to find Nora muttering "num num" and looking up at me like she was about to, possibly, lose it. So I went into the kitchen and poured her a little bowl of Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon Oat Cereal. It's so good, you guys, this Kashi cereal. It's, just like the label says, warm and cinnamony and just a little sweet and perfect for the harsh New Haven winter.
So anyway, I get back to my call and when I check in on Nora, who is eating her snack over by the ottoman, I realize she's put like 20 pieces of Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon Oat Cereal in her mouth, and while she can usually chow down on any kind of cereal like a champ, this raises my danger instincts. Especially because even though she seems like she's got enough to handle, she's putting more in there, one after the other, no stopping for air. So I reach down and I take away the bowl and tell her to "eat what you have," a phrase she either doesn't understand or sees no need to understand, and the minute I do this, she begins crying - a desperate wail, and tears spring to her eyes and roll down her cheeks and - this part kills me - she begins frantically doing the sign for "more," which I'd taught her when she was a tiny little thing and never realized she'd caught on until recently.
This might sound weird, and maybe it's simply the fact that I'm a more experienced mother than I used to be, but when she gets like this, all tired and dramatic and wanting nothing more than a simple snack, I find her really endearing. I mean, I find her adorable all the time, and I never want her to cry, of course, but as she grows more and more independent, these ridiculous tantrums, somehow, pull at my heartstrings in a good way. My sweet little girl wants that Kashi cereal so, so bad.
Perhaps these moments are better than they used to be because I now know exactly what to do. Because I don't panic. Because it's been months since I've felt the urge to call J at work and tell him I was having a hard day.
In this case, I hung up the phone, poured Nora a cup of milk, sat her in my lap while she drank it and took her upstairs for a nap. She looked at me as though to say, "finally." I think she fell asleep before her head hit the mattress.