Twenty months

It's been a while since I wrote an update on Nora at a specific age, but for the past few weeks doing just that is something I've been thinking about a lot. I've been thinking, too, about the post I wrote on her thirteenth month, and how that month - contrary to all the others - wasn't my absolute favorite month of her life so far. Because, as I've mentioned, people tell me, regarding children, that "it gets so much better" and I can never believe it when they tell me that. Instead I think, "No! Sixteen months! Have you checked out my baby's vocabulary? Have you heard her giggle?" or "There is nothing in this world better than my 18 month old child and if it were scientifically possible I'd freeze her this way forever!"

The point being that when Nora is going through a stage that I don't particularly care for it is pretty striking. And I hate to say it but right now is one of those times.

Nora, my ever-confident, I-don't-need-my-mother-to-help-me, outgoing child, is going through a clingy stage, which manifests itself in several ways. 1) There is the crying that occurs when we take her to daycare or any other location where we are clearly going to "abandon" her, despite the fact that she has been going to said locations for years. Ok fine, one year and eight months. 2) There is the gripping of my legs as I am trying to make dinner or empty the dishwasher or, you know, just be a free standing human being. 3) There is the general neediness...needing us to play with her or help her or get her something or feed her something and so on and so on, while before she would entertain herself for hours.

Now I know - I totally know - that this is a stage and even as I type I recognize that she is already working through it. The other day we went for a walk and she wanted to hug perfect strangers, and drop off at daycare this week was decidedly less dramatic. I am comforted by the fact that my confident daughter will return, stronger than ever, and that no stage will ever trump her true personality.

But it's been difficult for me. Clinginess - both in its emotional and physical forms - is difficult for me, even in other adults. Say we're walking down the street and you go to throw your arm around me in an an impulsive hug born out of some burst of affection, and then you proceed to hang on to me because you think that's really cute. Well, I might like that. Or, if I'm not in the mood, I might punch you. Kidding, I wouldn't punch you! Probably!

Anyway, there's nothing really profound about these observations, just that this stage - which I know is common and brief - has been a little bit of a struggle for me, and for Nora, too, as she navigates all these new feelings and ideas and concepts. The fact that Mommy and Dada can be somewhere that she is not. The fact that - wait a second - they could be paying more attention to her at any given moment.

But, of course, there is an upside.

With the new concepts come so many new words. Words, and more words! Putting words together in new ways, and making tiny sentences that make total sense when taken literally, but not so much grammatically. Nora has learned about possession ("Nowa's breakfast," "Nowa's hair," "Nowa's paper") and about compassion, putting her dolls and toys to bed ("night night") and giving J and I - and others - kisses when we greet her upon coming home. Then there are the countless other pieces of information she's collected. Things we sometimes have no idea how she learned. Like that boats are heavy, and how she always knows, before we've even gotten there, that we're almost home.

I know that all parents feel this way, but we are constantly amazed. She counts like this: "two, seven, nine, twelve, thirteen" and she knows that C-A-K-E spells cake and, HOLY CHRIST, she really wants some cake.

I could go on about her skills forever, honestly I could, but I don't think there's a great need for any parent to type up every single detail about their child. If we all did it, the World Wide Web would explode.

I'd rather point out what's become, I'm sure, a tired refrain for me, but nonetheless true, and that happens to be that just when I think things aren't going so well, it turns out that I'm way off.

This idea played out perfectly the other day when Nora and I had a free afternoon and I was trying to figure out what to do with her to avoid the clinging-to-the-leg type scenario that I'd declared I would die of if it happened one more time. I know, shut up about it already, but when you're home with a child and you're trying to get some stuff done and it's not working because she is making it physically impossible by executing a monkey-grip on your calf, I don't know, it's really hard. And lonely. And boring. And the worst part is that when you tell someone how hard and lonely and boring that very mundane and domestic situation is, you end up sounding pretty lame, even if the rest of your day was fun.

So we had this free afternoon and I made the horrible mistake of saying something to Nora about how maybe we'd go get some ammi, which is what she calls ice cream. I was just thinking out loud which, by the way, you can't do with a twenty-month-old who knows every single word in the world, it seems, or at least all the ones that are important to her, and especially the ones that she has made up herself, but that you have started using as though it is totally normal.

I thought - and hoped - she'd forget about the ammi comment because I wasn't sure I wanted to deal with that particular obsession, but when we got in the car to go somewhere - anywhere, I hadn't decided yet - she started chanting, quietly but persistently, "ammi, ammi, ammi, ammi, ammi." I was torn. What I really wanted to do was go get some coffee. I felt exhausted and like I couldn't possibly deal with the rest of the day without it, and hey, I didn't need to cave to my toddler's desires. She's not in charge.

Yet something about her joyful declaration moved me, I guess, and I suddenly realized that I'd like nothing more than to sit at the local ice cream shop with my daughter, talking about Abby Cadabby or how many fingers she has. That I'd be privileged to do just that. So we drove into town under menacing-looking clouds and were inside placing our order just as it began to pour. They had coffee ice cream. And that's how a bad afternoon turned into the best.