Friday, March 21, 2014

Sixteen Months: Dance Like No One is Watching

Darling Katherine,

You are 16 months old, my little love.  You are growing up so much, but it is almost imperceptible to me until I look back to photos or videos from the last letter I wrote and realize you have changed immensely in the past two months.

There have been big changes in our daily routine as I went back to work about a month ago.  Because you had been unwell for quite some time before you started nursery school, you had developed some separation anxiety and I was anxious in turn about leaving you in the care of strangers.  But I needn't have worried, you love it there and you've settled in so well.  Your health issues were resolved and within two weeks you've even stopped crying, usually, when I have to leave you in the morning.  When we come to pick you up in the evening, you are always happily playing but when you realize Daddy or I are there you come steaming over as fast as your little limbs will move, beaming all the way.  This warms my heart, my love, and it's the highlight of my day seeing you again at the end of it.

You're little personality is emerging more and more, and your new environment is giving you an opportunity to show your colours.  You know your will and won't be pushed around by anyone.  There's no drama - you just calmly push away the hand you don't want there or take back the book or toy that's been pulled from your grasp by another child.  I'm so proud of your calm assertiveness and I admire it - for I don't think that you've inherited it from me.  If I can nurture that in you, then I will be doing well as a parent.

At home, you've become fascinated with fitting shapes together after months of always pulling your nesting toys and shape sorting puzzles apart.  You discovered a shape sorting bus toy at a friend's house and thought it was amazing.  I found that toy and brought it home for you to discover one evening after nursery school.  That's a sensitive time for you because you are generally exhausted after a long day at play, and it was that exhaustion that I credit with your reaction when you successfully fit a shape into its hole in the bus roof and dropped it through.  You immediately started to cry, distressed that you no longer had the shape in your hand.  I laughed to myself and showed you how to access the shapes inside and now you are so proud when you figure out how to fit the pieces correctly.  You also have a wooden puzzle that you only ever take apart, though once (only once) last week you spontaneously gathered all the puzzle pieces scattered about and stacked them carefully on top of the puzzle base.  You were tidying up!!  Tidying up your room with you in it is usually a race against your efforts to undo my work as each new item I turn my attention to suddenly becomes the most fascinating thing in the room for you.  So I hope to encourage a desire to keep things organised but I think that is still a long time coming.

Books remain a favorite with you, though you mainly want to point at items on the pages and have us name them.  You babble delightfully more and more, though real words are few and far between.  We think you've said "daddy" on request once and you say "mum, mum, mum" all the time, but I've never been certain you actually meant me.  I'm also pretty sure you quack like a duck with real purpose.  I'm not worried though, because you understand so much and follow instructions well.  You've learned the sign for "milk" and that was useful for a while, but now you make that sign to mean "milk," "drink," "I'm hungry" and "hey look, I can make the 'milk' sign!"  So its utility has been somewhat diminished.

You love, love, love the mirror which Daddy recently installed in your room.  It was a surprise to show you one evening after nursery school and your reaction when you saw it was absolutely priceless.  You giggled and posed and grinned up at our reflections.  You also love music and it cracks me up when a song comes on and you stop what you're doing, look up at me and then slowly start to bop along with the tune, getting more enthusiastic as you go.  It's almost like you can't help yourself... and dancing while posing in the mirror?  Well, it just doesn't get better than that, does it, my love?

In the past week or so, you've slept through a few nights for 10-11 hours without waking for milk, something you've done exactly once before - and that was months ago.  It isn't every night, but you've strung a couple of good nights together and, fingers crossed, it might become a pattern.  We recently moved you out of your crib and now you sleep on a mattress on the floor.  You like this because you can wake up and play in the morning, sweetly babbling away, and I like this because you wake up and play independently - affording me with some precious moments of peace, if not actually more sleep.

The biggest challenge in parenting you is definitely food.  You are a ridiculously picky eater, and the list of items you will accept is limited, somewhat unpredictable and definitely not the healthiest menu.  But it is a battle I refuse to engage in, and given the state of your impressive little pot belly and your continued growth, I trust you are getting what you need and someday your tastes will expand.

You are my sunshine, my darling, and even as I have endured the saddest thing that has ever happened to me, or leave work in the blackest mood I can imagine, your smile heals my soul.  When you abandon your play and make a bee-line for my lap, then tuck your head onto my shoulder, I kiss you and cuddle you and nuzzle your soft, unspoilt, deliciously baby-scented little neck and the depth and breadth and weight of my love for you brings tears to my eyes.

I love you with all my heart,