Today is le Petit's 18 month birthday.
This momentous occasion was almost forgotten in the chaos that followed his waking up, screaming, at 6:40 this morning. The morning routine was turned upside down, and it was only thanks to my husband's brilliant improvisation that I was able to get ready and out the door in a relatively calm and orderly fashion amidst le Petit's tired and cranky clinginess. I would even have gotten to work early, had the Métro and RER not conspired against me.
But at some point after I reached the office I realized that it was the 12th of January. 18 months ago -- the length of two pregnancies! -- le Petit came into our lives, nine minutes before his much-anticipated due date.
18 months is hard. It's hard for le Petit, and it's hard for us. I can see him hesitating on the threshold between babyhood and childhood. Some moments he's big: he can do so many things that he couldn't do just weeks ago. He uses new words all the time, he opens doors and presses buttons and manipulates fragile objects like CDs and books with care. But he's still so little, and frustration sneaks up on him constantly: in a split second he's a screaming mess, throwing himself on the floor and wailing in despair. The puzzle piece won't fit. The new word isn't understood. The book has clattered to the ground. Or most frustratingly of all, someone big has decided to thwart his efforts to control his world.
I was warned that his sleep might suffer at around this age. Sure enough, after months of long, restful nights, we're suddenly back to arduous bedtimes and wee-hour wake-ups. I know that once upon a time I thought nothing of dragging my tired self out of bed once a night to coax a baby back to sleep, but my patience is waning. (I admit this with apologies to those readers -- notably caramama -- who'd give anything for a toddler who sleeps as well as le Petit still does most of the time.)
Meanwhile, during the day I have to be more and more vigilant, because he is into everything. He has very strong ideas about What Happens When that relegates diaper changes to "Never." Almost every change becomes a wrestling match that I'm bound to lose. I'm exhausted. I don't know what I'd do without my husband, who has taken over half the tasks and more. I'm grateful, even as I feel a touch incompetent.
I can't blame le Petit for the difficult stuff, though. Growing up is hard work. His understanding of the world is advancing by leaps and bounds, and when I think of the effort that must take, I am astounded. He understands both English and French, and my husband and I were amazed yesterday when after overhearing us talk about jambon, he started to excitedly repeat "ham!" (one of his favorite foods). He understands what happens when and how in his daily routine, and imitates us in our big person tasks. He grabs keys and heads to unlock the front door (unsuccessfully so far), brings me a shoehorn to help me put on my shoes, and holds my husband's electric razor to his face to pretend to shave.
Yesterday he insisted on keeping his teddy bear with him in his high chair during dinner. He fed Bear slices of orange, then meticulously wiped his mouth with a cotton square, just like we do for him.
"Good job! Way to take good care of Bear!" I told him, and added, with a nod to my husband, "You'll make a good daddy when you grow up."