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Painted baby. (Photo by Hung Nguyen)

BLOG – Two Years

A few weeks back, my daughter Lucy celebrated her second birthday. Or rather, I should say that we celebrated it. She just sort of went about the whole party as she would any other day: playing in the dirt, basking in attention and, as a special bonus, shoveling cake into her face like she thought it was some kind of beautiful mistake, and she better hurry up and enjoy it before we figured out something was amiss.

Two years on Earth have taught Lucy a wide assortment of things; she’s pretty well-versed these days in the basic tenets of gravity, and though her skill with a spoon leaves something to be desired, her manual dexterity has advanced enough to allow her to wrangle and ferret away any of my personal possessions that she finds of interest.

Her most important new intellectual acquisition, however, is her rapidly-growing vocabulary. I’m getting into the habit of recording her lists of known words and displaying them in videos via the World Wide Web for long-distance friends and loved ones to enjoy. Look, here comes one now!

One thing you may notice, dear reader, if you are tenacious enough to sit through a video of some random person’s kid saying a bunch of words, is that her inflection often contains something of, for lack of a better term, a ‘tude. She displayed this obvious ‘tude at her birthday parting, protesting with some volume when I rudely dragged her away from her finger paints to open gifts in front of the assembled party-goers. Some of those present chuckled and remarked that “she’s got a mind of her own,” which I took as a vaguely polite way of saying, “You kid’s kind of a jerk these days, huh?”

It’s true that, now that she’s hit the infamous “twos,” Lucy has begun to assert her newly-discovered independence in a fun and exciting new panoply of ways. For example, last weekend, Anthony, Lucy and myself took a trip to Cleveland to watch the Indians and the Yankees. We’ve all been going to ball games together since she was just a wriggling, drooling little bit of human being, and she’s been mostly cool with it. Last weekend, however, it was as though she decided, “Look, guys, you’ve been dragging me to these things since I still ate my green beans apple-sauce style, and I’ve put up with it, but don’t you think it’s time we did something on my itinerary for once? All I want to do is run around and pick up dead leaves and rub them in my hair, maybe eat a stick or two once in a while. Is that so much to ask, fellas?”

Mostly, this manifested itself in writhing and screaming, then a full 45 minutes of weeping as we trudged through the mass of folks in Progressive Field in the eighth inning and then drove back to our motel. Cleveland was up two runs, but she didn’t give a hoot: she was trying to tell us that she does, in fact, possess a mind of her own.I’ve only been a parent for two paltry years, but I’ve been a haver-of-parents for a full 28-and-change, so I know that remembering that your child is herself a thinking and feeling being is sometimes a difficult endeavor. It’s all I can do to get her to lay still for 30 seconds while I wipe her butt; who has time to ponder the philosophical implications she is currently weighing in her mind after a particularly moving episode of Dora The Explorer?We all participate in a certain amount of projection when it comes to those we love. I find motherhood to be beautiful and moving, and so I expect the child herself to be those things, too, but there’s nothing particularly beautiful about a kid launching her bowl of oatmeal at your face, though it is moving in that you are moved to howls of rage and some very creative profanity.

Do I fail my child when I pull her along to a lunch date with me instead of taking her to playgroup? The honest answer is that I don’t actually know. What I do know is that, despite the new shrillness of her screams and the force with which her little legs can kick, I love her and want her to be happy. And what that means, in the long run, is that it’s not my duty to make my child in my image, but to help her build herself up into her own. I must remember that she, like me, like you, like this whole dang town, can only be herself. And at the end of the day, herself likes to sit in the rocking chair with me and force me to sing “You Are My Sunshine” until her eyelids get droopy. And that’s a serious privilege. The privilege of watching Lucy be unabashedly, unequivocally, Lucy.But I’m putting my foot down on one thing: stop eating sticks, kid. That’s good for nobody.

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One Response to “BLOG – Two Years”

  1. Dan Plecha says:

    Exposing your impressionable loved ones to anything as unabashedly atrocious as the Cleveland Indians of August, 2012 is asking for just the kind of response Lucy proffered. (If that was the game I happened to hear on the radio, I can only envy her disdain.)

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