Henry turned 2 two weeks ago. Toddlers are great because they have such a low threshold for enjoyment. When we talked about what to do for his birthday, I was emphatic that we not do anything requiring much work. We weren’t sure when baby girl would show up, but I was sure that I would feel very disinterested in anything involving lots of work in those final weeks of pregnancy. Instead, we filled the day with the things that our little boy loves.Like a breakfast date at the Pretzel Bakery! If you follow on Instagram, you know that we go here a lot. It was a default play space during the winter, and most of the weekday employees know Henry by now. They have chased him when he escaped and I was too pregnant to run after him, doled out band-aids when I was lacking, and had so much patience with the many messes he has created. One morning recently, I brought Henry in bed to snuggle when he woke early. He did so for a little while and then rolled to face me, put his hands on either side of my face, leaned in close, and firmly whispered, “Pretzel Slider… later.” What can I say- we are raising him well. We decided to invite a bunch of friends to join us in the park for donuts and coffee- no decorations, no games, no fuss. But my SIL did pick up these yellow balloons, because Henry is obsessed with “lellow boons.” To be fair, he calls all balloons yellow, and he also examined my belly one morning and declared it too, a “lellow boon.”This is probably my favorite picture of my son. He is so happy here, and I’m not surprised, because he is surrounded by everything he loves most. He is outside, free in the park where we run daily. He has all his family around him, and his friends. This kid loves his friends, asks for them daily and lives for play dates with his posse. He loves singing, and frequently sings a mashup of all the songs he knows that goes, “Holy holy, shake your booty! AMAZING grace, Make wayyyyyyy, Happy birthday!!!” And he has treats, donuts. James recently asked Henry what he does with Mommy while Daddy is at work and Henry calmly answered that we “Go Target, eat donuts,” which did happen to be the truth that day. Even though we offer mostly healthy food at home, I love sharing a treat out in the city with my boy. I love getting to split something with him and see his face light up when I say we are going to get a treat. With his posse of uncles and aunt- this kid is beyond lucky that he has spent two years around extended family. My brother and his wife are moving this summer, and Henry will be saddest of all. Anytime he sees a car around town that looks like theirs, he gleefully informs me, “Dat’s Tante Wuthie’s car!!!” and he lives to go to their house and play with the “music” (ukulele) and suitcases that he knows lives there. As for James’s brother, Philip recently joined us at the park on one of those scooters you can rent anywhere around town. Henry has not stopped talking about, nor has he stopped angrily yelling at anyone else he sees around town on one that, “DAT’S UNCLE PHILIP’S SCOOTER!!!” Property rights are a top passion right now, and nothing disturbs our type A child like seeing someone in possession of something not theirs. This inevitably leads to the sorts of sharing issues and tantrums that we all associate with toddlers, but I also love it, love watching him connect objects and people in his world. I see a Walt Whitman quote so often on romantic cards or cute prints: “We were together, I forget the rest.” Every time I see it, I think of these past 2 years with Henry, these past 2 years where the blessing of his demanding nature and my flexible schedule means that my son and I have been together so much. We have taken on this city as a team, explored and adventured in every weather and circumstance. We have cried so much, laughed so much, and gone through approximately 2 million wet wipes. We have learned what it means to be a parent and a child and we have been together. He won’t remember much else of these early years, but I want him to remember that. He won’t remember all our mornings spent scooting to the Pretzel Bakery, the days where we rode the metro around the city just to stay warm, the times that we twirled under the low hanging pines at the park and yelled “TREEEEE FORTTTTT!” and laughed. He won’t remember how I climbed into his crib after every nap to snuggle until I got too pregnant or how I wore him in the sling way past the weight when it was doable to do so. But I hope he remembers that we were together, always together.
As for me, I don’t want to forget the rest of what 2 is for us. The way he has used a case of San Pellegrino as a “special seat” beside his crib for 8 months, only to replace it with a case of La Croix when we finally drank it. The way he rides his scooter with a boldness and dexterity that shocks people and is obsessed with his R2D2 helmet. The wallet we gave him for his birthday that he carries in his pocket and naps with, stocked with old loyalty cards. He thinks it looks like James’ wallet and that is all he wants. His obsession with luggage and emergency vehicles and escalators. His attempts at praying, which include “Thank you father” and then a list of everything from us, to the park. His love of our routines, and his insane knowledge of getting around Capitol Hill. The way we begs every day to go to work with James, mostly because he wants to ride the bus. His love of dancing and the way that, at the church nursery when other kids calmly sit and sing, he hurls his entire body all over during song time. His enthusiasm about helping with “laundries” and his zeal over cleaning floors. The way that he still likes to lay against my chest and wrap his arms around my neck when I hold him before naps. The way he likes to play with the house keys and walk out of the apartment yelling “Bye- see you later!” only to sit on the bottom step of the next flight of stairs and invite me to sit next to him. The way that his extroverted self sometimes crashes and he asks to sit in his crib with his toolbox, “just a couple minutes,” so he can regroup as he faux drills and nails and measures in silence. This is 2.
The night of his birthday, I insisted on putting him to bed though James usually does it. I sang extra long and held him, but instead of it calming him down, it ended in uproarious laughter as he kept on saying something and dying laughing, which made me laugh, and the cycle continued. We snuggled and laughed for so long, before I finally laid him down and he told me he loved me “so much!” I cried in the darkness, thankful for two years of calling that boy mine. I didn’t know when I put him down that I wouldn’t see him for 48 hours, that we would leave in the wee hours of the morning to head to the hospital. I didn’t know that the weeks that followed would be so hard, not because a newborn is hard or my body was sore, but because I would watch my wonderful little boy struggle in seeing his world shift. I didn’t know that the days following his perfect birthday would be full of so much imperfect behavior and anger and difficulty as he tried to find footing in our new family pattern. It’s normal, I know, this behavioral lapse when a new sibling comes home. And honestly, I get it. Henry, while excited for “my Etta,” is mourning the end of what was, of our dynamic duo. I get it, because I mourn it too, all while loving our new family of four.
So this is 2. All the excitement and wonder and hilarity and difficulty all at once. The past 2 years have, without a doubt, been the happiest of my life. Here’s to many more, and the kid who has made them so good.