This morning, we made play dough together.
You’ve been asking for days, since early last week, to play with play dough. We didn’t have any. I told you we could make some…but there was laundry to do and dishes to clean and errands to run and school curriculum to order. You were outside with your brother and sisters, or I was trying to convince you to take a nap, and we never seemed to get around to the play dough.
This morning is your last morning of being two years old, and if we can’t make time for it now, when will we? So I said “yes,” and we spent half an hour dumping flour and oil and cream of tartar and Kool-Aid and salt, mixing and stirring and tasting (yes, you did, and although it must taste awful it can’t hurt you, I guess) and kneading and rolling and patting and playing.
This, I suppose, is the difference in my parenting of you, my fourth child. I know now that now is as good a time as any. As hectic as it feels sometimes to have a two-year-old, things don’t necessarily get less hectic when he turns three, or four, or any other age. You’ll get better and better at cleaning up your own messes, and eventually you’ll be able to read Where the Wild Things Are to yourself every single night before bed instead of asking me to do it for you. You’ll pop into the bathroom and take your own shower and pop out again, maybe even remembering to hang up your towel, and I won’t sit by the side of the tub and watch you pour cups of water over your own head while you sing songs from the Moana soundtrack, all chubby cheeks and glistening skin and your sister’s heart-shaped sunglasses.
I’ll do less and less of the ordinary for you. You can already dress yourself and wash your hands and face and basically get your own breakfast. Somehow, though, your budding independence doesn’t result in our having more time to just hang out together.
Is it that you have more to do that doesn’t involve me? Or is it that I fill all those small moments when I would have been cleaning your hands with mopping the floor? Our house is tidier than it used to be when you were an infant, but I still feel like all I ever do is clean it up…and in exchange, I have a lot less time of smelling the top of your head in the rocking chair. You tag along with the big kids…out to the driveway to ride your tricycle or to the backyard to build a fort or to play hide and seek…and instead of hanging out and watching you, I run to the sewing machine or the computer or grab a book or my knitting and try to carve out a few minutes for myself to work or sing or create something that will remind me that I still exist apart from all that laundry. Your brother grabs himself a snack and gets you one, too. Your sister gives you a push on the swing or reads you that tiresome Clifford book for the thirteenth time today. You have people to do these things for you- people other than me.
Still, when you bump your head or scrape your knee, it’s my lap that comforts you, and my kisses still mostly work as the best way to take the sting out of your injuries. Although you’re quick to correct anyone who calls you “little,” you still pretend to be a baby monkey, climbing up my body and dangling from me as I shuffle down the hall.
I treasure your exuberance, your silly stories, your determination to tell knock-knock jokes even though you don’t quite understand the form. I always save you the orange cup and the purple ice pop and almost all of my croutons. You don’t like the way my reading glasses look and constantly ask me to “push those glasses up” on top of my head. If I have the book memorized, I do it just to oblige you.
You’re my “yes” kid. We said “yes” to the possibility of you, and I find myself saying “yes” to everyone else more often than I might have if you hadn’t joined our family. I’m older and wiser now on my fourth two-year-old than I was when I had just one two-year-old for reference. Beyond that, though, I know that wonderful things can happen when people say yes. Wonderful things and wonderful people, like you.
Happiest of birthdays to you, my littlest man. You’re sunshine in my heart.