Somewhere inside that long enthusiastic body is my tiny tiny baby who had wires and tubes all over him for the first thirty days of his life. The boy who bounces off walls and floors without a pause and soaks up damage like a tank is the same child who was in neo-natal intensive care for two weeks, and confined to a hospital room for five, over half of it in an incubator. Now Liam throws himself over rocks and up cement blocks, goes headlong over swings and wagons, falls down stairs when he isn’t watching where he feet are going. He can climb in and out of the car by himself. His fine motor skills are growing with leaps and bounds too; for example, he can assemble his semi-trailer truck out of Lego-like connecting blocks without help now, holds crayons and pencils correctly, and eats very tidily with forks and spoons. He likes to help me bake and cook, pouring measured ingredients into a bowl and stirring them.
I want to laugh every time Liam glances up and gives a casual “Oh, hi, Mama” when I walk into the room, as if he’s mildly surprised to see me. He’s using ‘I’ a lot more now. “Oh, I see!”, “I get it!”, and “I do it” are all frequently heard. He helped HRH wash the car the other day, and had great fun. “Dada Liam washing the car!” he said over and over. Dropping the wet cloths into the bucket of soapy water was the best part, I think: he’d drop them in and say “Splash!” very happily. Then he’d pull them out and watch them drip. “Water running!” he said, watching it trickle down the driveway to the drain. He ran in and out of the spray when HRH used the hose to rinse the car off. “Raining, raining!” he chortled. He’d helped HRH water the plants in the front garden the day before, too, and spent a lot of the time trying to drink the spray of water.
The “Where’s Liam?” game has now developed a sequel of sorts. Now after hiding a toy he suggests places where he may have hidden it (which we can plainly see). Now the amused “Noooooo!” line in the game is ours, given when he suggests that Thomas is in an outlandish place like the ceiling fan when he’s actually behind a cup of milk on the table. He has also begun playing a sleeping game, where he closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep (complete with deep breathing!), then says with his eyes still shut, “Wake up, Liam!” before bouncing up and grinning. If someone has their eyes closed, they must be asleep and woken up by a perky toddler. (Dr Seuss characters frequently have their eyes shut in a sort of smug contentment, leading Liam to tell them to “Wake up!” a lot.)
His appetite ranges from eating a pile of food that must be bigger than his stomach to having two bites of rice at dinner and declaring himself to be all finished. He rejected salmon sashimi a couple of days ago; maybe that first time was a fluke. (No pun intended.)
His toddler worldview comprising people and their identification fascinates me. I am Mama; HRH is Dada. All other fathers are Daddy and all other mothers are Mummy. He enthusiastically lines up to give goodbye hugs and kisses to other kids’ parents when they drop their progeny off with the caregiver. (Hey, free hugs and kisses? He is so there! I’m not sure if it’s to give them or get them. Probably both.)
We have to read Green Eggs & Ham at least once before bedtime. Murmel Murmel Murmel and Mortimer by Robert Munsch have become quick favourites too. He had Mortimer’s bedtime song down pat the second time we read it. Three days ago he became fixated on the Cat in the Hat for some odd reason; he’s never read it at the caregiver’s, nor here. But one night he pulled it out of the bookcase and said “Cat! Hat! Read!” and climbed up into my lap. He’s begun reciting books to me at odd times and in odd places. All of a sudden he’ll be looking at me, repeating dialogue or narrative from some part of a story, with no obvious trigger or inspiration. “Go woods lane, but no McGregor garden, I am going out,” he said yesterday morning, looking at me very seriously. “Eat lettuce, green beans, radishes, feeling parsley.” He’s told the end of Arthur’s Pet Business several times, and has randomly recited bits of Green Eggs and Ham as well. New and fun books this month include The Incredible Book Eating Boy and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, which is of course too old right now but very enjoyable for the parents.
He’s also begun to sing along with songs from soundtracks a lot more clearly, especially his beloved Cars soundtrack. (Yes, it’s still “Riding in the car, listening to Cars music again okay, yes?” when we get ready to go out somewhere.) It’s hilarious to hear him say “Route 66!” along with Chuck Berry, and touching to hear him sing the last half of phrases when listening to James Taylor’s heartbreaking Our Town.
Last month we went to visit the Exporail train museum in St-Constant on a lovely sunny day, and Liam was terribly excited. We went first thing in the morning when it opened, which was ideal because there weren’t many people in our way. He ran up and down the platforms of the display shed, ducked in and out of vintage cars and engines, and was generally thrilled to bits. We took a ride on a tram that went around the site, and a ride on the miniature railway. Liam came home with a train whistle, which thankfully isn’t very loud, and we have promised to take him back this fall so that we can explore the open reserve rolling stock and the century-old restored train station. We’ve added to his collection of toy Thomas trains too, buying him the Annie and Clarabel coach set for his little Thomas to pull. Liam was thrilled, but then got very upset because they wouldn’t attach together with both their faces facing forward. He cried and cried because they wouldn’t ‘click’, as he calls it. In his toddler worldview, all faces should point in the same direction. This is how he taught himself the right way to connect his engines: the magnet at the back of something connected to the magnet at the front of the next one. Annie and Clarabel are different, and I finally got him to come cuddle with me on the chesterfield with his big book of Thomas poetry while I read him the Annie and Clarabel poem, reading the bit about how they travel back to back very clearly, Annie looking forward and Clarabel seeing where they had been. We read it over and over and over, sometimes flipping to another poem then back again, until he slid down and went and picked them up, and clicked them together back to back, just as they’re designed to do. And from that moment everything was fine and dandy, and he insists on sleeping with them. He just needed some help thinking it through.
We’ve introduced the concept of the time out at home. Liam’s had a couple of these at the caregiver’s house when he’s pushed someone or thrown something, but we haven’t needed to do it at home until the other day when he pushed Maggie sharply off a chair. HRH scooped him up and strode to the kitchen,where we pulled a chair over and sat him down facing the wall, telling him sternly he was not to push the cat, and that he was going to sit there for one minute. We left and he began to cry, but he didn’t move till we went back for him. Yesterday morning we had to do it again for the same reason, and although he slipped off the seat he stood there, one hand on the chair, still crying; he didn’t move beyond that. I went back, held his face in my hands, and asked him if he knew why he was there. Liam nodded, his eyes bright with tears, and said, “Yes: no no, no push Maggie.” I kissed him and picked him up, and we went to find the poor cat who’d been tossed off the back of the recliner chair. She was asleep on the bed, so we sat down next to her and he petted her once or twice, barely touching her. Then he pulled his hand back and said very clearly, without prompting, “I sorry, Maggie.” He forgets how strong he is when he cuddles her, and we sometimes have to jump to rescue her because he’s strangling her or bending her in odd ways in his enthusiasm. We explain to him repeatedly that Maggie is old and can’t play the way he’d like her to. And yet she’s generally fine with him, letting him pet her and play with her tail and her feet and her ears, laying his head on her as he lies next to her on our bed. “Liam and Maggie sleeping,” he says, so very happy because he is lying down with her. I don’t know what we’ll do when she finally passes on; Nix and Cricket won’t have anything to do with him.
He woke up screaming last night at two in the morning — not crying, actually screaming. It took an hour and a half to get him back to sleep. Every time he was limp and relaxed I’d try to slip him into the crib and he would scream again. I have no idea what happened; we assume he had a nightmare. I read him a couple of stories, and we cuddled and dozed for a long time. I could tell he was tired because he kept saying random things dreamily as he rested his head on my shoulder and stared unseeing across the room. One of them was, “Flying. He’s flying.” (Who? I wondered. “Is he happy?” I asked, just to make sure Liam wasn’t talking about the nightmare. “Mm-hm,” was the answer.) Another was “Purple?” Later he said, “Baby feet.” In the end I put him back in bed for the sixth time, kissed him, and stepped out of his room as he began to scream my name over and over. I stood just on the other side of the door and rested my head against the door frame until he finally quieted down and passed out. I wish he could tell me what had happened, what he dreamed to make him so terrified of getting back into the crib. He fought naptime for two and a half hours today, screaming for me over and over and over when we put him in bed. He worked himself up so much that he fell out of the crib lunging for me as I opened the door to check on him. He went head first into his laundry basket, so there was a soft landing, but still — something has really spooked him, and he can’t tell us what it is. He has become such a wonderful communicator that I had all but forgotten how helpless I could feel, as I did when he was an infant and we were trying to figure out how to calm him the one or two times he really had a fit about something. I think we’ve all been taking the excellent communication for granted, and we’ve forgotten that sometimes deep-seated terror or need or emotion can’t be framed in words, especially not by a two year old. He feels so deeply, and is usually so happy-go-lucky that to see him struggle with this is heartbreaking. All will be well eventually, of course. But for now we’re reminded of the more challenging parts of being a child.