If it’s possible for an age to be both the best and the worst simultaneously, this is it. There are some moments where I look at Brooke in complete and utter amazement at the gorgeous person she’s become. And then there are times where I want to hang her over a balcony in my best Michael Jackson impersonation — and not in a “I’m an adorable child molester” kind of way; in a “I kind of actually want to throw you” kind of way.
On the plus side, her communication skills are improving every day, and her love for both mom and dad is at an all-time high. She’s now doing this precious thing where she screams at the top of her lungs if I don’t hold her hand while driving the car. She knows how to make a woman feel loved (and deaf). So I contort my body in the most natural of ways and dislocate my own shoulder, so that I can reach behind me, extend up and over the back of her rear-facing car seat, and find the hand she’s flailing wildly above her head in search of my own. Of course, as I’m doing this the other day, a cop pulls up alongside me; so I gave him my best “I serve soup to the homeless” smile and slowly reeled my arm back in until it was resting at 10 and 2. No quick movements. Steady hand. After all, outside of the fact that said position is insanely uncomfortable, I have to imagine that it’s also incredibly dangerous. Plus, it’s my texting hand. I know, I know; don’t text and drive. Don’t be a clown, put your phone down. Send that text, your funeral is next. Browse the web, you’ll end up dead. And so on and so forth. Unfortunately, the only lesson I’ve learned from this little exercise in rhyming is that I have a tremendous future in marketing. But I digress.
Outside of the hand holding, I could just die watching her express herself via her newfound gestures and hand motions. My ovaries literally explode whenever she waves goodbye to her daddy as he’s on his way out the door. And don’t even get me started on Brooke’s dance moves. She loves to dance and does it often. Although being born really, really white, she probably shouldn’t. She has her mama’s rhythm B.A. (Before Alcohol), but it’s glorious nonetheless. Sure, it’s a little troubling when she twerks, gyrates, and drops it like it’s hot, but at least I know she’ll never end up a stripper. Her daddy actually loves her.
What else? We’re in the process of learning body parts, and she’s really making headway. I keep asking her to point to her nose, and in response, she repeatedly sticks her finger in her eye. She’s nothing if not consistent. And being a creature of habit, repetition is the name of the game, and after plopping down on my lap (there go my ovaries again), she’ll make me read the same book to her over and over and over again. So much so that I can now recite several children’s books by heart — a skill I’d really rather not have. She’s also incredibly inquisitive these days. Last week, I was wearing shorts with no underwear, and suddenly, I found Brooke crouching down low to the ground, trying to sneak a peek between my legs, with a look that said, “Ma, why are you hiding a puppy down there?” She then started trying to poke it as if it were a sleeping bear. Her curiosity is nothing short of endearing.
Otherwise, Brooke spends her time how every other toddler does — by exhibiting mild forms of OCD. How else can one explain their behavior when it comes to drawers and cabinets? Sure, the problem seems to be self-fixing, with either years of growth or possibly meds, but in their early days, these kids could spend hours discarding the contents of whatever cabinet or drawer they happen upon. They’re master organizers. I was totally ready to embrace my inner Somalian and score some free child labor, but as it turns out, they only use their powers for evil, not good.
The most important positive development, however, has been the realization that Brooke has turned into an amazing sister. Well…for the most part. There are two things that Brooke loves doing more than anything else in the world: kissing Blake and hitting Blake. I think the latter is simply because she sees me patting Blake on the back while burping her, and she’s just trying to be similarly helpful. At least that’s what I tell myself to avoid admitting the obvious: that she’s a blossoming serial killer. I have constant visions these days of Brooke as Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son and Blake, the unsuspecting younger sister on the ice. Brooke as Kevin McCallister and Blake as Joe Pesci also works and is probably a more accurate representation, looks-wise. To be fair, she does rock Blake in her car seat when Blake starts to cry and wipes Blake’s face with a towel after she’s spit up. She kisses her on command and hugs/holds her in the most tender of ways. It’s a sight to behold and, if we’re being honest, one that’s driven me to tears a time or two.
But as with any toddler, with adorableness comes immense challenge, and our family has not been immune. Brooke’s seemingly been on a half-year-long teething bender, which causes her to whine all day every day. Like a tiny radical feminist. And when she’s not being fussy, she’s sprinting from room to room, demonstrating each day just how deficient I’ve been in proper childproofing. In my defense, I wasn’t aware that a child her age would be tall enough to open doors, but ol’ 75th percentiler over here is now capable of doing just that. And even when I attempt to childproof, Satan still waves his magic wand in an effort to ensure continued misery. I had purchased and installed (okay, my husband installed) a baby gate to prevent Brooke from entering the kitchen, which was all well and good, until I realized that I was sold a baby gate with a faulty locking mechanism that doesn’t actually latch. I repeat, a baby gate that doesn’t latch. Nicole Brown Simpson received more justice than that.
And why is it that toddlers always manage to fall ill, despite our best efforts to the contrary? Due to using her fingers as teething apparatuses (apparati?), Brooke came down with not one, but two cuticle infections, which landed her in the hospital and on a copious amount of antibiotics. It was a scary situation that I was desperate to fix; not so much because she was in pain, but because I didn’t want a fingerless child. We ended up having to soak her hand in epsom salt three times per day, and while I love our pediatrician, I wasn’t thrilled with the way she mocked me when I expressed my concern over being able to hold her down for a full five-minute soak. “She’s one,” she had said. I wanted to be like, listen woman, it’s not my fault that your child is Urkel and mine is Stefan; Brooke happens to be deceptively strong. I’d like to see you try to hold her down while she completes her transition into the Hulk in real time. But I held back the inner monologue that was now swirling inside my head, resolving instead to get off the phone and go cry in the corner.
Thankfully, my mom lives close by and has been a bastion of support, during a time when support has been critical. With that being said, nobody likes unsolicited parenting advice, even if the person doling it out were the one to raise you themselves. The other day, my mom was at my house, helping to give Brooke a bath while I fed Blake, and when I joined her at the edge of the tub, she turned to me and asked, “So what are you going to do about discipline?”
“I mean, when are you going to start telling her that she can’t splash in the bath?”
Uh, how ‘bout never, Nazi Grandma?!
“But she gets water everywhere!”
Oh no! We can’t have that! Next thing you know, there will be sleeping going on in the bedroom!
“Well, how come she continues to do things sometimes even when I say no?”
I don’t know, baby Cesar Millan, perhaps you could teach my one year old the laws of ethics and morality. We’ll get right to it after I read her Pride and Prejudice for her bedtime story.
And then came this inquiry, as we were playing with Brooke’s toys in her room:
“How come her baby doll is black?”
Oh you know, I just wanted to teach her about the importance of slave trade at a young age. I mean, what kind of question is that? And how on earth does one answer it? If I want my child’s doll to be insanely athletic and an impeccable dancer, that’s my prerogative. I was tempted to channel my inner Gretchen Wieners and say, “Oh my God, mom. You can’t just ask people why their dolls aren’t white.”
Fortunately, my mom’s periodic blonde moments are overshadowed by her unwavering love for both me and her grandchildren. She’s the type of grandparent every grandchild hopes for; and by that, I mean she has a credit card and zero self-restraint. But above all, she’s fun, loving, and incredibly selfless. And for that — and so many other things — I will never be able to express my gratitude enough.
The other day, I had pretty much given up on life. The girls had tag-teamed me the entire ten hours prior, and I was teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown. I just didn’t have the energy anymore. Normally, when Brooke fills up her cup with bath water and attempts to take a sip, I put up a valiant fight. This time? I all but offered her a squeeze of lemon. I just didn’t have it in me to care. So I retreated to my room, got into bed, and pulled the blanket up over my head. Unfortunately, pulling the blanket over my head also meant that the bottom half of my legs and feet stuck out from the bottom, as if I were the Wicked Witch of the West. A categorization, mind you, that’s patently unfair, since it’s my children who are the evil ones. Though the analogy is still appropriate, since I definitely felt like I had been run over by a house. Sure, I felt a little bad about leaving Brooke to momentarily fend for herself, but the upstairs has been childproofed, and plus, I figured little Macaulay over here must have had plenty of experience being Home Alone. Luckily, my husband arrived home mere moments later and, being the Superdad that he is, quickly and deftly took control of the situation. I pulled the covers down just enough to peek out and ensure that it was safe to emerge from my bunker. And when I did, I caught a glimpse of my husband cradling my daughter in his arms. He had a look of quiet confidence and unabashed love on his face, and in that moment, I couldn’t help but think how nice it’d be to be pregnant with one of his babies.
And that’s why mental health facilities exist.