We returned to the United States at a crucial juncture in Munchkin’s development. Not only did his linguistic abilities explode soon after we arrived home, but also his personality and mannerisms went through a noticeable transition.
We have met some cautious children in our recent travels around the Southwest. One friend shared how her daughter was afraid of going down slides at the park until her younger brother developed a liking for them. Munchkin has always been fearless in this respect, and to his adventuresome nature he now added a determined sense of independence.
Visiting his grandparents in Maine, Munchkin would frequently venture out into the woods that surround their house. S’s parents fenced off a small portion of the surrounding woodland to give their dog extra space to explore when left alone in the backyard, and Munchkin took full advantage of this arrangement. The first time he did so, S had a momentary panic attack. “Where is he?” she queried D when he walked back into the house without our 19-months-old toddler. “Oh, he went for a walk in the woods,” D calmly replied, “Don’t worry, the dogs are keeping an eye on him.”
Despite his increasing independence, which also manifested itself in a growing insistence at eating and playing his way rather than ours, Munchkin also exhibited some extra clinginess, demanding to be picked up and carried around in a way he hadn’t since his late infancy. He handled the big transition back to the United States with aplomb, but the loss of his familiar routine was telling, especially since his surroundings changed every week or so while we travelled, first to Ireland, then to Connecticut, and onwards to Vermont and Maine.
This last bit made S especially hesitant to leave him for three weeks. He might feel abandoned, she reasoned, at a time when his world has been turned upside down and he needs us most. She also worried that he would stop being as affectionate with us when we returned. She mostly managed to suppress her maternal emotions during our travels, but her mind was drawn to thoughts of Munchkin with increasing frequency as our trip neared the end.
Munchkin developed several new behaviors while we were gone — he now jumps on the bed, claps his hands when he spots airplanes in the sky, races around the house any time he hears that it’s time to eat or change his diaper, and has developed a penchant for wearing D’s parents’ slippers around the house — but otherwise we returned to the same sweet boy we had left in our parents’ care. He may be in the process of abandoning some of his cuter cuddly tendencies, but S is relieved to know that this is a function of his growing maturity and has nothing to do with our prolonged absence.
The peanut butter picture is courtesy of S’s mom, who kept us updated on our son’s progress during our travels.