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diary of a big girl

We only spent ten days away from our kids. It’s not much, but in the life of a toddler ten days is a lot. Junebug seemed a lot more grown up when we returned, and over the course of the subsequent weeks she has developed so many new mannerisms that we hardly recognize the girl we left at home with nana in mid-December at the start of our Southwest holiday road trip.

Junebug is only now beginning to vocalize her first words, but she has developed signs and alternative mechanisms to communicate exactly what she wants and needs. Frequently this involves grabbing us by the hand to lead us to the precise chair in which she wants us to sit, or the cabinet in which she has spied a treat, or the sink in which she wants to wash her hands. She says “dis” as she points, surprising us at times with the effectiveness of her minimally verbal communication. When she wants us to blow on her food she puckers her mouth in an exaggerated blow. When she wants a particular item of clothing or a scrunchy in her hair, it usually takes mere seconds for her to convey her meaning.

The biggest new behavior we missed during our travels was Junebug asking to use the potty. To communicate in this case she started grabbing at her diaper in a Michael Jackson-like fashion while pointing to the bathroom. We have a small plastic potty, but her only interest in it to date is as a toy. Instead, she insists that we lift her onto the adult toilet and hold her there while she does her business. Of course, being only a year-and-a-half, she is wildly inconsistent – and also we sometimes miss the cues, so no chance of ditching diapers in the near future.

The bathroom, in fact, has become Junebug’s preferred play space. She brings her favorite toys in, and sometimes she makes us sit on the toilet while she closes the door and immerses herself in the resultant darkness. Not ideal from a cleanliness perspective, but then again Junebug is very conscientious about cleaning and tidying up. She loves washing hands and constantly requests tissues, toilet paper, and napkins to keep clean. And if any of us neglect to put away our shoes after kicking them off, she immediately runs over and puts them on the shoe rack.

What strikes us most time and again is how wildly different our kids’ personalities are. Munchkin has gotten over much of the standoffishness of his early years, but he still has a ways to go to reach Junebug’s level of affection. She throws every ounce of her being into the fierce hugs she gives us, wrapping her arms around us and burying her face in our necks. She also loves stroking our faces and feeding us. We spend a lot of time sitting in the tiny plastic chairs around her toy table, participating in faux tea parties and sharing real meals. Junebug is big on feeding herself and is a lot more adept at using a spoon than Munchkin was at this age.

If her fine motor skills are still a work in progress, her gross motor skills have developed enough to cause constant concern. She has always taken an acrobatic approach to nursing, contorting her body into incomprehensible positions on S’s lap. Now she has begun applying her climbing skills around the house. Some objects that she climbs — chairs, tables, sofas — can easily support her daredevil antics. Others — like her wooden tricycle — are considerably less sturdy. At some point in the last month or so, she has figured out how to navigate the steep stairs in our house. She can go up and down on her own, but it still makes us cringe with worry every time she does so. Dangling her legs while sitting high up on a counter is another favorite pastime.

In terms of frequency of freakouts, Junebug’s terrible twos are a lot easier to bear than Munchkin’s. In terms of intensity, however, she has him licked. It’s cute when she stamps her feet in anger and pouts, but watch out when she really lets loose! Whereas Munchkin was always attached to S at this age, Junebug is much more even-handed with her affection and is just as apt to cling to D as to S. Still, she hates it when she feels that S has walked out on her, especially in the mornings. She’ll shuffle along in her sleep sack, sucking on her pacifier (only now do we realize how perfectly The Simpsons nailed the animation for Maggie), with tears brimming in her eyes before succumbing to her emotions and – if D is not quick enough to intercede – banging her head on the floor in distress.

It’s gotten so bad that we’ve had to change our morning routine so that S leaves the house before D gets Junebug out of her crib. D then carries her around to every room to show her that S is not hiding anywhere. Only once she ascertains that mama is not around, does she relax – though once she does she is all smiles, giggles, and cuddles. With S, Junebug frequently fights her diaper changes and cries when getting dressed. With D she play-fights, so each morning turns into a giggly wrestle-fest as D tickles her into submission to get her clothes on. D treasures these mornings above all else.

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