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the wonder years

Next week marks six months since S arrived in Manila with the kids. Junebug, whose second birthday we celebrated a couple of weeks early during our last weekend together in DC, is quickly approaching the midway point of her third year. Now that she is speaking up a storm, her personality has truly blossomed. It is a curious age, as she seems caught between holding onto her baby tendencies and striving to catch up to her older brother.

As she is the cuddlier of our two children and the baby in the family, we are in no hurry to see her grow up. Sure, it will be great to have her fully potty-trained and no longer nursing, but we are well aware that once the baby snuggles finish, they are gone for good. Lately she has developed a fixation with our ears, which she insists on holding while snuggling whenever she is upset or needs an extra dose of solace. “Eash! I want [papa/mama] eash!” she’ll demand when Munchkin has made her cry, or she’s fallen down and hurt herself, or when it’s time to go to sleep. In fact, every bedtime ends with one of us sitting by the side of her crib singing softly to her while she puts her hands through the bars and grips our earlobes.

Junebug hardly spoke at all before her second birthday, and speech therapy in DC seemed to have had only a negligible effect on her linguistic development, so we are relieved that her language skills have exploded of late. Preschool certainly seems to have helped in that respect, and she has continued speech therapy in Manila. Junebug still muddles her words; Munchkin spoke a lot more clearly and expansively at this age. However, she can now form basic sentences, and we can even engage her in short back-and-forth conversation. D stopped speaking to her in Russian when he arrived in Manila, a handful of bedtime songs remaining as the only vestige of his attempts to transmit his native language to our kids.

Junebug’s expanded vocabulary has come with a growing array of demands. She is very particular about what she wants and how she wants it – especially when she is dealing with S. For example, there is a specific order in which she wants to get and unfold her diaper, select her pajamas, and get dressed for bed. In general, her twos have been far from terrible. She is normally a very sweet child, but there are certain routines she has developed for which the slightest deviation is bound to send her into a paroxysm of angst.

She also has become a very picky eater. After devouring everything we put in front of her the first couple of years of her life, Junebug has done a complete 180. Nowadays she mostly eats carbs and sweets, of which there is an overabundance in the Philippines. Eggs are the one relatively healthy food she still consumes with regularity. Every afternoon when she gets home from preschool, she demands a “papa eggy,” forcing D to take a work break so that they can have brunch together before he puts her down for her nap.

Though they squabble constantly, Junebug’s love for Munchkin remains palpable and easily outweighs their sibling strife. The first thing she asks about when she gets home from preschool and the first words out of her mouth when she gets up from her nap are “yayo’s [school] bus,” yayo being about as close an approximation of Munchkin’s name as Junebug can muster. She always wants to match his clothing – and ours too for that matter – and it is impossible to play a board game with him without getting her involved in some way.

This is our daughter at two and a half: exuberant, playful, snuggly, cheerful, and just a wee bit demanding. Words and pictures hardly offer but a glimpse of her multifaceted personality, but we find it important to endeavor to pin at least a bit of it down all the same. We frequently try to compare her behavioral peculiarities to what Munchkin was like at this age and find ourselves struggling to recall specifics. As with most everything else in adulthood, it is important to document these little details for posterity.

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