Over the weekend you turned twenty-eight months old. I think it’s about time that we address the issue of your hair considering that every picture we take of you makes it look like I do nothing but follow you around with balloons and rub them on your head. While it’s true that I often follow you around, it is not because I am intent making your hair look like a permanent shrine to the diagram of a chemical compound, but rather because you’ve inherited your parent’s clumsiness and are routinely knocking your head into furniture. I like to be nearby so I can laugh.
We have very few photographs of your hair looking tidy because, as your step-grandma has said, styling your hair is exactly like trying to wrap a rubber band around a wad of jello. It just falls out everywhere a few seconds after I comb it into place. Add to that the fact that you have more hair on your head right now than most people will ever grow in a lifetime, and you can see how it’s easy for me to throw my hands up in defeat. I heard that in some countries people shave their kids’ heads so that it will grow back in a heavier and thicker consistency. I don’t dare do that with you because if your hair were any thicker I would need a welding torch to bend it into place. I imagine it growing teeth and fingernails and eventually feeding on your skull for sustenance.
Your love for walks has grown to an obsession this month, and we spend many hours a day in the front yard or walking up and down our street. We love taking these walks because it forces us to slow down and appreciate very small and simple things as you bend down to examine your world. You’re often exploring holes in the sidewalk with your fingers, or stopping to watch a trail of ants. This morning I walked out the front door to lounge on the porch, and you followed me until you got to the lip of the front step and realized you didn’t have your shoes on. By your reaction I thought someone had thrown acid in your face, and your skin began melting off in chunks. “SHOOOOES!” you screamed. “WHERE ARE YOU!” You will not leave the house without your shoes on, and when you saw that I was barefoot you pointed at my feet and were repulsed enough to claw at your neck. Kid, this is my heritage. Be glad I’m not fetching the morning paper in my bra with a cigarette behind my ear and a Miller Lite strapped to my thigh with a garter.
This month has also seen a shift in your sleeping schedule. One afternoon you started resisting your nap and lying in your crib singing a mix-up of the ABC song and Baa Baa Black Sheep without ever falling asleep: “A B C D E F G, yes sir, yes sir, bee bogs bull.” Cute but unfortunate because by four in the afternoon you were so irritable that the inside of your body tried to tear its way out, and for a moment I could see your toes through the opening in your mouth. So I pushed your nap back an hour, and it changed everything. Now you take a three hour nap in the afternoon and rarely put up a fuss, except yesterday when you reached into your arsenal of excuses and tried everything to get out of it. You father and I listened on the monitor as you said, “Watch Elmo? . . . No? Okay. Go outside! . . . No? How about crackers? I want crackers . . . No? Water! YEAH! DRINK OF WATER!” As if we would fall for that one. I admire your determination, Leta, but if you want to see results you’re going to need to get a little more creative. Maybe threaten to chew your arm off at the elbow, or throw your body over the side of the crib. Think THEATRICS.
One of our favorite parts of the day with you is bath time if only because you are never more excited. Each time I mention that it’s time for your bath you take off running, and when I catch up with you in the bathroom you’re trying to throw your leg over the side of the bathtub even though I haven’t started running the water or taken your clothes off. For several months you hated the part where we washed your hair and that was totally my fault. I wanted to try out a new adult shampoo on you because I thought it might revitalize the texture of your hair and make it smell like the fragrance of freshly-picked mountain strawberries. But it burned your eyes, and I earned a place among the elite group of Mothers Who Should Be Clubbed with a Pipe Wrench.
When we switched back to the harmless baby shampoo you were still extremely wary of having water poured over your head, so we’ve had to come up with ways to get you to cooperate. Lately we’ve been tacking letters up high on the walls of the bathtub and asking you to identify them, and while your head is tilted back we quickly rinse the suds out of your hair. The other night we tried this trick again, and it worked so well you wouldn’t stop. You recognized the A, and then the G, and then the X, and even after your hair was rinsed you stood up out of the water and pointed to each letter sticking to the tub. We needed you to sit down and rinse the rest of your body so your father pointed to the F and said, “What letter is that, Leta? That’s F for effing sit down already.”
You promptly sat down and said, “F! Effing!”
“You’re smart, little one,” he said as he shook his head. “Can you say, ‘I’m smart.’?”
You giggled, brought a shaving cream cap full of tub water to your lips and took a sip. After swallowing a gulp you looked up at your father and said, “I’m fart.”
We’ve never laughed so hard or been more aware that there is nothing in life more wonderful than this, our family, you who have truly made us one.