A few days ago you turned forty-seven months old. I know this newsletter is a little late this month, but that can be blamed entirely on the savage way the Christmas holiday disrupted our lives, bah humbug. The last three weeks have been an endless string of family parties and dinners and driving almost as far as Idaho and back, again and again, plus late bedtimes and missed meals. I know this is what we asked for when we made the decision to move back to Utah to be near family, and I do love them dearly even though we sometimes disagree on certain things, like the fact that road kill should be buried rather than served cold with a side of bacon. I’m glad, too, that you’ve got a relationship with all these cousins and aunts and uncles, because knowing them will give you a frame of reference when it comes to figuring out why I am the way I am. Why does your mama sit in a corner and mumble incoherently? Because that’s her brother over there, that large bald man who used to hold her down and fart in her face. She’s still recovering.
We’ve also spent many hours at the doctor’s office over the last few weeks, including a few hours yesterday. You’ve been suffering from a cough for more than a month that at first was nothing to be alarmed about. You didn’t have any other symptoms, no runny nose or fever, no falling over dead, so we waited to take you to the doctor until the cough became more pronounced. He took a look at you, ordered some x-rays of your chest, and we walked over to the radiology department where they strapped you into a protective gown and stood you in front of a large machine. I couldn’t be in the room with you because there was a 2% chance that I might have been pregnant (turns out I wasn’t), so you had to stand there… alone. I could sit here and lie and say that I knew you’d be fine, that you’d just stand there perfectly calm and let them take x-rays. But the truth is that when I turned to walk out the door and leave you standing there with a stranger pulling at your arms and legs, I fully expected to return to find that stranger’s body mangled on the floor, her head on the opposite side of the room from where you had ripped it off with your jaws and flung it during the struggle. A crime scene, if you will.
Not that you are a particularly violent kid. You don’t like to kick or bite or hit things when you’re angry. It’s just, you can get very angry, and you are not at all insecure about letting everyone know that you are feeling that way, usually by throwing yourself on the floor (see here). But I should have had more faith in you that day, because they were able to take three x-rays and you cooperated like a perfect patient. I could not believe it, really, could not comprehend it as I stood there and watched through a window as the technician moved your body and you gladly acquiesced. You only showed a little bit of trepidation when you looked over to my face through the glass and started repeating, “I. AM. DOING. THIS.” in a quiet robotic voice, like you were chanting in your head, “HOLDING. IT. TOGETHER. BARELY.”
The x-rays showed a tiny bit of inflammation in your lungs, so we put you on a strong antibiotic to fight the infection. But seven days later when the cough was gone you started to clear your throat incessantly, and not knowing exactly what this meant we took you back to the doctor. While talking him through your symptoms I realized, wait a minute, this is a nervous tic. You’re doing this compulsively. And he seemed to agree. He asked about other compulsive behaviors, and an obvious one that we could point to is the script you run through every night when we put you to bed: “I can wake up after bedtime? I can have water after bedtime? It won’t get dark?” You repeat these three questions, in that order, at least three times every night, and we must answer yes each time before you’re able to roll over and go to sleep. After we told him about this scenario he asked if there were any other family members with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I looked at him, blinked four times and resisted the urge to get up and make sure that the faucets in the bathroom were turned off. Apparently Crazy is contagious. WHICH IS JUST ANOTHER REASON TO WASH MY HANDS EVERY TEN MINUTES.
Christmas this year with you was more enjoyable than it has ever been even though you never did quite take to the idea of Santa Claus. We asked you a few times if you’d like to go see him, and you reacted as if we had just suggested that we remove your toenails without anesthesia. In fact, on Christmas morning we had a hard time getting you to go upstairs to the living room because you thought Santa Claus was going to be there sitting on our couch. And what would happen then? He’d be looking at you, and you’d have to stand there while he looked at you, no thank you, this Christmas business is ridiculous, THERE WILL BE NO LOOKING AT YOU. Once we convinced you that he had come and gone, that he was thousands of miles away getting a much-needed foot rub from his lady, you cautiously tiptoed toward the mountain of presents, looked up at us in disbelief and asked, “Are all those presents my presents?” Like, this is why everyone is so excited about this holiday? NO WONDER. And then every day for the next week you woke up and asked, “Is it Christmas today?” Sadly, no, it’s not. The truth is life sucks and then you die of heart disease. The end.
This month we also got a new puppy, and I had no idea it would upset you so badly. She seems to embody everything you hate about the world, the foremost thing being the fact THAT SHE LOOKS AT YOU. You don’t like it when she sniffs your pajamas or touches her nose to your skin. You don’t like the way she walks or breathes air. It’s obvious that you are very jealous of her, and when you see me cradling her in my arms you’re quick to push her away and make sure that I still love you. I’m pretty sure that this is a combination of being a toddler and Only Child Syndrome, a dangerous combination that has been known to cause mid-day drinking in adults. The truth is, I am very much in love with the new puppy, wild about her, even. But that doesn’t mean anything about the way I feel about you, and no pet would ever muddle the fact that you are my first born. Not even another child could come between me and you, and even though your father and I are actively looking forward to the possibility of another one, it’s not because we’re looking for something else. Yes, you have given us pause here and there, have made us wonder, could we handle more than one? But more than anything, you have made us more capable of loving, have made our hearts bigger by taking them from us, and my love for other people, for other animals, for the people-eating hippopotamus that I want to keep in the backyard, it’s all there because I want to share the way you make me feel.