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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Eleanor at Eighteen Months

As we got ready for church last Sunday morning, I realized that, had we been living in a regular church unit, it would have been Eleanor's first Sunday in nursery.  I remember waiting and waiting and waiting for that magical date when I could shuck Kathleen off on someone else for a blissful two hours each week.  It seemed like it would never arrive and the torture of trying to keep Kathleen quiet for three hours was almost unbearable.  Living in Utah and living a short walk from the church, I even (briefly) considered leaving her home and napping for some of the time.

This time around I've had the luxury of home-churching so Eleanor hasn't even been attending until a month or two ago.  I highly recommend it, even if nursery isn't part of the deal.

Now that Eleanor is officially old enough to attend nursery, I've realized that she isn't that little, maddeningly screamy baby that I brought home to our tiny Oakwood apartment a year and a half (and half a planet) ago.  After I checked on her a few nights ago, I sat and watched her sleep.  As she lay stretched out, deliciously soft and limp in deep baby sleep, I noticed her head and feet were only a few inches from the rails of the crib.  When, between eight pounds and now, did she get so big?

Now she can climb all four flights of stairs in pursuit of my company and slide back down them all when I've just run up to the third floor to get something.  Sometimes I'll take pity on her and carry her back down with me.  She's figured out how to open all of the kitchen cupboards and spends the hour before dinner stacking and unstacking, stacking and unstacking the brightly-colored Ikea dishes that live in the cupboard under the distiller.  Sometimes, when the dishes have lost their novelty, she'll toddle over to the dry goods cupboard and see if maybe this time dry pinto beans taste like chocolate.  And when they don't, again, she'll spit them all over the kitchen floor.

When I'm teaching the children school, she will bring all of her of her favorite treasures to me - a doll, teddy bear, toy cup - and solemnly hand them up one by one until Kathleen's desk is overflowing with Eleanor's gifts.  Then she'll rummage through the play clothes for her favorite purple sparkly size ten dress-up shoe and scream in frustration when it, yet again, falls off while she tries to prance around the room becomingly.  And scream again when my efforts aren't any better than her own.

Edwin has taught her how to make slurping noises and how to roar.  Joseph taught her to flip her tongue while yelling.  The girls have taught her 'mama,' 'dada,' 'uh-oh,' 'ball,' and 'poop.'  I taught her 'shoe.'

She has discovered the girls' hiding places for their special treasures, the ones too precious to leave in the toy cupboard.  On Halloween she learned that bright crinkly wrappers have yummy treats inside them and screaming might get you another one.  She's figured out how to eat eggs with a fork and how to smear black bean soup everywhere with a spoon and how to make Mom yell really loud when milk is dumped on the floor.  And she knows inherently, as all children do, what electronic devices are real and powered and which ones aren't.

One of my favorite times of day is cuddling her into the corner of my lap after she's zipped into a fuzzy sleeper and clutching her soft knitted blanket.  We rock quietly together as I read Caps for Sale, Noisy Nora, or Where the Wild Things Are.  Her chubby fingers turn the pages for me as I read, almost from memory, the same stories my mother read to me while rocking in another rocking chair in another place almost a lifetime ago.  Then I will sing her a song or two or three before gently putting her down in her crib and waving goodnight as I shut the door.

I've loved each of my children at eighteen months, but I enjoy Eleanor more than I've enjoyed any of the other children.  So much of the anxiety and insecurity is gone, washed away by experience so that now I can just enjoy Eleanor.  I don't have to worry if she'll potty train, or if she'll nap, or if she'll get enough nutrition.  I know that she'll eventually talk (and then I'll wish she hadn't) and dress herself and grow up to be every bit as troublesome as her older siblings.  But now I just get to enjoy a sweet, cuddly little baby.  I don't have to teach her to read or tie or shoes or not talk back to me or not hit her siblings or not fight over toys.  Those things will come soon enough.  For now, she's just my baby.  She doesn't need to be anything else.