Age three is fast approaching, and oh my !!!! it's amazing to watch. AwesomeCloud is undergoing an amazing transformation. No longer is he our little sack of potatoes, staring dully out into the world as if nothing were there. No longer is he our little clinging monkey-boy, latched onto mama and daddy like a baby chimpanzee.
He does stuff now. Amazing stuff. Human stuff.
I love to watch his lips move when he talks. Maybe I'm afraid I'm imagining the words coming out of his mouth... maybe it just astonishes me that the same lips that only ever said, "Ah ah ah" and "WAAAAAAH" a year ago have gained such versatility. Maybe I'm afraid he'll stop talking again. There's no reason for me to expect that. His speech development is full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes.
He plays with Beanie Baby cats. Not only is he not afraid of them; he actually loves them. He carries them around with him and makes them eat invisible food. He makes them play "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes" and he actually sings the whole song himself - the tune if not quite exactly the words. He folds them over so their paws are touching various body parts.
He has renamed himself "Jack." I don't know why. I think it's hilarious. I go along with it and call him Jack both in private and in public if he asks me to. Daddy isn't as amused by it; I assured him that it would probably stop in a day or two and Cloud would forget all about his little name-change game, but he hasn't. Today at the mall he asked me to call him "Jack" while we were playing Trot-Trot. Then just before bedtime, we were tumbling on the bed and he asked me to call him "Jack" again. He'd leave the room repeatedly, and return shouting, "Baack!"
"Jack is back!" I'd say.
This was the funniest thing in the whole world.
He carries on conversations with friendly strangers. He can't tell them his name, but he can answer "How old are you?" ("TWOOO!") and "How are you?" ("Gooh.")
He asks for food and then rejects it. He tries kicking me, just to see what will happen. (Nothing good happens.) When we're getting our jackets on, we can tell him where we're headed and he understands and looks forward to getting there.
He's memorized all the places in town that have free snacks, like Trader Joe's, and he will ask to go there.
He says, "Help? Help? Help?" to get your attention when all he really wants is for you to play with him.
He blurts out certain words of his bedtime stories.
Sometimes he grabs the phone and play-talks on it, and his mannerisms are so convincing I sometimes do a double-take to see if he's really talking to someone.
In general, he's taking on his parents' mannerisms. It's like watching the blossoming of a mini-me, except he's a combination of both of us.
He says, "Oh well," and shrugs his shoulders when he's told he can't have something he wants.
He's doing aaaaallll this amazing growth and development, and what am I doing? Something close to nothing. I sit back and watch him passively. I laugh sometimes. I reprimand him sometimes. I show him new things sometimes. I get annoyed and impatient sometimes.
But most of the time I watch, and I wonder why I hadn't prepared myself mentally for this stage happening so fast.
This afternoon, we had a throwback moment. Cloud woke up from his nap and started crying and wailing for all he was worth. He cried into his macaroni. He wailed through a diaper change. He clenched his fists and gushed tears while I held him on my lap and rocked him.
"Just like old times," I joked to him, but he would not be humored or comforted. Rocking and holding never worked during old times, either. It always seemed like an exercise in futility. I couldn't solve his problems, and my presence wasn't even a small comfort. Lately I'd forgotten what that felt like, but Cloud reminded me today.
It feels like it will never end, like you'll be powerless to comfort him forever and ever. I'm very good at remembering that nothing lasts forever, but I know what it feels like to have to remind myself every moment.
Of course it gets better. It has to get better. How long could I possibly be a stranger to my own son?
Well, it got better. On these rare moments when the bad parts return, it can be scary, but I know the bad parts were just making a cameo. When the screaming stops, Cloud is a little boy again. A laughing, imaginative, almost-talking little boy who knows exactly where he is and rather likes it.
A kid who developmental experts fawn over instead of frown over, as his test scores go up and up and up. A kid who strangers no longer remark on as "What a big baby!" when you know he's actually a small toddler. A kid who pays attention to every adult conversation, every multisyllabic word, and saves it all up for later.
Someday he's going to say 'ionic compound' or 'heterogeneous' or one of the other big words we commonly use in this household, and I'm going to throw a party.