A Painted House

Dear James: Month Twenty

Posted on: January 6, 2011

Note:  Readers from my former blog will be familiar with the monthly letters I write to my babies for the first two years of their lives.   As each new letter will be posted here I will be moving over all previous letters to my archives for continuity.  Thanks for your patience as I work on all this administrative stuff!

Original post date: December 17, 2009

Dear James,

Yesterday you turned twenty months old.  I’m just going to come out and say it: you’re a genius.  I know, I know, somewhere in the Mommy Contract they make you sign before you can give birth there is a clause stipulating that I must think you the smartest child that ever existed even if all you accomplish in your life is continuing to breathe.  But I promise I’m not just saying that to fulfill my contractual obligation; you really are a smart cookie.  Case in point: at twenty months old you can repeatedly and correctly identify nineteen of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.  Do you hear me, James?  At the age of one, YOU KNOW WHAT AN ‘F’ IS.  You’re just a letter or two away from recreating at an even earlier age, that iconic family moment when your Uncle Josh read for the very first time, choosing an off-color phrase off an overpass.

I wish I could take credit for teaching you your letters this early, claim my title as Mommy Extraordinaire, but to be honest I think the credit goes to PBS.  I let you watch an hour of television each morning while I do my devotions, drink my coffee, and get myself together.  Unlike you, not everyone wakes up like they’re springing out of the starting blocks at the Olympic finals.  And Last week when Super Why asked you, ‘What letter is this?’ you matter-of-factly and correctly answered, ‘S’.  I whipped my neck around so fast my head twisted off.   Just now, sitting on the piano bench, you took a break from plunking the keys to point out and identify each of the letters in KAWAI.  Genius, I tell you.

You also know your numbers.  You can count to ten with little prompting, though you prefer to skip right to nine.  You know that when you reach ten we cheer and clap, and the rest of the numbers are just a means to an end.  Why expend all that effort traipsing through all those other numbers when you can take the express lane right from nine and start the party early? 

It’s Christmastime James, and you’re enjoying your second Christmas season much more than your first.  A year ago you were all preoccupied with not crawling and the holiday just slipped right by you.  This year you’re old enough to destroy appreciate the Christmas tree, not touch the ceramic nativity scene, ask for and dance to Christmas music, and swipe Christmas cookies off of the counter.  You haven’t figured out what all those pretty boxes under the tree are all about; all you know is they are NOT used for climbing on to look out the window or stacking and toppling over while you yell, “KNOCK IT DOWN!”  I can’t wait to see your surprise when you realize that those boxes which are NOT stepstools actually contain toys! For you!

Although really, who needs toys when you have the recycling bin?  Boring parents that we are, your Dad and I haven’t bought you much of anything new to play with since your birthday last Spring. And so you’ve improvised, making new playthings out of empty milk jugs and juice containers.  Earlier this morning you rescued the carafe from the broken coffee maker set aside to go out with the trash, and have been pouring me imaginary cups of coffee all morning.  Maybe you’re smarter than I even realize and have made the connection between that magical cup Mommy carries around and her willingness to let you bang on the pots and pans as loud as you can first thing in the morning.

It does this Mama good to see you make new connections, to watch the light of understanding brighten your eyes.  You’ve always been so little, barely holding your own on the growth chart and in comparison to your peers.  And your recent experiments in the field of I’m Not Hungry Thank You, No Really, ALL DONE aren’t doing much to help that fact.  But when I see you learning, absorbing information from the world at a faster rate than I can keep up with, I rest a little easier knowing that chicken legs or not, you’re growing.  This year you’ve made the connection that everything and everyone has a name, you can recognize shapes, understand instructions and tell us what you want.  Next year you might be old enough to understand the story of Jesus and how he came to this earth to be born as a little boy just like you, and save us all.  Only Jesus probably didn’t throw a temper tantrum when his mother told him not to spit out his mashed potatoes.  Just some food for thought.

Love, Mama


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