I returned home from a trip last night, and the family came into the front yard to greet me. Annie ran into my arms like a lovers’ reunion in a movie, but realized mid-hug that she had sticky banana-hands from dinner, so cocked her wrists back and assured me that she was not going to touch me anymore until she washed them. While she adjourned to do that, Paul informed me in a piping voice that I had ridden on an airplane—“You, you ride in a AIRpane!”—and goggled from the doorway at the green taxi that had dropped me off. He had a big scratch on his face from, apparently, I kid you not, getting in a fight with another kid at school over a nap mat. Annie swooped back in from the bathroom for another hug, this time with clean hands, and asked me if I wanted to go snuggle on the couch, and maybe “read a book or something?” I wanted nothing more.
Annie is upstairs “napping,” but really she’s singing, in a quiet, repetitive drone, a song she remembers from Annie the movie:
Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love you, I love you,
Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love you, I love you,
Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love you, I love you…
I should probably record her and sell it as a horror movie soundtrack.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 1 month old.
I open the door and announce happy news: Dad is back! He’s been in California for a couple of days, and he trots in to applause and demands from everyone that HE be the one to pick them up.
He gives you a hug and attends to your diaper while you catch him up on news of what your dog and alligator have been up to. “VUFF VUFF VUFF VUFF,” mainly. You have mercifully failed to notice that we swapped out your original doggy with a significantly less-crusty replacement a few days ago. We’ve got two more in reserve. My goodness do you love that little guy.
We head down for breakfast, and you eat your banana bread and yogurt, then use the yogurt spoon like a paint brush to add some flare to your clothes and body. I sponge you off, and at your request, also wipe your doggy’s face. We head to the car.
On the way to school, you point out important features, “City bus! BLUE city bus!” and chat with Annie. I unbuckle you at school, and you climb out of the car under your own power, then hold my hand as we all cross the street.
You stride into school like you own it and announce, “I a PANDA.” It’s taken about a month, but you’ve adjusted well to your new class. I leave you sitting down with your teacher Ms. Natalie, earnestly explaining to her something about your english muffin.
You have a typical day. It’s wet and cool-ish, so playground time is probably more pleasant than usual. Your 20-minutes of academics involves learning how to care for a baby doll in a circle, which is straight adorable, and talking about yourself and your family. You nap for two good hours, and paint with Q-tips.
Shanna picks you up a little after 4 and brings you home for a tortellini dinner. Afterward, you play outside with your lawn flamingos, and see a big, beautiful rainbow in the half-cloudy sky.
Then it’s upstairs for a long and much-needed bath. Clean and dry, you read a book with Shanna and Annie and head to bed, your doggie clutched in hand.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 5 months old.
You wake up slowly, and I find you still lounging peacefully when I open your bedroom door a few minutes past 7:30. You let out a few “wah wahs” to indicate that Baby Annie is in residence—a favorite pretend character these days. Paul pipes up, “Baby Annie!” and we navigate the potential pitfalls of the morning through an elaborate game of pretend-baby. Ten minutes later, you’re in the car, happily mining a breakfast cup filled with toast, grapes, a chewable vitamin, and a small slice of the banana bread we baked together yesterday.
By the time we’re getting off the highway, you’re 3 again and back to experimenting with language and social norms. You spar with Paul over who tooted (“I tooted! No, I tooted!” Actual fact: no one tooted), then segue into jokes:
“The airplane tooted on the tree.” (Pause for laughter.)
“The airplane tooted on the car.” (Pause for laughter.)
“I put the potty in the toilet with a cockroach.” (Pause for laughter.)
Paul is a generous audience. You ask me if your jokes are funny, and I tell you that the test is whether people laugh at them, so therefore they must be.
At school, you run all the way down the hallway to the Pandas class, and wait patiently through Paul’s drop-off process. Then it’s off to the Owls, where your classmates are already in full swing. We unload your spare clothes and clean sheets, and you head off to wash your hands for a second-breakfast of canned pears and Cheerios.
When I pick you up at 5:15, you run for a hug and sing “mooo-oom.” We grab your sandals and put them on at the stairs—you are barefoot at school most of the time now. I don’t mind philosophically, but it means your feet are always filthy.
You hug Paul at pick up and run full-tilt back down the hall. Outside the building, you walk on the limestone wall like a balance beam before heading to the car. I feel compelled to reprimand you for dallying, as you crawl in through the drivers’ side and take the scenic route to your seat.
In the car, we discuss interrupting, and how we need to practice not doing it as a family. It’s a tricky one, though. I may have just taught you to interrupt politely: “Excuse me, Mom…(pay attention to ME now).” Better than nothing I guess.
You ask a series of why questions about car windows, and exhaust, and air quality. At home, you ring the front doorbell and summon Dad, who talks to us from California. You suggest “turtle-ini” for diner, and you and Paul romp happily while I make it. We sit at the table for a good spell, then you go wash your hands and face under your own power.
We play upstairs. You are very into Paul’s new baby doll and set up an elaborate scene where you two are its parents, and I’m the doctor. We follow up with a classic game of Hall-Klingner hide-and-seek, which bears only passing resemblance to real hide-and-seek. We talk to Dad on the phone, then play some more. You and Paul make me pretend coffee in your kitchen.
I lure you into fresh clothes with the promise of “being the monster,” and you hop to it. We do a raucous few minutes of mom-monster eating two pink princesses, who line up to be devoured. Staying on theme, we read every word of Beast. You trot off to do the lights by yourself, and I scoop Paul into his crib, then you. Socks, hand-holding, tummy pet, and a brief series of stalling questions—“what happens if we have the tummy troubles on our dog?”—finish off the night. Sleep well, kiddo.