We live blissfully unaware for much of the time, perhaps not ignorant but we all relish cuddling the little blond boy in glasses that we still refer to as a baby. At two and a half, he is no longer a baby and as my children's friends casually remind us, "he is a toddler and will be a preschooler when he turns three". My children seem to overlook these innocent admonishments but their mother feels the river of truth running in these childlike observations, figuratively and literally. They are absolutely right, the stages of human development had been neatly explained by Erik Erickson, one of my favorite developmental psychologists.
The only problem was that Erikson clearly had never encountered Amos and no one had told Amos that he was no longer a baby either. Developmentally, our two and a half year old son is not quite a 16 month old, a baby in my mind, particularly when there is no other baby coming after him. There would never be someone else who needed their needs met first, my arms would not be full of a bucking six month old, a wriggly one year old, a heavy bucket seat. No, I had been prepared to baby my last baby but I had never expected it to be a possible detriment. I could not even wallow in the joy that all mothers should have the leeway to embrace, carrying their long limbed preschoolers long after society deems it acceptable. Slack cut naturally for the mamas that know this will be their last rodeo.
Our rodeo seems never ending though and we have grown used to "our baby", the youngest of four in a family that adores him, three siblings, quite truthfully without a shred of jealousy. We all go above and beyond to meet the needs of our two year old, still happy to explore and bring wanted food items from the pantry for us to open. My change of thinking about our baby came from a speech therapist who we recently met with so she could evaluate Amos for an ACC (communication) device. It went well and we chose one and left with the older model and somewhat heavy computer looking thing, borrowed and ready to communicate. I had left though thinking more of her words that subtly told me, I would need to expect more of him and he would have to learn "No". If he chose to eat and then picked the choice of crackers on his device, I could tell him no crackers today. Embarrassingly, I knew I had been saying yes way too much, eager to meet his needs from a place of guilt as I witnessed the tantrums and was weary from the crying that seemed endless at times, particularly in the evening.
On this particular evening, the children and I had opted not to watch basketball with Daddy and settled down in front of our last fire of the season to instead watch the old Cinderella movie after an early Sunday dinner. Russell had made popcorn, using the microwave and learning to tie his shoes had occurred just this weekend and indeed, he had consumed at least half a dozen bags. Always one to encourage independence and support my own slothdom, I allowed this indulgence. Amos moved around like a buzzard, Russell's popcorn, Blair's apple, Thomas' milk. They all willingly shared their items with the younger brother and I can assure you this kindness extends to no one but him. The shrieking that occurs, followed by loud smacks, attests to my children's powerful sense of ownership of their food items with anyone other than Amos.
On that evening, my "No" elicited some semblance of a typical two year old. After watching him drink all the milk, throw the apple, and steal the popcorn, I decided enough was enough. He left the room and was soon back with a drinkable applesauce pouch (new-fangled baby food) and I told him, as directed by the speech therapist, that we were not going to have any applesauce. I took the packet and laid it beside me on the table. Crying, sobbing, real tears all while rolling on the floor as the rest of us watched the evil stepsisters, reminding us of our own perceived culpability.
He recovered quickly though and headed back down the hall, only to return a few minutes later with another applesauce pouch. Perhaps he felt he had been confused by my unusual response and so, it was worth another try. Again, I calmly said, "No" and the whole drama began and then again, he left. I was certain he would return but after close to ten minutes I remembered his absence and ventured from the yummy fire and singing nice to find his whereabouts. I found him in the next room sitting beside his basketball watching dad on the couch and slurping up an applesauce. I'll be damned. Third times a charm they say and Amos had wished up to his evil mother and found a willing participant in his Daddy. My "No" had inspired him and reminded me to expect more from our toddler, near preschooler, though he will always be my baby. Happy 2 1/2 today, Amos!