I wish we’d blogged more about Natalie this year. It was work enough to keep to the monthly posting schedule with Genevieve, to pull out the green onesie and take the teddy bear picture every time the twenty-fifth rolled around, even when Evie seemed to be unlocking major achievements on a biweekly basis. But Noodles’ developmental milestones had become subtler, less temporal, and without a recurring appointment to sit down and take note of them, I let things pass. At some point my brilliant firstborn picked up verb tenses, contractions, subject-verb agreement, negation, and irregular plurals, but (slacker mom) I don’t recall when any of those happened. A year ago she would point to any writing and squeal “ABCD!” and I’d be delighted that she recognized it as writing. Now, she knows the alphabet and numbers, and will identify DC Metrobuses for fun as we sit in traffic. “That’s a D6, Mommy!” or “That’s a three-seven!” At some point she moved from point A to point B, but I could not tell you when that transition actually took place.
That we have any record at all of Natalie’s verbal precocity is due to the magical microblogging capacity of social media, where we did, fortunately, manage to keep up. Here follows the Compendium of Tweets/Status Updates Wherein Two-Year-Old Natalie Amazes Her Parents:
Best part of the potty training process: when & emerges from the loo and Natalie immediately congratulates him. “Good job, Daddy!”
Natalie woke up this morning telling us “I talk to Uncle Patrick.” He’s her godfather in San Francisco, and apparently appears in her dreams.
Natalie: The good Moshe! The good Moss-sha!
Natalie: [repeats several times]
And then I get it. My two-year-old is telling me that today in school, they learned about THURGOOD MARSHALL.
(Love our daycare!!)
Daddy: We’re going to have some waffles!
Natalie: With syrup! SURREPTITIOUS!!
Daddy: I think that was Natalie’s first pun.
February 16: Natalie announced “I’m not a baby!” and insisted on going down for her nap — for the very first time — in her Big Girl Bed.
Daycare teacher: Surprise, Natalie, it’s your daddy!
Natalie: He’s not a surprise, he’s a LIBRARIAN!
Daddy: (convulsed with laughter)
Natalie: (Long thoughtful pause) He’s not the President.
Daddy: Natalie, if you have two more bites of chicken you can have a fig newton.
Natalie (haggling): THREE more bites.
Daddy: OK, three more bites.
Natalie (sensing weakness): FOUR more bites!
Natalie: I need my fuckin spoon.
Mommy: Sure, Natalie, you can have your fork and spoon.
Daddy: Natalie, are you ready to eat some hot dog octopuses?
May 19, at the Cathedral after Evie’s christening: “Genevieve has baptism in her hair.”
Natalie: (pushing her stroller out of the playroom) I’m leaving, bye bye!
Mommy: Where are you going?
Natalie: To the Kennedy Center.
June 19, driving home:
Mommy: Natalie, you look so much like your daddy.
Natalie: I don’t look like my daddy!
Mommy: Why do you think you don’t?
Natalie: Because I have a lot of hair!
June 26, unprompted: “Did you have fun at work today, Mommy?”
July 15, while floating in the tub: “THERE’S NO GRAVITY IN THE BATH!”
July 17: “A storm is coming. I hope the thunder isn’t loud like the fireworks. I had to cover my ears!”
Natalie: My ankle hurts.
Daddy: You know what helps with hurting ankles? French fries!
Natalie: (nods sagely and applies French fries topically to her ankle.)
Natalie: I can be a doctor or a nurse.
Mommy: That’s right, Natalie, you can be anything you want.
Natalie: Mommy, do you want to be a nurse?
Mommy: No, sweety, I already have a job. You know what I do, right?
Mommy: What’s Mommy’s job?
Natalie: Go to the library and read books.
August 13: “Mommy, may I please have something to wipe my hands with?”
August 23, at the park, watching an older kid in a spiderman shirt go swarming up a climbing net:
Natalie: I’m going to climb that.
Daddy: I’m afraid that’s too big for you. HE can climb it because he’s Spiderman.
Natalie: I’m going to be SPIDER BIG GIRL because I’m going to eat ALL MY VEGETABLES!
September 6, playing with the iPod:
Natalie: It says I should have mac and cheese for dinner!
Daddy: What does it say Mommy should have for dinner?
Natalie: Hot sauce.
Natalie: Kerplash you!
September 24, driving home along Canal Road:
Natalie: I want to go to college.
Mommy: You can go to college anywhere you want. Look, there’s Georgetown. That’s a college right near our house.
Natalie: I want to go to college by my house.
Mommy: You can go to Georgetown if you work hard and get good grades.
Natalie: Miss Heather does good braids!
Natalie: Look daddy, the full moon!
Daddy: Well, it’s not quite full. It’s waxing. That means it’s getting bigger and bigger.
Natalie: Oh. (long pause) Daddy, I’m waxing!
And just this morning, chasing the cat into the large train-shaped tent which was her major birthday present: “Watch out, Moxie, here comes Evie’s big sister!” (Evie was not even in the room at the time.)
Some of her verbalizations definitely come from daycare. “Listen to my words!” she’ll order, or snap “No THANK you, Evie!” when her sister invades her personal space. More recently, as she’s shown an increasing interest in her father’s old favorite TV shows, Natalie has picked up some expressions that clearly originated with a scriptwriter. “Hey guys!” she’ll call out to get our attention. “Let’s get out of here!” she’ll suggest without rancor. And her enunciation has evolved to crystal clarity, although she can still dial up the pouty-toddler mushmouth diction when she’s sulky or under coercion. She knows when and how to Ask Nicely, but she finds more phonological ground to explore in the word “please” than I’d ever realized was there. “Puh-lllll…lay!”
Sometimes it can verge on frustrating, when Natalie is not equally advanced in other efforts, but can still speak so eloquently about them. I’ll park her on the potty and tell her to do one thing, and that thing is not talking, and yet she will talk, tell you stories, start to sing a song or recite a rhyme or play some other game when you just want the kid to pee already. At age three Natalie is probably about 75% potty trained, not far enough behind the curve for us to worry. After all, this is the same kid who threatened to miscarry, moved late in utero, arrived at 40w5d, and spent much of her infancy well behind the bell curve in physical development. I have no doubt that she will figure this out on her own timeframe, as she has with every other major physical milestone, and that it won’t be so far off the norm as to alarm anyone.
We remain as close to a princess-free household as possible, although I long ago gave up my resistance to trademarked characters. Natalie loves the Muppets, Dora the Explorer, Curious George, and Thomas the Tank Engine. Her affection for talking trains has given her father and grandfather no end of delight, with the three of them constantly in search of an excuse to visit the B&O train museum in Baltimore again. Natalie has created, and recounted to us, implausibly involved stories about an imaginary train called “The General” (based on this actual train) who, variously, hangs out with Thomas and Friends, pulls a coach full of Natalie’s daycare friends (complete with potty), and pulls Santa’s sleigh when the reindeer crap out. We’ve identified the locomotive in the movie “The Polar Express” as the General, much to Natalie’s delight. And she was over the moon when her third birthday party featured Thomas in all his grinning tank-engine glory, from pinata to pink strawberry cake to play tent to Pin the Smokestack on Thomas:
In a crowd of two- and three-year-olds, Natalie is in her glory, collaborating on games and Sharing Nicely and otherwise doing things that move daycare teachers to give her stickers. She loves her friends. They love her back. And we could not be prouder parents of our magnificent goofball, our articulate wonder, our brilliant, brilliant big girl. Oh, how we love you, Natalie Eleanor. How we love you.