When Rory was a baby, I remember reading this post on mothering a toddler that my friend Eva wrote about her daughter Smilla, who is about a year or so older than Rory. Her post fascinated me at the time, it was a window into my own future and although it was hard to ever imagine my little baby going through the same transition, of course I knew in not-too many months she would. Her words "one morning I woke up and my little girl was a toddler' stuck with me, and I wondered if my experience too would feel so sudden and so intense. Back then, Rory was still my sweet and smiley baby, not far past the six month mark when I last wrote like this about her.
Almost as soon as Rory turned one, I started to see glimpses of the 'toddler' coming through. Little flashes of anger and frustration, the odd lashing out from tiredness or annoyance at not being able to have what she wanted. It was shocking at first, seeing my sweet baby showing this kind of behaviour, although I knew it was completely normal for her age. We read up on it, agreed on the right strategy to deal with it (tell her 'no', explain why and then distract her and move on) and so far I'm grateful that we've never had more than a few moments or perhaps a day where I wonder if my sweet child has been replaced by a monster. Of course, you hear of the terrible twos...we're not there yet, so I can't say what might be around the corner for us. But so far, there's been nothing too bad.
I have learnt, however, that if you make a point to raise a confidant, independent and free thinking human you can't be surprised when they turn out to have a strong mind and opinions of their own. Opinions which are likely to be in conflict with yours some of the time. It's part of the territory anyway, and more so if you are encouraging that kind of behaviour. As sweet and funny as nineteen month old Rory can be, she can be wild and wilful. We have days, sometimes weeks where we fight battle after battle over clothes and shoes and food and bibs, hand wiping and nappy changing become like wrestling matches and everything takes longer and feels more exhausting than usual. She's strong and stubborn, relentless with her enthusiasm for doing the opposite of everything you ask her to do. Those tiring toddler days. I do my best to give her choices, to listen to her and to let her make decisions for herself, but sometimes we're just playing the opposite game and there's nothing I can do about it but play along.
Overwhelmingly, this stage of Rory's life is pure magic. Magic with a streak of mischief that runs deep. She's fun and playful and happy, emotionally connected to every animal she sees and lives for charming strangers. She's happiest outdoors, where she'll run and run and run and not look back. She loves the wind in her hair, the rain on her face and the ground under her feet. The dirtier she can get, the happier she'll be. Puddles are for sitting in, stomping in, and lying on the ground so she can put her face in and drink them. The world is her playground, her stage and her big adventure.
Every day there's a new word, a new task she wants to do for herself, a new leap in her understanding and her communication. She's fiercely independent, got personality by the bucket load and knows exactly how to use it to get what she wants. She's certainly not my baby any more, but has morphed into the most beautiful, funny and often totally bonkers companion. Her and the dog are my little crew, and I can't imagine going about my days without them by my side. My girl is a joy to be around, and she fills my heart and life with more love and laughter than I ever thought I could need. I live for her open mouthed kisses, the way she says 'mama' and runs into my outstrechted arms for a cuddle.
More than any month of her life so far, I wish I could keep her this small and at an age where the delights outweigh the challenges. I wish I could keep her this full of nonsensical chatter, of laughter at the dog, of sleepy morning cuddles on my chest while she flicks at my eyelashes with her fingers. Full of running through the park shrieking with happiness, of picking up every rock she finds and insisting I put it in my pocket, of demanding I sit here or put this on or feed her this or dress her in that. Full of shouting "more" and "yeah" in answer to all my questions, of trying out her new words like "crocodile" and "broccoli" and "morning". My girl, my little whirlwind of fun and mischief and happiness and destruction. Rornado the Tornado.