Portrait of the young girl as an artist

It’s difficult for parents not to project every little activity a toddler enjoys into her future life. Humming along to a song on the radio? Future singer. Kicking a ball across the yard? Future soccer player. Petting a cat? Future veterinarian. Painting a picture? Future artist.

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My little girl loves to paint. She loves to color. She loves to stamp ink. She loves music and singing and dancing. Are any of these the future that lay ahead of her? I don’t know. But it seems to me that they will play a part – even if just a small one. And that’s enough to make me smile. If the little scrawls and doodles that adorn our walls at home and even my office are launchpads for nothing more than weekend watercolors in her backyard while taking a break from the daily 9-5, I will still gladly hang up the results.

There is much beauty and creativity in this child and she will learn to express it in whatever terms are best for her.

But sometimes it’s too easy to get wrapped up in 20 years from now. Beyond projecting adulthood endeavors from such simple childhood fun, parents have a tendency to search out their own aspirations in their little ones. While I will happily encourage her to pursue any dreams that come her way, I’ll make sure not to mistake mine for hers.

In the meantime, it’s lovely to simply watch her begin this self discovery – hopefully just part of a very long journey.

Kitty Kayleigh

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I’m not big on Halloween. Those who have seen my pretend costumes (me from 10 years ago, Professor Mosby, etc.) on the rare occasion that I attend such a party know first hand. But it’s hard to ignore just how adorable babies and toddlers look all dressed up as monkeys, cats or even bananas.

Kayleigh now regularly asks to put on this getup to become Kitty Kayleigh. Who am I to say no? Personally I don’t see the need for some silly holiday. Why can’t she dress like this everyday?

Daddy’s little chick

Since The Woman had to work this evening, I had the pleasure of listening to Kayleigh on the monitor talk herself to sleep all by myself. Perhaps I should explain. Our new nighttime routine – our magical routine that does not involve 45 minutes or more of rocking after 30 minutes of diaper change negotiations – actually ends with Kayleigh still awake in the crib not screaming her head off while we head downstairs.

Amazing, isn’t it?

The little moppet has gotten over her wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth when it’s time to fall asleep. Well, not entirely. She may cry out a little using every trick she can muster to keep us around. And after it may be upwards of an hour before the talking and singing finally quiet. But the end result is that our entire evening is no longer devoted to ensuring a pain free transition to sleep – the process now unfolds rather naturally. Add that to a wake-up time of around 7:30 AM and life is good.

Of course Kayleigh still likes to toss a wrinkle into things now and then. I can’t really blame her for the cold she just caught, but the lack of blame doesn’t stop the snorting and coughing from waking us up. Thankfully tonight was another example of just how far things have come. About an hour or 2 after falling asleep the plaintive cries of “Daddy” came over the monitor – no doubt because I was the one to put her down, not a matter of preference. After hesitating for a minute or so, I finally ventured in.

Rather than being trapped for the next hour or so with multiple failed attempts at putting her back down as was once the norm, the procedure was fairly straightforward. Pick her up with a big hug, rebuff her attempts to go downstairs, let her lay herself back down, and then hold her hand for 30 seconds while she drifts off again. What a wonderful feeling that a little physical contact and some verbal reassurance is enough for me to comfort our little girl.

Pretty much amazing

I feel bad that the only words I’ve written about Kayleigh over the last couple of months revolve largely around her deciding to have a major meltdown upon entering the “terrible twos”. The reality is that our little girl has been blossoming into a a truly wonderful person to be around… most of the time. She just has a habit of showing off her worst side just before I get a chance to write about how much I love her. 20 minutes of uncontrollable screaming somehow manages to nearly wipeout an entire day of joy.

Kayleigh

We’re talking blood curdling screams because we forgot to let her grab the diaper out of the bag before changing her. Or dropping to the floor and sobbing when we don’t let her press the buttons on microwave while rushing to get food prepared. Sometimes she can be such a… you know… baby.

Kayleigh

But it really isn’t fair to the girl she has become to harp on those moments. It’s easy for kids to get pigeonholed for certain bad behaviors they develop. We still often think of Kayleigh as a bad sleeper even though I can count on one hand the number of times she hasn’t slept rather soundly through the night (or at least put herself right back to sleep) the last few months. And yet the habit of tiptoeing through the house and jumping at every rustling sound on the monitor is hard to break.

Kayleigh

Just as our little mop topped moppet regularly beds down at a regular time with significantly less fuss than, say, 6 months ago, she has also grown as a person. With each passing day I can see in her a desire to connect with people – to connect with me. Leaving the room for too long provokes calls of “Daddy, Daddy” as she comes up with some little endeavor to demonstrate, just because she wants the company. She takes us on adventures throughout our house, acting out cartoons from the previous day while re-purposing various rooms to represent imaginary locales. Her little chair with the fuzzy cover has become an easel to accommodate her interest in “painting” with a basting brush. If we are so inclined to join her, a chopstick may be offered for our artistic contributions.

Kayleigh

After months of being pushed away in defense of her personal space, the walls have been crumbling as she begins to reach out more and more for contact with people beyond Mommy. And while she remains a timid child (still requesting our support for navigating even the smallest of slides) a rambunctious side has broken through in the form of jumping on Daddy with great delight.

I haven’t done a good job of chronicling the changes this remarkable little scutch has gone through over the past year or so. Trust me when I say that it’s pretty much amazing.

Two

About twelve hours ago my little baby girl officially turned 2 years old. A few hours before that she made her official declaration that the terrible twos had begun. Alright, it wasn’t an official declaration; after all this has been building for days. Somewhere along the line Kayleigh went from constantly asking for help when encountering obstacles to throwing minor (and occasionally major) fits whenever we even suggest she need our assistance. Today the issues just happened to be complicated by a lack of sleep.

Kayleigh does a much better job these days when it comes to the tricky subject of sleep (not counting naps). The incidents of middle of the night or, indeed, any pre-6:30 AM wakings have practically vanished. At most she may inconvenient us with an hour of bizarre monologues streaming across the monitor sometime in the vicinity of 1 or 2 in the morning. Fortunately these tend to lead to later wake times. But today she decided to combine all of the issues into one. To be fair, that might have had more to do with the contents of her diaper rather than a personal decision. Regardless, a 4 AM wake time is simply no good for us or the little one, even if she did continue to perform her 1 baby, off-Broadway improv show for 1 and a half hours before it was time for me to kick down the door.

Even with a 2 hour nap in the middle of the morning, the day was filled with little tantrums around every corner. And we’re not talking “whining because we won’t let her watch TV” tantrums. No, we’re talking full blown freakouts because I had the audacity to answer the phone rather than check to see if she wanted to first or some kid briefly touched a toy that she was no longer playing with. Navigating this behavior is normally pretty rough, but doing it on a day when most of The Woman’s family was around for her birthday exaggerated the issues even more. I rarely look as forward to bedtime as I did this evening.

But that’s enough complaining. Really, I love my little girl.  But days like today push that all to the limits. Still, I can’t express how much my love has grown over these 2 years watching my little girl grow up right before my eyes. Thank you Kayleigh for another wonderful year of being my daughter.

Why it is important to watch your language around kids

Scene: The Woman is changing Kayleigh’s diaper. The tube of Balmex just exploded out the bottom.
The Woman: Oh my god! That’s why the Balmex wasn’t coming out.

Scene: 5 minutes later. Kayleigh is watching Thomas & Friends.
Kayleigh: Oh my god! It’s Thomas! Oh my god! It’s Diesel! Oh my god! It’s Thomas again!

I’d give her some credit for using it properly, but it really wasn’t that surprising or exciting that Thomas or Diesel were on TV when we had clearly started an episode of Thomas & Friends for her. And let’s be honest, 3 times in less than 20 seconds is beyond excessive. I guess it still makes more sense than her constant declarations of “that’s possible” as though possible was an adjective you’d use to describe objects around the house.

We may run out of band-aids soon

I’ve told this story too many times in the last couple of days, but since it involves my little Kayleigh, a large mirror, and a huge welt on her head I guess it bears repeating. Actually, I can’t even tell the whole story because I wasn’t there for the incident and The Woman didn’t really see what happened for sure either. It’s a bit of a mystery – one that isn’t all that mysterious.

The  long and short of it is that our bedroom is not truly child or baby-proofed. In some cases it appears as though we are actively discouraging our toddler from harboring any feelings of safety in certain areas of our house. Hey, if we can’t be very comfortable in our own room, why should she? Anyway, there’s this dresser with a big mirror on it. They are not attached. That is, apparently, a safety hazard. Who knew?

So Monday afternoon I got a frantic message from The Woman. She had moved the dresser a couple inches to reach something. The mirror fell. Kayleigh was under it. Panic ensues. By the time I got home, Kayleigh was somewhat comforted but rather sullen while curled up next to Mama. Oh, and there was a huge welt with a cut on her forehead. Head injuries are fun for the whole family! Fortunately she didn’t black out, throw up, or become overly irritable – which meant that she most likely didn’t get a concussion or attend a kegger. Sighs of relief ensue.

While the doctor said there was no need to take her anywhere since all signs pointed to A-OK, we still needed to treat the wound. All attempts to put ice on the new appendage growing out of her skull were rebuffed. That idea was abandoned as it only seemed to fire up the irritability factor. But there was concern for the cut (although it wasn’t bleeding) and we had to push forward with bandages.

She fought the good fight against any kind of healing potions being applied to her head, but I eventually whipped out my notes from Parenting 101 and realized that this was the perfect time to apply some TV knowledge. That’s right, I played the ol’ “Daddy needs a bandaid, too” card and got her to accept one after both of us put them on our own foreheads. I feel like I earned some serious daddy cred by using that method successfully.

Even with her new lumpy head she’s adorable. And that’s how she was able to milk this for all she wanted. Which is why we headed over to Whole Foods for a bunch of blueberries and to see her favorite cashier (seriously). It’s also why we head out to Panera in the morning for breakfast – where she gets to enjoy all of the butter she can cram into her mouth in the 10 seconds we give up trying to stop her.

Are you going to say no to that face?

After 3 days I feel pretty confident in saying that we dodged a bullet. Kayleigh seems happy and healthy – black and blue mark and all.