Two and a half / by Christina Rosalie

Dear Bean, I've missed five months of letters, and somehow you're two and a half and an utterly different little boy than you were. Here are the things I want you to know about yourself at two and a half:

You talk, all the time. You wake up in the morning, pressed into the nook of my neck after having pitter-pattered into our bed in the middle of the night, and you immediately start talking about diggers, or trains, or whatever fascinating thing it is you were dreaming about. After fetching your own underpants and t-shirt and shorts which I help you put on, you trundle downstairs, talking a blue streak. You help us make breakfast, talking. You know how daddy's espresso machine works, and you always want to press the buttons. We let you, most of the time, and I have no doubt that by the time you're tall enough to use it, you'll be making better espresso than I can.

Because you're always underfoot, always wanting to help, we regularly offer you the option of vacuuming the kitchen while we make buttered toast and porridge. You are an expert vacuumer. It was an early love. Remember?

You never miss a beat. You listen to us talk, and you pipe up with entirely relevant bits of information, often startling us, because we don't expect you to be paying any attention at all, fools that we are. You know when we're talking about something that might involve you getting a treat or a toy. You know when we're upset. You remember everything we promise.

You know every possible kind of construction vehicle, and have radar vision for spotting them blocks away, through thickets of trees, on side roads, wherever. You daydream incessantly about "getting in da digger and turning it on." And you tell me often, "Mama, I want a digger and a biiiiiiiig road to drive da digger on."

When we found a Mighty Motorized Tonka backhoe at the second hand shop for $8.50, your hands could not be pried from it. When we brought it home and as it moved slowly across the wide expanse of our living room floor, its little red light flashing, its engine whirring, your eyes grew wide and a slow, exquisite, mischievous grin spread from ear to ear. You played with it all night.

You love books. You sit for long stretches of time (long being an utterly relative term, especially when you are two; but twenty minutes is a fair stretch of time by anyone's clock) and 'read' books. You look through each one cover to cover, sometimes telling yourself the story, sometimes telling other stories to accompany the pictures on each page. You recognize many letters, and you know that the words are those black inky squiggles that move across the page. You point out the letters you know on shop windows and signs. You beg to be read to. When I say I'll read two, you say "Maybe three?" When I say, "Okay three," you say "Four?" When I cave, you get that sly look on your face and say, "Five books? You gonna read five books!"

Right now you really like Blueberries for Sal , and the other day when the two of us were furtively filching berries from the neighbor's raspberry patch, I realized you were sing-songing, "Kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk," as I dropped each berry into our little purple pail. You also like Hugs and Kisses, which has become a regular naptime read, and Dig, Dig, Digging.

You love to paint. A week ago you painted your first representational drawing: of mama. A wide sweeping round circle. Two red dots on either side for ears. A mess of blue for my eyes, and orange for my mouth. Wild bits of yellow and brown for my hair.

I love that you like painting. That you ask to sit in my studio with paper spread out about you, and you get quiet and thoughtful and have real ideas about which colors you want to use and which are your favorites (yellow and orange, currently.) You also try to pretend write. You tell me you are writing your name, and Mama and Daddy and Bandit. You draw perfect circles, straight lines and elaborate squiggles. Perspective in your drawings does not exist. The broad brustrokes of cat, a chair, and a face are piled atop one another.

You are a runner, a climber, and most recently a serious biker. A few months ago we picked up a two-wheel bike with training wheels. So tiny, it doesn't even have back breaks. It took you about a month to get the hang of steering AND pedaling, and then off you went in a whiz. Now you ride down our dirt road in a snap, and on tarmac, you're lightening. I have to jog to keep up.

When daddy and I are working you're always close by: climbing as high as we allow you on the ladder (to the third rung) and balancing on the newly nailed joists. You love the highest twisty slides at the playground. You dream of being able to hang from the monkey bars like a "big boy," and you have better balance than I do, when you fall. Especially when you tumble off your bike, you fall with grace, and rarely get hurt. This, my dear, is something you most definitely did not inherit from me. I was the kid who, if my small high school had had such pages in our yearbook, would half received the title "most likely to trip." Your daddy on the other hand, is the hottest thing in the world on ice skates.

You are potty trained. It's been almost a month of dry in the morning diapers (except for on the mornings when we keep you up late, and then you sleep in later than usual) and the rest of the day you wear underpants and tell us when you need to go. You went through this brilliant phase a while back where you were pretty into the whole idea of going outdoors. Often it was the only way to convince you to go, and sometimes you'd take it to the next level: leaving poop for daddy on some interesting locations (On top of the lawnmower in the garage. Yes you did.) But now, at two and a half, you're done with diapers and you know when you need to go, and you can hold it while we do the mad dash for the potty.

It is divine. The whole poop wiping thing is a zillion times easier. You do a lovely little yoga pose, presenting your bottom to be wiped, and I adore you because of this. I was never one for the whole poop-up-the back adventure that diapers were so fond of creating. And the best part? Now before naps or bedtime I tell you to go upstairs and go potty and climb into bed, and you do it, without help. You put your underpants back on and everything. Okay. I know. Not even you will be remotely interested in this by the time you can read about it, but wait. Someday. When you have a kid. You'll know why I've devoted a rather lengthy paragraph to this accomplishment. Basically, you totally rock, kiddo.

You, my sweet boy, are thoughtful, kind, and heartfelt. When daddy or I get hurt, you run to us with kisses. You tell us "I love you," us twenty times a day. You want a million hugs. You are a snuggle bug. You are still an awful sleeper, but it's significantly better than it was. Every night you wake up around midnight or a little after, and for a while it was really killing us: having to stagger into your room to comfort you and eventually haul you back to our bed. But then we put a little star light above your bed, with a switch that you can turn on yourself, and now at night when you wake up, we here you whimper and then sigh. And then click. Click. As you try to turn the switch on. And then a sudden pale glow coming from your room and a pitter-patter of feet, and then you're crawling into bed all sweet smelling and snuggly, and it's perfect. Also, you've been sleeping until 7:30 which is quite nice.

If I could, I'd keep you at two-and-a-half for another whole year. People warned about the terrible twos, but I love you this age, when a count to five ends most tantrums and the thing you want most in the world is to understand how everything works. Thank you for being who you are. Every day, you make me smile, you make my heart feel like it is made of helium, you make me grateful.

Love, Mama