Dear Maia kitten,
Today you are two years and one month old. I was supposed to get this letter written a month ago. I started it; but life was too exhausting at the moment and I decided that this could wait, rather than, say, making your current two-year-old self wait for the diaper changes you now demand the instant you wet them. If it’s so bothersome, let’s work on the potty training some more, that’s what I say.
You are a delightful, delightful girl. Neither your dad nor I can get over your cuteness, your soft curls at the back of your head (your hair so long we can get it into pigtails now!), your sweet face, your high clear self-possessed little voice. You speak very well, even better than your sister did at this age. Certainly the sounds you have are different. She said “ove hoo,” you say, “wuv you.” You say “I” and “me “ already, and have been for months, and you can say pretty complicated things. “I think I do not,” you say when we ask if you need help. “Do not hug me and kiss me,” you said to me today, when I was trying to bring you up on the couch with me and apparently you feared I would be too smothering. You’re a very independent little girl. You love your snuggles, but on your own terms. And usually as a cat. We’ve been playing cat-and-kitten together for several weeks now, you and I. “Mama kitty,” you call me, and I say, “Hi kitten,” and we meow and nuzzle each other. Sometimes saying “Good night kitten,” is all that gets you to settle down in your crib at night. It’s the sweetest thing. Kind of confusing when you’re also demanding that I do my Cookie Monster imitation (“Me hungry for chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes!”), but I roll with it.
Chloë steadfastly refuses to participate in the cat game, saying “I’m a human!” whenever we try to include her as a cat, so you and I meow by ourselves. It’s one of very few things that are just the two of us, which makes it especially dear to me. But I also love when the three of us (or four of us) play together. You love ring-around-the-rosy, Chloe trying to pull you down and me trying to hold her back; dancing in the living room; the two of you bringing your stuffed animals to me so I can give them checkups. You play really well with your sister these days, too. The two of you will put on hats and shoes and be dancers, or deep-sea divers, or astronauts. You build towers and bridges and play with the Winnie-the-Pooh Duplos (even when it mostly consists of you playing with the Piglet and Pooh and your sister howling “No, Maia!!” because you didn’t do exactly what she had envisioned, without telling you what she wanted). You’ll often hug each other, and it’s often with an eye to your dad or me to make sure we see you, but you genuinely love each other. It makes me so happy to see you together. I’m not so excited when you do whatever Chloë’s doing just because she’s doing it, including things like saying “I have a tummy ache” or “I’m tired” when you don’t want to help clean up toys, but I know that’s the price we pay.
You’re very definite about wanting to do what you can—climbing into and out of your car seat, zipping up your jacket when I start it, taking off your own diaper for potty attempts. You run for the stool from the bathroom to climb up on my bed or turn on the light. “Me!” you howl if I try to do something for you that you think you can do. If I catch myself in time we’re usually okay. Otherwise, you tend to throw a tantrum. You’re a sweet sunny girl, but you do get upset when you don’t get what you want. You’ve been doing a lot of defiance lately, too, and I swear it’s just to see what it takes to get in trouble. I’ll tell you to start picking up blocks, say, and you’ll say “no.” I say “Do it now, or you’re getting a time out,” and you just sit, silently, watching me. I give you your time-out and you stand in the corner patiently and obediently. Then when I release you, you run to pick up the blocks. There have been a few times when you’ve been genuinely worried about my reaction to something—for example, when I found you with a big orange mustache from the markers I’d forgotten to put up out of reach—but for the most part, you’re really a very good girl. You remember about the no-no cabinet (the bathroom cleaning supplies) and you’ve been better about not pulling my bookmarks out of my books so much. You put garbage or plates away when we ask you. You stop running in the grocery store when we tell you. (Well, mostly. But it doesn’t help that your sister is always egging you on, and we understand that, though we pretend it doesn’t matter.) You understand so well, and you behave pretty well, too. I’m proud of you.
You’re starting to work on potty training; you have your own little frog potty, but you like using the big toilet with the potty seat you persist in referring to as Chloë’s, though she hasn’t used it in months. You’ve also tried perching there without the seat, presumably because Chloë does, but you don’t seem to feel very secure. (Which is okay; I don’t either. I want to hold you to make sure you don’t fall in, but you said “Do not hold me,” so I don’t. I just hover anxiously.) You’ve peed in the potty a few times, most often during bathtime for some reason, but you don’t seem to have the concept really down. I don’t mind; you’re only just two. Recently you’ve been demanding instant diaper changes, and saying “I need to pee,” at various times. We’ll see how that goes this year. You’re pretty good at taking your clothes off, and your diaper (and I’m very grateful that except for a few instances, you only do it when you’re supposed to). Also at putting your clothes on. You’re not good at wiping yourself, or combing your hair or brushing your teeth; but you love to do it, so we let you do it.
We stopped nursing when you were nineteen or twenty months. I still vaguely miss it, and you still vaguely seem to remember some connection with my chest, but mostly you’re a big-girl eater and drinker, and we’re both happy this way. You’ve started drinking water out of big-girl cups, and are very proud of yourself when you don’t spill any down your front. (You also enjoy swishing it around in your mouth after toothbrushing. Eventually we’ll get you to spit it out instead of swallowing.) You do pretty well with your fork and spoon, and you enjoy a pretty good variety of foods. You’re pretty variable on how much you eat, but then, you’re a growing toddler, so that’s to be expected. You adore “snackies,” and will say things like, “No dinner for me. Can I have snack?”
You also love Dora and Diego and Scout. I know we exposed you to TV more and sooner than we did your sister, because your sister was already watching, and I regret that; you’re self-sufficient enough that you can always find something to entertain yourself with, and you’ll often wander off in the middle of shows to color or play with Legos or come find me (since I usually use shows as my working-in-the-kitchen time). I really love your independence.
It also makes me feel a little nonplussed at times. I still call you my baby, and you’re still baby-soft and you toddle sometimes, especially when you run, and you like to be held in my arms; but you’re not really a baby, and you’re pushing yourself away from your dad and me, testing your wings already. I sometimes feel like you’re a stranger. Which I suppose you are in some ways; I’ve known you two years, but a lot of that first year was a nonstarter as far as getting to know you, since there wasn’t much you then—not nearly as much as there is now, and it’s still changing and developing. You’re so interesting now. You’re hot-tempered, quick to laugh, quick to try something you’ve seen someone do. When you don’t want to do something, you refuse and stand there, immovable. (Well, except that you’re small enough to be picked up, of course.) You’re not afraid to demand what you want or what you think should happen. You love to read and to pretend to be something else—a cat, a dog, a superhero. “Super Maia, to the rescue!” you say as I tie a scarf around you as a cape, and put your hands on your hips, and rocket away from me, and I watch you with a proud, amused, wistful smile.
I’ve been trying to remember baby you the past few days, and it’s hard to do. You have only ever been the way you are: darling Maia, my sweet big little girl, who can run and jump and draw circles, who brings squiggly drawings proudly to me and runs away when it’s time for diaper changes (you’re the one who asked for them!), who has giggly sessions of saying “poopy!” with your sister, who tells your dad and me spontaneously "I wuv you," and who sometimes pushes your daddy away at night, saying “No, Dad. Mama!” which always makes me feel sort of sorry for your dad, but secretly delighted that you want me. I love you, my kitten, my funny wiggly girl. Here’s to year two, and to even more Maia, which is all I could want.