Greta: 22 Months

And just like that. She was no longer a baby.
I shouldn't be so surprised. I should have seen it coming. I mean, she asks to brush her teeth each morning. She dances to Lady Gaga songs and sings along to Beyonce. She still lets me choose her outfits but insists that she have a bow in her hair at most times. And while she still drinks out of a sippy cup because that's what we provide her, she'd much prefer an adult cup with a straw. Sure, these are just little things, but each individually and moreso collectively indicate that she's NO LONGER A BABY.

I think I realize this more lately now that the weather has gotten warmer, and especially when our street is filled with neighborhood children riding their motorized mini-vehicles, running through lawn sprinklers and hunting down the ice cream truck. The little girls come and ring our doorbell, asking "Can Greta come out and play?" and my heart just melts because it's so purely sweet. In addition to developing a quick fascination with child-sized Escalades driven by five year-olds, Greta has learned the simple joys of running through the lawn sprinkler on a warm sunny afternoon. She's come to recognize the sound of the ding-ding of the ice cream truck. (Oh shit; I'm going to go broke. DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH ICE CREAM COSTS THESE DAYS?!) Most momentous in my mind, is that she has started to learn to make friends. And for this I am glad and sad and nervous and -- as flashbacks of grade school cattiness flood my memory -- I realize how the older she gets, the less I can protect her.

I suppose I shouldn't get ahead of myself, but that's my nature... Instead of worrying about her learning to hold her own with her little peers, my worries are more focused on other ways of protecting her -- like keeping her out of the street and that not all dogs are friendly and that when Mama says something is "hot" it's because it will hurt you very badly if you touch it. The girl has not a clue that if she runs into the street, she can get ran over by a car. In public places, she has no reluctance to run from us because she assumes we'll be right there for her, just like we always are. She doesn't know there are bad people in the world. She thinks that all people and dogs and cats are nice; in her mind, it's HER world, and we're all just living in it.

She sure keeps her mama busy. Oh me oh my. Lately, she's really been testing her boundaries, and just today I came to the realization that I need to be firmer and stricter. I feel that this is the point in parenting where it would be way easier to cave in and let her have her way. When she doesn't want to get dressed, it's much easier for me to go and do something I would like to do for myself instead. When she wants something she isn't supposed to have, it's much easier to give in than to resist. But with these conclusions, I've also decided that as easy as those paths might seem at the moment, in the long run, it will be easier to be stern and stick to my guns. And so it goes. Raising a well-behaved child is not going to be an easy venture. Eck.

Just this afternoon, Greta was playing with her little friends down the street. It had been a long day, as we spent the morning and early afternoon at the zoo, and I knew Greta was tired and growing hungry. As I attempted to bring her home to eat dinner, she kicked and screamed and flailed her little arms and legs. I kept my cool and hauled her little 25 pound-self home. She shook and turned bright red and threw her body onto our living floor like I'd just informed her there was no more milk in the whole entire world. (The girl is ADDICTED to milk.) She cried and cried, and I sat there and waited for her to calm down. I did my best to hold it together but could not. As she sat there and cried, I started crying, too. Not because I felt overwhelmed. No. I cried because at that moment, it dawned on me that on this day, she's just two months shy of turning two years old. And I cried because this whole motherhood thing has been a bit challenging at times, and each time I think I've conquered learned to manage one stage, another one begins, and I'm humbled all over again. I cried because this little girl has taught me more in two years than I've learned in a lifetime, and I cried because this little girl will always be my baby.