She turned 21 today. In months. She started her life on a clean slate. Watching her bloom over the last 21 months has been a revelation. Her dad and I watched with fascination as the little caterpillar grew to the beautiful butterfly that she is today. From the newborn that wailed till she was placed in her mother’s warm embrace to the fiercely independent child who holds her own in countless decisions we make through the day, it has been a fascinating journey.
Like a time-lapse video, the floppy, gooey creature turned into a cuddly wrapped bundle, cried for a feed, said ‘un-ga’ and ‘amma’, thrashed her legs and stared at her fist, accidentally rolled over and struggled to roll back, got up on all fours and looked surprised, crawled at incredible speeds across the hallway as she laughed loudly. Before long, her curiosity got the better of her and she stood up with the help of furniture, practised walking along the length of the 3+1+1 seater couch. From grabbing food and everything else in her fist to trying to figure out pincher grip to feeding herself easily with a spoon or by hand, it’s been a marvellous endeavour.
We helped her climb the step stool and encouraged her to learn to get off it. Now, she can climb the couch or the coffee table and is learning to jump off from heights that look dangerous to us. Far from being fed millet cereal out of a small plate and spoon, she now chooses the bib, spoon and bowl that she wants to eat in. Not to mention the snack she wants to eat. She picks her clothes in the morning and asks for a “nappy change” when it is soiled.
Sometime along the way, we noticed her OCD. From the naive child that refused to set foot in the playground because of the galeej (dirt), she has matured into a big girl who knows to ignore getting dirty while playing and take care of it later. She can express fear and ask for help, knows to indicate when she wants to walk by herself and to be carried when she is tired. She asks for wipes to clean the coffee table and trashes them neatly in the dustbin under the kitchen sink. She understands she must only put rubbish in it and take nothing out.
Just in the last couple of weeks, she has learnt to think about what we are saying and respond appropriately. She knows her mind and is fearless to speak it. Out darling baby has her own personality and it is proudly on display for all who care. She knows she has to share the playground and take turns to play; also knows to make a noise when someone is out of line. She recognizes colours, rattles numbers, sings the alphabets, turns on music, dances and, lately, is learning to cross the road, “No car? Cross the road!”
It seems like a lot of things in such a short time and it is. It also feels like she has been with us forever. The beginning seems to be so far back in the past that I can barely remember that there was a time she couldn’t speak and tell us what she wanted or she had to be carried everywhere.
Not having an idea of what a toddler her age is capable of, her dada and I continue to be surprised by her everyday. We are so charmed by her amazing personality that we spend evenings, after she has gone to bed, talking about her and looking through her photos.
The change is massive. There is a vast area on that slate that she is yet to fill. The world around her hasn’t completely spoiled her idea of life. Her survival instincts and the natural way of learning things by trail-and-error are going strong. Her primitive needs for bonding, sharing and possessiveness are untarnished by modern lifestyle so far. As long as she is able to teach me her basic skills and not learn my time-poor habits, I know she will be fine. While she absorbs everything around her, she is still an independent person in her own right with an idea of how things should be. She asserts herself and forces us to stay grounded. I hope it remains that way for many more years to come.