You're 18 months old today, and here's the main thing I want to tell you: I fall more in love with you each day. I don't know how that's possible, but it's completely true. I am awed by you. Equating you with the tiny squalling newborn we brought home from the hospital is nearly impossible these days. But that's the way it's supposed to be, right? You're supposed to grow up, to change, to become your own independent little person. I guess I just didn't expect it to happen so fast. But although I wish time would slow down just a little bit, that you would be my baby for just a little while longer, I'm so enjoying watching you grow and learn and become the person you're going to be for the rest of your life.
At a year and a half old, here are some of the things you love: cars and trucks and pretty much anything with wheels, spinning around in circles until you make yourself dizzy, raspberry juice, farm animals and the sounds they make, baths, playing outside, reading books, going to "school," balls, cuddling, giving kisses, chocolate milk, Yo Gabba Gabba, going to the park, mandarin oranges, feeding yourself with a spoon and fork, feeding me and Daddy, being tickled, rough-housing with Daddy, and eating anything and everything. You're a very adventurous eater and will eat anything we put in front of you -- as long as it's spearable with a fork, that is. You are suddenly so above eating with your fingers, and if your dad or I tries to feed you? Forget it. You push the spoon away and shake your head no and grunt at us in supreme irritation. It's actually pretty funny to watch.
The list of things you don't like is much smaller and includes the following: wearing socks, being told "no," and being forced to do something you don't want to do. You're very independent and willfull, and you only want to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, to hell with the rest of the world. This makes disciplining you rather...challenging, and sometimes I end the day feeling like I was stern with you more than I actually got to have fun with you. Oh, Andrew, this is the hardest thing about being a parent, at least for me: having to discipline you and upset you when all I want to do is sit back and enjoy you. Believe me when I tell you that I don't want to make you cry, but also? I can't let you eat batteries and bathtub caulk whenever you feel like it.
You're curious and fearless and into everything. You are also quite the little comedian, and you're always doing things to try to make us laugh. One of your favorite ways to accomplish this is by playing peek-a-boo, which is a nightly activity in our house. You've gotten really good at this game, holding the pillow in front of your face for long periods of time before your big reveal and squealing with delight when we act surprised by your appearance. You also love making funny faces and sticking out your tongue.
Can we talk for a moment about how much you love your father? You look up to him so much, and whenever he pays attention to you your eyes positively shine. You follow him around the house, and you love to "help" him when he's doing chores. Last week when he was sweeping the floors, you followed behind him with a mop. When he was raking leaves outside and piling them in the wheelbarrow to take to the curb, you were picking up handfuls of leaves and placing them in the wheelbarrow to help him out. I love watching the two of you together, although some of the games you play just about give me a heart attack. Daddy flips you upside down, throws you up in the air and catches you, and swings you around by your hands and feet. You climb all over him and poke him and he tickles you until you're nearly in tears from laughing so hard. The two of you are best buddies. Your daddy loves you so much, Andrew -- probably more than he'll ever be able to tell you.
So yes, Daddy is for playing, but Mama? Mama is for cuddling. You've been extra cuddly lately, and I love it. You give me lots of hugs and kisses, and last weekend, you even treated me to a cozy two-hour nap in the recliner. Every night after we read books and sing songs, you burrow into me so we can say your prayers. You look up at me, sleepily smiling, as I send up prayers to Heaven for you, and when I get to the word "Amen," you always laugh. I think about how Jesus must delight in listening to a baby laugh through his prayers. You were born into a world where so much is going wrong, but in moments like this you exemplify to me how much in this world is so completely, absolutely right.
You don't say much -- you "talk" constantly but only say a handful of real words -- but you understand everything. One of the words you are saying a lot these days is "baby." If someone asks you, "Andrew, where's the baby?" you'll come up to me and point gently at my stomach. You are obsessed with my belly. You give it kisses when prompted, you constantly lift up my shirt so you can touch it, and sometimes you'll even pinch it. This is something you can expect your dad and I to tease you about for your entire life: how you were pinching your little brother before he was even born. One night last week, you were leaning your head against my belly when your little brother kicked -- hard. You immediately moved your head and looked at me with eyes as big as saucers like, "What the hell was that?" So now your dad and I are going to tease your little brother about this for his entire life: how he kicked you in the head before he was even born.
I think you're going to be an awesome big brother, but if I'm being completely honest, I'm also a little worried about how you're going to adjust to the changes a baby will bring to our house. I don't ever want you to feel like I don't spend enough time with you; I don't want you to feel shortchanged in any way.
One night a few weeks ago, we were playing one of your favorite games. It involves me sitting in the recliner and you running at me as fast as you can and leaping into my arms. After we'd been playing for a little while, you started squinching your eyes shut as you ran to me, arms out straight, a huge smile on your face. Even with your eyes closed, you knew I was there. You knew I was going to catch you. You trusted me completely. And I hope you always feel that way about me -- that you can trust me without reserve, that I'll always be there when you run to me -- even if you can't see me. I know the first few weeks and months after your brother is born are going to be hard on all of us, so I'm telling you this preemptively: Andrew, you will always be my baby. You were the one who taught me how to be a mother. You were the one who taught me what unconditional love really is. It's because of you that I'll be able to be a good mother to your little brother. Thank you, my beautiful boy, for everything you've done for me in the past 18 months. You've made be braver, fuller, better. My sweet, amazing, complicated, strong-willed little boy...oh, how I love you.