Two Years, Two Months, Two Weeks: A Toddler’s Day

The Wee Hours

June woke around midnight, got up on her knees in bed and started crying. I stumbled the few steps from our bed to hers, scooped her up and set her down on our bed next to Beth. I made sure she had her pacifier and offered her a drink of water before shuffling off to the bathroom. By the time I returned, she was nearly asleep again. At 1:30 she woke again. This time she was a bit more restless, rolling around and asking for her sippy repeatedly before she finally settled down and slept again.

This is how our nights go and have gone for so long that it took me a while to realize that June isn’t nursing at night any more. She appears to have night-weaned herself at least couple of weeks ago. I don’t know exactly when it happened because her night nursing has been sporadic for months so it wasn’t a sudden or obvious change. And I’m not getting any extra sleep as a result. Middle of the night requests for water and her “’fier” are just as frequent as ever.

I considered night-weaning June many times, but I always put it off because I was certain it would be a drawn-out and traumatic process. I also wasn’t sure it would help her sleep for longer periods because when I night-weaned Noah at eighteen months he continued to wake up just as often as he had been before. So, it wasn’t long and traumatic, but it hasn’t helped her sleep either, at least in the short run. It’s still a good thing, a necessary precursor to sleeping through the night…someday.


Beth and Noah left for work and school at 8:20 and by 9:00, June and I were out the door. We have an outing almost every weekday morning. It could be a trip to the library or music class, or a walk to the playground or around the neighborhood. This morning, though, I decided to stay home and mow the lawn. The grass was getting tall and the predicted high temperature for tomorrow is 98 degrees, so it seemed like a good idea to get at least part of the lawn mowed before the really hot and muggy weather sets in. June was happy to play in the yard until she discovered I had locked the gate between the side and back yard to keep her out of the wading pool while I mowed. She stood by the gate and cried, “But I need to go in the swim pool!” in increasingly desperate tones. Eventually she abandoned words all together and sobbed. I tried to calm her and had little success so I went back to mowing, deciding the sooner I finished the better.

By the time the front and side yards were mowed, June was calmer and the object of her desire had shifted to blowing bubbles on the porch. I glanced at the back yard, calculating how long it would take to clear it of toys and empty the pool (I didn’t want June in it unless I was within arm’s reach). I’d have to do all that before I could even begin to mow. I decided to leave the back for Beth. She’d probably be pleased and surprised I’d gotten any of the mowing done. I blew bubbles for June (she doesn’t have the hang of doing it herself yet). Then she wanted to swing, so I put her in the sky chair. I sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Clementine.” (For reasons I don’t fully understand, I have always sung my children songs about death while I push them on the swing.) June sang along, all smiles. She had traveled from despair to joy in a mere half hour. It’s not a long trip when you’re a little over two.


After Sesame Street, a bath, lunch and a nap, June began lobbying to go into the wading pool again. I meant to take her out there before Noah got home from school so she could have it to herself, but I kept trying to squeeze it in one more chore before we went outside. I folded a load of laundry, emptied the dishwasher and skimmed an article about the health benefits of green tea and printed it for Word Girl’s background files. Then, before I knew it, it was 3:15, time to wait for the school bus. I took both kids out to the pool together. There was the predictable splashing and laughing, but also a good bit of squabbling. When June wanted Noah to move she attempted to push him and had about as much success as you’d expect a 22 ½ pound person trying to shove one who weighs at least 55 pounds. She tackles him with gusto, as if she’s sure one of these days she will be able to take him. I have to admire her spunk, even as I strive to improve her manners.

June got out of the pool and commenced climbing up the incline of the slide. She’s a climbing fiend and loves to go up slides this way. Sometimes she turns around at the top and slides down. Other times, she will just climb down the ladder. She’s a strong girl and a stubborn one and she likes to do things her own way.

It’s partly that stubborn streak and partly the horrible time we had potty training Noah that makes us approach training June with such trepidation. June’s been telling us when she needs a change since she was eighteen months old (which is more than Noah did at two, or three, or even four). However, whenever I talked to her about using the potty “sometime soon,” she regarded me with incomprehension or skepticism, or she simply said, “No,” in a matter-of-fact tone.

Then yesterday as I was changing her and mechanically going through my spiel about how she’ll use the potty someday, she surprised me by saying. “June use potty. Sit on potty today.” Not one to let the window of opportunity slam shut, I waited until she’d had a dry diaper for a couple hours, then asked if she wanted to sit on the potty. She said yes and ran to the bathroom. I tried her on the child-sized seat that folds out of the toilet lid, but she was scared of sitting up there, so I fetched the potty from the basement. She didn’t like the feeling of sitting over a hole there either, so we compromised on a brief, bare-bottomed sit on the closed lid. She’s happy to sit on the potty this way and has done it several more times.

After Noah and June finished playing outside, she demonstrated her potty sitting for him. He was kind enough to cheer for her and she looked pleased. I’m not sure how to get her to sit on the potty with the lid open, but we have a trip planned to Target this weekend to look for Sesame Street underpants and reward stickers. I hope this will inspire her to take the next step.


There was a carnival at Noah’s school tonight, a fundraiser for the PTA. Our first stop was the dunk tank. While Noah waited in line for a chance to dunk Ms. C, his morning teacher, I bought pizza for everyone. Ms. C shook her fist at one of his classmates who’d dunked her, and pretended to be angry with her. Every time she went into the water, she splashed the watching, squealing crowd. Noah took his turn and failed to hit the target. The teacher handing out the balls told him his last throw was close, even though it wasn’t. We all went to sit on the curb and eat. I didn’t have a fork or knife to cut the pizza so I handed June a whole slice. It flopped in her hand as she tried to control it, but she finally found the right angle and she methodically ate all but a couple bites of the large slice, taking an occasional break to swig water from the liter bottle we were all sharing. She wanted nothing to do with her sippy.

When we’d finished, Beth took Noah to play some games and I took June to the smaller of the two bouncy castles. The kids inside looked older than June, but not by much, so I asked the attendant if it was okay for a two year old. She said it was fine if I was comfortable with it. I am working on being comfortable with June’s daredevil streak, her desire to climb higher and go down bigger slides than Noah did at her age. (I’m holding out on the big kid swings. They just don’t seem safe to me, so she’s only allowed in the bucket swings.) Of course, she does need limits. She fell off either the dining room table or a chair last month and bit all the way through her lower lip. Beth had to take her to the nighttime pediatric urgent care. Amazingly, she didn’t require any stitches, but this visit made a big impression. June still talks about it on an almost daily basis. Whenever she gets a bump or scrape she suggests we go to the doctor who will “help me feel better.”

Anyway, the bouncy castle was smaller than the one we have at home and the kids inside seemed pretty sedate. I was plenty comfortable. When it was her turn, June didn’t even bounce. She entertained herself by climbing in and out under the door flap until her time was up.

After she exited the bouncy castle, she dashed off to the playground. She climbed up the slide and slid down for a while. Then she spotted the monkey bars. She was particularly drawn to the triangular handles kids use to swing across the bars. She wanted me to lift her up so she could clasp one. I did. She wanted me to let go and let her dangle. I didn’t. Annoyed, she struggled to get free and when I lowered her to the ground, she took off running across the field. I caught up with her near the basketball courts where three groups of teenagers played three separate games. I thwarted June’s attempts to cross the courts without escort. I carried her, twisting and kicking, through the carnival games and finally found Beth watching Noah jump in the larger bouncy castle. My back ached. I set June down on the grass and Beth told her we’d be going home as soon as Noah got out.

“No!” she cried and sprinted off in the direction of the playground where we’d started. Some days are too good to relinquish when you’re two years, two months and two weeks old.

Turn! Turn! Turn!

To everything
(Turn, turn, turn)
There is a season
(Turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose
Under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

From “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” by Pete Seeger
Adapted from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Sometimes you know when things will happen. Fall arrived at 5:51 a.m. this morning, as expected. Even though it’s been warm for late September, the humidity is largely gone and there’s a chill in the air in the mornings when I go out to collect the newspaper. The red berries have appeared on our dogwood tree; its leaves are tinged with scarlet and some have even fallen. We’re at a moment of balance between the light and the dark (that blessed time of year when you can still get good corn and tomatoes at the farmers’ market and sweet, crisp apples and pears are for sale as well), but the tipping point is here. Each time we go to the Y to swim at the outdoor pool, I wonder a little sadly if it will be the last time this year. Yet at the same time I look forward to seeing the leaves turn and the snowfall through June’s eyes, this first year she’s likely to notice such things.

June’s half birthday falls on the equinox this year. Like the seasons, she’s halfway between one thing and the next. Starting tomorrow, she will be closer to two than one. Some parts of this transition are hard. She still wants her morning nap and gets very cranky without it. So by way of compromise I take her for a ride in the stroller or Beth drives her somewhere to induce a short nap that will carry her to her afternoon nap. That’s the theory anyway. In practice, the abbreviated morning nap is sometimes still too long or comes too late and interferes with the afternoon nap, returning us to our original problem. I’m going to give it at least another week to work itself out before giving up and switching tactics.

Other steps she’s taking on her journey from baby to little girl seem almost magically effortless. June is currently experiencing what the developmental psychologists call a “word explosion.” That’s just what it seems like, too. Words are just bubbling to the surface and exploding out of her. Noah says if she were a character on Super Why, her superpower would be “the power to talk.” She knows more than eighty words and adds new ones daily. She’s eager to learn more and often points to an object whose name she doesn’t know and demands, “Say!” Sometimes when she improves her pronunciation of a word (for instance when she said “yummy” for the first time instead of “nummy” which is how she usually says it), she beams and looks to me or to Beth for approval. She lets us know now when she needs a diaper change by announcing “Boopy.” (We are hoping this means she will show more of an interest in toilet training than her brother did.)

Her utterances are getting longer and more complex as well as more numerous. Her first four-word sentence was “No way! No seat!” meaning “If you think I’m getting in that car seat you have another thing coming.” One recent morning she saw a school bus out the window and said, “Bus. Noah back.” And not only does she use words to communicate with us and to keep up little running commentaries for her own amusement, she also made her toys talk to each other for the first time today. I watched her sitting on the couch with a foam rubber dinosaur in each hand. She held them so they faced each other.

“Go,” one dinosaur said.

“Shoes,” the other suggested.

“Thank you,” the first dinosaur replied.

“Thank you,” the second dinosaur returned.

And so on and so on.

She’s physically more agile as well. At the playground she tries to climb on equipment designed for much older and bigger kids. About a month ago she learned to climb the ladder to Noah’s top bunk. We had to take it down for her safety as well as the safety of the toys Noah wants to stash in a June-free zone. He’s adjusted by learning to climb up the back of the bunks. Every now and then, though, we put the ladder back and let her climb (under close maternal supervision). It gives her such joy. This afternoon as an impromptu half-birthday present I dug Noah’s old push bike out from the basement and gave it to June. I had Noah demonstrate how to sit on it and push it along with his feet. She was eager to try, but couldn’t quite figure out how to do it. She ended up alternately sitting on the seat and bouncing up and down and walking alongside it, pulling it by the handlebars. I tried to remember how we taught Noah to ride it, then I remembered he was already in daycare when he got it for Christmas at the age of almost twenty months and that he’d been riding a similar one there, so we didn’t have to teach him. I guess she will figure it out on her own. I doubt it will take long.

She’s also “prettier every day.” I know because our neighbor told me. (I am a little sad to see the red fading from her hair as she gets blonder, but her curls are more than adequate compensation. At the risk of sounding shallow, I admit I wanted curly-haired children. My own wavy golden-brown hair is my only physical vanity, even if I usually wear it back.)

Tonight, after an equinox supper of pesto burgers, corn on the cob and apple cider, we had cupcakes with orange and brown frosting and yellow sprinkles to celebrate June’s half birthday. “Nummy cake,” she commented appreciatively. Then she pointed to something on the table and began to grunt excitedly.

“What do you want, June?” I asked.

“I want…I want…” she said and trailed off, the word eluding her.

Beth and I stared at each other. “Did you hear that? She just said ‘I want’” Beth said. I nodded silently. Both words were firsts. It was an almost solemn thrill to hear her first “I,” marred only slightly by the fact that we never did figure out what she wanted.

Of course any toddler worth her salt needs to know how to throw a proper tantrum. June’s working on that, too. As Noah got ready for bed and Beth gathered up the week’s recycling and I tried to wash a pomegranate juice stain out of her light gray onesie, June expressed her displeasure that no-one was paying attention to her at that precise moment by hurling herself onto the floor in a high traffic area (between the living and dining rooms) and screaming. She doesn’t have the kicking part down yet but I’m sure she’ll get there. It’s part of what comes between one and two.

Not all change can be so easily predicted, however. This week Beth and I were deeply saddened and angered by the decision of the Maryland Supreme Court that the denial of marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples is constitutional ( & The decision was longer in coming than expected. At one point Beth and I were daring to hope we might be married on our twentieth anniversary in July, and even after that day passed with no decision handed down, we still hoped, almost never speaking of it to each other, so as not to jinx anything. After the decision, Beth confided in me that she’d been wondering where to go for our honeymoon. I admitted I’d been wondering if we should buy Noah his first suit for the wedding. I’d also been mulling over whether he could be trusted with gold jewelry and if June could possibly follow directions well enough to strew flower petals at our feet in front of the judge. But now, something we were allowing ourselves to think of as at least potentially happening in weeks or months is again years (or decades) off. I think history is on our side, but when you look at history it’s easy to pinpoint an event as being at the beginning, middle or end of a social movement. When you are living in history, it’s harder to tell. It took American women seventy-two years to get the vote, counting from the first women’s rights convention, held in 1848 in Seneca, New York ( If we take the Stonewall Riots ( as the birth of the modern gay rights movement and it takes much longer than that, Beth and I might be shuffling down the aisle in our walkers. She’s worth the wait, but it would be easier if I knew how long the wait would be.

Sometimes, though, change takes you by surprise, like the four purple crocuses that bloom every September in our front yard. When we moved here our old landlady was re-landscaping and gave us a bunch of bulbs she’d dug up to take to our new house. We planted them in spring, the wrong time of year for planting bulbs. Some of them, like the hyacinth and the tiger lilies, got themselves straightened out and bloom when the neighbors’ hyacinth and tiger lilies do. Other mystery bulbs never recovered from the shock and put forth only greenery and no flowers every year. (Or maybe they are greenery-only bulbs. Is there such a thing? I’m no gardener clearly.) The crocuses, however, lay dormant for several years, and now bloom every year out of season, at the time of year perhaps when the ratio of light to dark matches that in March. I’m not sure how it works, but I know it does. Despite the fact that they’ve done this before, I forget every year and I am surprised anew whenever I see them poking up out of the ground some time in the waning days of summer.

I hope some day, reading the newspaper, listening to the radio or perusing my email to be similarly surprised, by justice, come unexpected, sweet and beautiful after a long wait.