Month eighteen

Dear Eleanor,

Two days ago, you turned 18 months old. We flew up to Chicago last month to visit your extended family. We were so excited to see you play with your cousins, but our high hopes were dashed because all you wanted was to steal their toys. You’d grab a doll or balloon from someone’s hand and dash away while Dad and I consoled the victim. Eleanor, you’re going to have a hard time making friends unless you give up this life of crime.

We left you one evening with Nana and Papa so that we could go into Chicago for dinner. We knew that you’d throw a fit if you saw us leave, so we tried to be sly about it, giving you a cookie and then racing out the door while you weren’t looking. As if you could be fooled so easily. Nana said you had a good time, but it’s become clear that you no longer trust us. Now when we visit friends, if you see one of us head toward the door, you scream and run at the door full tilt. You will not be left behind. No, no, no!

You’ve become more interested in everything we do. When you see me cooking, you drag a pot out of the cupboard. When I clean, you follow me and pick up what I’ve missed. I’m reminded daily that it’s my actions, not my words, that teach you. I’ve tried to read more in front of you to encourage you, but that has backfired. Now you climb onto the couch, grab my book and run away with it. So I’m reading “A Visitor for Bear” while you hold tight to my book about female oppression in developing countries. Have I mentioned lately how much your name suits you? I worried that Eleanor was too serious for a baby, but you are such an Eleanor.

My favorite memory from this month will be the dancing. You’ve become familiar with songs such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and the “Hokey Pokey” and you’ve even developed signals to get me to sing them for you. You love to turn and turn and turn during the Hokey Pokey until you get dizzy and fall down. No matter how many times you do this, you don’t make the connection between the turning and the falling. I’ve been playing the Rolling Stones, and you stamp your feet and throw your arms into the air. You’re still figuring out the coordination of all your limbs and learning to keep the beat.

I love watching you dance — and do any activity, really — because you don’t have any of the emotional baggage of an adult. You don’t care whether you look cool. You don’t have any notion of how something “should” be done. Everything you do is filled with your joy and innocence. I am the luckiest person in the world to get to see that, and I am sometimes crushed by the knowledge that the world will slowly unravel that innocence. But even when you’ve become a cynical adult, you might someday see a little girl waving her arms in the air and wiggling her hips. You’ll start dancing too. And once again, you won’t care what anybody thinks.