Month eighteen — Henry

Dear Henry,

I thought it might be nice for you to have a record of who you were at 18 months old. Or rather, I thought it might be nice for me to have a record so that I can remind you someday of why you need to be sweet to your tired mother.


Henry, you find all of the trouble. You climb onto counters to steal your sister’s pencils and crayons and then dash toward our white office furniture. If I forget to close the laptop, you bang mercilessly on the keyboard. If I forget to put up the dog’s food and water dishes, you walk to them, pause to catch my eye, and then plunge your hands into them to splash and fling kibble as I run toward you shouting “No, Henry, no.” Dad says that you probably think your name is “No Henry.”


The other day, I sat down to read an email. I registered that things were too quiet and turned around to find you eating a lemon rind that you had pulled from the garbage. I will leave out the part about how you licked a discarded yogurt lid before starting in on the lemon.

The worst part is that I can’t be mad at you for this. You are so good-natured. You contentedly putter around the house by yourself, pushing a little play stroller or dumping out bins of blocks and toys. As long as you are allowed to move, you are happy. And I can even get you to sit for a while if I read you a book. You love to listen to the same stories over and over — “Go, Dog, Do,” “Bear Snores On,” and “Little Blue Truck.” When I try to read you a new book, you slam it closed.


You are collecting words, and they are an indicator of your interests. Socks, shoes, outside, dog, food, all done. A few weeks ago, you learned to say “sis.” Now you eagerly use it when we pick up Eleanor from school, and that moment is all the reward I need for the years I spent waiting for you.

When your dad and I decided to have a family, we spent a lot of time discussing how to raise successful kids. We dreamed of raising a doctor, an entrepreneur, a leader of some sort. Now, all I want is for you and your sister to be kind and try hard. If you are generous to others, and if you are the best teacher or chef or stay-at-home parent that you can be, that is enough. Having you here is my greatest gift. Your life is your own to use well.


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