By the time we got to the doctor's office, I was pretty frazzled. "She screamed the whole way here" I told the receptionist. "That must have been stressful," she said, sympathetically. Sometimes it feels good to be acknowledged. "A little," I nodded. One time in a store as I was struggling to hold Michelle while checking out, the clerk kind of tilted her head and looked at me knowingly. "It gets easier," she offered. I'm not sure anymore. In some ways it has gotten easier but in other ways, it's harder than ever. It's like Michelle is going through the terrible twos and she's only 18 months. Though I guess mentally she is more like a 2 or 3 year old. She wants her way NOW! And if she doesn't get it, there is Hell to pay.
"Can she say at least 5 words?" the doctor asked.
I chuckled. "She can speak in 5 word sentences. Her vocabulary is over 1000 words now."
"Wow." She might have thought I was exaggerating until she saw Michelle walking around her office, pointing to things and naming them, asking to draw with the doctor's pen.
The problem, I told the doctor, is that Michelle is demanding and difficult. I can't get her to sleep. Can't get her to do anything really if she doesn't want to. The doctor explained (as I had already surmised) that it's just the trade-off of having a gifted child. Exceptionally bright and highly sensitive but overwhelming. Their minds are so active, they need constant stimulation, they're easily frustrated. The more clever, the more complicated they are. "Would you rather have had a simple child?" my Mom asked. "No," I said, "I guess not." Though admittedly sometimes I do glance with envy at the children who don't say much, who sit there still as dolls, good as gold. It would be easier. Of course with parents like she had (yes her father was clever, complicated, moody and demanding too. And I'm no picnic either.) I guess Michelle was destined to be trouble. When she's not being a monster she is a joy to be around though. She certainly is unpredictable. After screaming all the way to her appointment I was expecting some real shrieking once she got her immunization. Shockingly she didn't shed a tear. Luckily the doctor was kind enough to give Michelle her pen and some paper to draw with so she was so distracted she barely noticed the needle. What a relief!
Life has been so hectic I realized mid-January that I hadn't taken any photos in a while. I decided to set up a little "photo shoot" with Michelle. So I dressed her up in some pretty frilly clothes and snapped away. It didn't last long (she bolted after a while and would barely stay still so most of the pictures were a blur) but I did manage to get a couple of keepers.
I even got a couple of videos of Michelle at 17 months singing some of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (she sings all of it but not on camera apparently) and naming members of the family (again, she can name all of us, even all of her uncles and cousins but she would only say a few of us on video).
Here are the videos from Youtube:
Michelle still doesn't have a lot of hair. During her "photo shoot" I made my first attempt to put her tiny bit of hair into pigtails. I loved it. Michelle wasn't impressed though. She was taking the barrettes out within seconds.
The last few months have been a challenge to say the least. I've never been a fan of Winter but this one has been particularly brutal, weather-wise. Ice storms. Heavy snow. Bitter cold. I've always hated shoveling the snow but I never had this many snow days before and it's even worse with Michelle because I can't leave her alone while I do it. I have to wait until she's asleep before I can head out. Sometimes that's not until midnight or 1 a.m. So there I am at 2 in the morning shoveling the bloody driveway. To add insult to injury I will have shoveled the whole thing only to have the snowplow go by and leave a massive iceberg at the foot of the driveway (even though I went to the trouble to even shovel THE ROAD in front of my house precisely so that I wouldn't have a big pile pushed in front of my driveway). Then I have to leave Michelle in the car with it running while I scramble to chisel the iceberg so that I can back out and begin my 15 hour work day (with the commute to my Mom's first). Some days I'm so spent I just cry out of sheer exhaustion and frustration. Sometimes I take it personally. Of course it's not just me. Everyone has had a rough go this winter. Some people were without power during the ice storm. And they've been getting snow around the world, even places that NEVER have snow and are not prepared at all for it. This is Canada after all so I guess I need to suck it up (or move to Hawaii, once I win the lottery!)
She picks up everything now, like a sponge. I have to be REALLY careful what I say. Some of Michelle's new expressions are "What the heck?" (I guess it's better than What the hell?) "Stupid Grandma!" (I don't know where she could have picked that up...Ok it may have slipped out sometime when I was frustrated in the store looking for my Mom and wanting to leave because Michelle was screaming.) I told her that's not nice and it's better to say "Silly Grandma!" She says "Oh God" sometimes. She tells me to "Calm down" and "Don't worry." She yells "Hurry up, Mama!" when I take too long. She can say all the colours. Even turquoise. She even corrected my Mom one day when Mom pointed to a colour and called it blue. Michelle said "No. Turquoise." She knows the days of the week (though she often skips ahead to Friday.) All her shapes. She even calls herself "Clever girl!" because she's so used to hearing me say it. One day she said "Good morning Princess!" to me and I realized it was because of Donkey saying it on Shrek. (Incidentally Shrek is her favourite movie. Even more than Cinderella. I don't know why she loves it so much. Maybe because her father was a monster and subconsciously she's drawn to that. I'm sort of kidding.) I even wound up getting Shrek 2 to break the monotony and thankfully she likes that one too. So now it's "Mama, watch Shrek?" or "Watch New Shrek." Some people say that kids shouldn't watch TV but to me it's educational. She's learned a lot from Sesame Street, Bubble Guppies, Dora and the Wiggles. I'm happy now that she likes actual movies so I can enjoy them too. A lot of the animated movies I had before I even knew I'd ever have children. I always loved them myself.
Yes I'm probably a little biased (and crazy!) but as an artist myself I can tell you Michelle does abstracts better than I do. Abstraction is actually more difficult than it looks. Some people might look at a Kandinsky or a Pollock and say "Well, that's just scribbling, anyone can do that." But it isn't so easy. Someone who tries to imitate it may wind up with something that seems forced and unpleasing. Abstract art is an expression of emotion, of life, colour and form. It is liberating because it is not representational -- it is not limited to just being a picture of this or that. It taps into the formless in the universe, the region of dreams and imagination. When I try to do abstract I'm usually over-thinking it so that it's somewhat contrived. Children are so free that they are able to express themselves without overanalyzing. To just let the picture flow through them. The result is something beautiful and organic. (OK I'm probably romanticizing it but I don't care. I'm a proud Mama! Besides, she certainly has the temperament of an artist so she might as well be one!)
So, that's what we've been up to for the past couple of months. I know that I said I probably wouldn't continue this "baby blog" since by definition she's a toddler now and not a baby but I think I do want to continue it at least until she's 2 or 3 years old. I like keeping track of what she's up to. I write new words and phrases she says and new things she does in a journal as well but I find this blog is a nice way to record her story, in words, pictures and videos. Speaking of not being a baby anymore, Michelle is now without her soother. I never thought the day would come but it did, somewhat accidentally. She kept misplacing her soothers (there were 8 of them) until I couldn't find a single one other than the brand new 18-36 month ones I managed to find. She tried the new one and hated it. "Don't like it" she said. The rubber part was larger than her old 6-18 month ones. I guess they are designed to not interfere with the child's teeth (it says orthodontist approved or something on the package.) I expected a big fight over it but when I explained to her that all the soothers were lost (her own fault) except the new one she didn't like, she accepted it. She always used to sleep with the soother and had it quite often through the day. I'm kind of relieved to be done with it. It's strange though. Just like giving up the bottle and moving to the cup, it's a reminder that she's growing up. It's happening so fast.
One day while I was in line in Walmart a friendly elderly couple asked "What aisle do you get those in?" (referring to Michelle.) "Oh she's one of a kind," I said and then joked, "Do you want her? She's a lot of work!" They told me that as difficult as she may be I will look back at this time and think how wonderful it was. I will miss her being a toddler. I know they're right. Already I get teary when I see a newborn and think, my God I miss her being that small (even though at the time it was sheer hell to live through.) "I know," I told them, "I wouldn't trade her for the world. Not even on her worst day."
It's not easy. Some days it's so hard I don't know how I'll make it. I've learned to tune out well-meaning "backseat parents" who try to tell me what I SHOULD be doing. The truth is no one can judge. Even anyone that has had a child before, they didn't have THIS child. Michelle is like no one else. What may have worked for their child may not for mine. I'm the first to admit I'm not perfect. I'm human. I make mistakes. I don't always go "by the book." Michelle and I are still co-sleeping which means I don't get a lot of sleep. I don't care. I have to do what I feel is right for her. No one has the right to judge or tell me what I'm doing wrong. Considering I have a child that is gifted, I must be doing something right at least.
And at the end of the day, I love who she is. Yeah, she can be a challenge but she is also the sweetest little girl I've ever met. She's loving and affectionate. She says "Kiss me" now and "I love you" (just in time for Valentine's Day!) When she smiles she makes my heart melt. When she laughs it is the most beautiful sound on Earth. She is my princess. Imaginative, bright, artistic, funny. She is my miracle. And every day she astounds me with something new. Yes there are days I'm tearing my hair out because she's driving me crazy and I never get a break. (People at work were talking about their vacations -- tropical destinations, cruises -- and I said coming to work is the closest I get to a vacation! That's the only time I'm away from Michelle.) But most days she is so amazing she makes me incredibly proud and happy. I couldn't be more grateful to have this little girl in my life.