Friday, February 5, 2010


Marta's running around next to me, a little runny in the nose and doing her dinosaur puzzle. She's obsessed with dinosaurs right now, like Berit was at this age.

After we dropped Berit off at school this morning, Marta and I headed downtown to look for a party dress for B, for her big fourth birthday in two weeks. We didn't find one but did find ourselves in a bookstore that we never go in, typically favoring McLean & Eakin because it's local and because it has donuts. This one today, though, was attached to the local children's store so we went in to amuse ourselves and I once again realized how loud Marta is.

I don't know why I'm constantly surprised by this. She's loud at home, but I think I'm used to it, much as parents on an airplane don't really notice their children kicking the seat in front of them, or parents in a restaurant don't mind when their kid turns around and waves and chats with the people in the booth behind them. I'm the parent who overlooks her kids' yelling.

It's not that Marta's crying or screaming. She's just talking, and she's got a lot to say. She also says it with tons of emphasis. "MOM! THAT'S A DINOSAUR!" "MOM! LOOK AT THE CARL BOOK!"

Now, at our favorite bookstore it's not that big of a deal, because in the kids' section we're sort of covered by shelves and displays. But here the kids' section was right by the cafe area, and we were getting lots of dirty looks from childless laptoppers, sipping coffee with the whole bookstore-chic atmosphere.

I remember that time. That's when Trevor and I used to say things like, "We'll never let toys take over our house," or, "Our kids will just enjoy doing what we do, because it's all they'll know."

Now I just don't care what those people think so much. No, I never let my kids get carried away. I don't let them go table to table, chatting with folks at the coffee shop. I don't let them yell across the room and if they start having a meltdown in the store, we just leave (provided we're not in the checkout or close to it). I think we're polite parents.

But the thing is -- this age is the coolest. Berit, at age just-about-4, is easy. We just tell her what is expected and 98 percent of the time she does it. Marta is wild (I wish this blog template would allow me to put 'wild' in squiggly green letters, which would better demonstrate the emphasis on the word). But she's curious and funny, smart and crazy. She says the coolest things, even when she says them loudly.

I remember when my sister-in-law, way back before we had kids, told me she didn't love the newborn stage (while of course loving a newborn itself). I thought that I was different, that I loved newborns the best because they were so tiny and sweet. Then I had one, and yes, they are very kitten-like and sweet and perfect, but they're not fun. This age, age 2, is the coolest. Everything is a miracle to 2-year-olds. They love the little noises you make with your tongue. They love finding shapes where you never thought to look. They think everything you do is cool. They still have their chubby baby bodies and don't mind cuddling, and they sometimes need baby-style rocking and loving in the middle of the night, while telling you neat stories about their dreams and making magical moments. They're independent enough to play by themselves for a half-hour. They love to dance in goofy ways. They are passionate, to the point of being very, very loud.

I think that, when the girls are grown, I'll think back to my babies and miss the littleness and newborn stage for the pure need to care for them, for the innate pull they had when they were brand new. But I will long for my 2-year-olds, before they were restrained for school or etiquette, before they worried about the lines of their socks and whether or not their ears would fall off in the cold (ahem).

I keep trying to commit every second of Marta's twoness to memory. The way she scoots across the floor with her round knees and chubby feet that remind me of Girl Scouts peanut butter cookies, with the layer of squishy peanut butter on the top. I hope the people at the grocery store we visit twice a week will remember the way she insists that they call her "Sugar Plum."

I know every age is special. But there's something about the freedom of two, of screaming "NO MAMA!" and "YES MAMA!" in the same breath, of honestly, truly believing you're a goldfish all while realizing that you are COOL when you wear your sister's sunglasses that is perfect.

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