In which the toddler makes potty progress.

I started no less than three blog posts before this one. I wanted to express my thoughts on being a moderate, neither far-left nor far-right, and how that shapes my view of the recent violence and unrest in the United States. I wanted to say that you can simultaneously feel outrage at the death of an unarmed black man in police custody, and the criminal acts of protestors that led to looting, arson, and the defacing of federal buildings, statues, and memorials. The fact that I can empathize with both groups makes me a caring human. It does not make me an enemy of one camp or the champion of the other. I am already dedicated to protecting all of America.

But that’s all I’ll say for now.

This post is a continuation of my life in lockdown. The United Kingdom has been slowly introducing measures to return life to the economy, though many fear the damage has already been done. I find it unbelievable that shopping malls, fast food outlets, and dentists – whose profession pokes and prods into mouths for a living – are open, but hair salons are still closed. The only thing preventing me from shaving my head into a super-short escaped convict buzzcut is my word to my husband that I wouldn’t. I need to hold out for three more weeks. Or, if the borders open back up before then, fly to another country (say, Portugal) and get a foreign cut. What do all the cool kids say? #worthit

My daughter has inherited stubbornness from both her parents and all of her grandparents. Some battles I choose to fight, like the sudden interest she has in flipping her plate over her high chair to test out gravity with the remnants of her dinner. Some just aren’t worth it – she’d rather watch me scoop cat poop from the litterboxes than sit nicely with Daddy watching Charlotte’s Web. (And this is a kid who rarely gets screen time.) One day, her screaming will actually blow my eardrums out, and if the blood running down my face doesn’t scare her, the fact that I don’t respond to her yelling might. One day, she’ll probably fall out of a chair on the patio when I’m not looking, because she’s big enough to clamber up on just about any piece of furniture now. One day, she might bash her face in rather than catching herself with her hands when she’s running down the cement path, and, if she’s anything like her auntie, knock out a tooth before her second birthday. One day, she’ll get the bright idea to climb Cadbury and ride him like a pony. But that’s okay. That’s life.

What I am delighted with is her return to nursery. Yes, we’ve all had to adopt new social distancing measures, which means dropping off your child at the outside gate instead of inside the main door, queuing on brightly painted blue numbers two meters apart for pickup, and gamely attempting to keep your toddler away from the other kids as much as possible. There’s lots more hand washing and general cleaning of equipment, toys, and clothing, and there are strict measures for having your child tested for Covid-19 if they seem ill. But honestly, the changes aren’t earth-shattering. Beaner loves going to nursery and seeing the other kids, even if there’s only a handful right now. The staff are doing a great job continuing her potty training, and despite some dirty laundry sent home with her at pickup occasionally, she has definitely upped her game. Half the time, she actually tells you she needs to pee. She’s confident answering that she doesn’t need to use the potty when you ask her. She goes longer without needing the toilet, sometimes up to two hours. And she’s definitely still aware when she does have an accident, knowing that wasn’t supposed to happen. I mean, she’s even wearing Big Girl Panties now.

This kid is a talker. She’s all about new words. As curious as she was to know the signs for the objects around her – and nothing pleases me more than seeing her communicate independently – she’s just as curious to hear the names of these same objects. She’s entering the parrot stage and seems to love it. I took her grocery shopping and kept up a steady stream of conversation about all the items we saw: pasta, rice, Mexican food. I brought a banana nut muffin for a snack and made her say “muffin” every time I gave her a piece, which came out as an enthusiastic “muh-muh!” Some of her words are quite clear; she surprised my sister on the phone by saying “all done” after breakfast, and even managed a decent rendition of “bye-bye” when we hung up. Her p-sounds have been very good from the get-go, so, “Pappy,” “puppy,” and even “purple” are my favorites when showing her off. And it always brings a smile to my face to listen to her babbling to herself, or her stuffed animals, before bed or just after she wakes up. I know all parents say this, but I can’t believe how fast she’s growing up.

I write about my family because it keeps me grounded. It allows me to focus on the present, to deal with my concrete life right under my nose. I write to release my anxieties about feeling like a mediocre writer, and sometimes a mediocre mother, and to share my daily survival with a toddler and her moods. After all, this is the first time I’ve experienced any of this pint-sized terror for myself. I write because I want to look back and remember what life was like, what was important to us, and how we coped. I never considered myself much of a nonfiction writer – and I still have a hard time saying I’m writing a memoir – but I find a rewarding challenge in crafting a true story in an engaging way.

I guess what this post is about, is in a world so full of heartache, pain, fear, and frustration, it’s refreshing to concentrate on family.

Happy June.

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