18 months

This is what an 18-month-old cutiepie with a 110th percentile head looks like.

On Saturday, Stella demanded “more pie.” Then on Sunday, after spying the gleaming white Trophy Cupcake bakery box, she shouted “CUH-CAKES!” Today, she’s been crying out for “BAGEL!”

I’d read in The Scientist in the Crib that “around 18 months” is a time of unbelievably fast development, including a “naming explosion” wherein the child can hear a word once (used as a label for an object) andsay it with ease forevermore. I knew it was coming. I just didn’t expect Stella’s language explosion to be so intensely focused on desserts and carbs. And I’m actually quite proud of it–her love of eating is beautiful to me.

Of course sweets aren’t the only emerging area of identification and communication. She knows at least several each from the shape, color, number and letter families.  Some more reliably than others, of course. She’s all, “Seven? What the HELL is that alien scribble?” but “Two and Five? Hell yeah, I can spot ’em from across the street!” “Diamond” was the first shape she could easily say and identify, which I find funny for some reason. She’s starting to string words together, and the phrase of the day is “Buckle up!” Feeling really proud and curious, I tried to count all the words she knows, and gave up when I got to 125. She’s adding more each day. This blows me away. Now that there is so much to report on, the first thing I tell Cody when he comes home is, “Here are literally all of the things Stella said, ate, did, thought about and looked at today!” And then I don’t shut up for about 90 minutes. Dinner is always done way too late.

The way Stella views the world and her place in it is clearly different now, and you can see it in the way she plays.  The playground, two blocks away, is her domain. But she’s oh-so-boldly venturing out into previously uncharted territory.  She’s no longer content to run over the toddler bouncy bridge, go down the big slide, climb the stairs, or even to scale and descend the steep rubber mounds lurking beneath the tallest playground structure. For many months now, from the safety and comfort of the bucket swing, she’s intently observed adventurous, dirty-kneed boys and girls hiking and climbing amid the boulders and tree-root-studded dirt path that make up the strip of elevated land along the edge of the playground. She now deftly explores this rocky frontier without fear, making me nervous and proud at the same time. By the time we left today, the knees and butt of her pants had dirt ground into them. There were wood chips on her sweater and hat, and sand in her shoes. She looked like a full-fledged KID.

Today we hit the pediatrician’s office for Stella’s 18-month check-up. The weigh-in that used to fill us with dread is now just a point of curiosity, a nice bit of reassurance about her continued growth. The doctor, GOD bless him (he’s seen me at my worst), always seems so happy to see Stella. He’s just so thrilled to see her thriving after those tough early months. He “gets” how hard it once was for us, and how momentous a seemingly routine and uneventful check-up is. He seems genuinely proud of all of us, happy to show us her “beautiful” growth curves, charted electronically on his fancy tablet. Stella’s now in the 40th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height. Her head is still off the charts, having drifted just a touch further away from the 100th percentile, which is probably why it’s such an effective counterweight for hoisting herself onto ottomans, coffee tables and assorted off-limits areas. She’s lean. She’s tall. She’s healthy. She’s fabulous. I could not ask for more in a daughter than Stella, just as she is.

The point. Right. She’s not a baby anymore. I’ve teared up (okay, maybe even wept pitifully) about this fact numerous times, of course. Because it’s all too short. Unfairly short. As a parent, just when you get the hang of babyhood, it’s over. Just when you settle into the knowledge of  “16 months”, she turns 17 months old. Then, before you even realize that she’s outgrown all her pants, 18 months. All you can do is be glad you squeezed her all those extra times, just because you couldn’t resist, and that you read her those board books a billion times even though you really would’ve preferred to watch Ellen while eating a bar of chocolate the size of a small couch. All you can do is hold on–while letting go.

But I’m not sad. Babyhood is over, but full-fledged toddlerhood is just beginning, and if the past couple weeks are any indication, it’s going to be fun–challenging, but really funny and fun and crazy. I’m proud of  how far we’ve all come. Amazed and impressed by her new independence and communication. And in awe of her passion for dessert and dirt alike.