I look up and there she is, and suddenly I’m overcome.
After she goes to sleep, I lose myself scrolling through my Instagram feed or flipping through photos on my phone. I can’t get enough of her, and then I realize I’ve been smiling at her pictures for the last 30 minutes.
Perhaps it’s a side effect of knowing our second child is on her way. The coming arrival of Kiwi makes me savor this time with Peeper even more.
But my absorption with her goes beyond soaking up these last minutes of her as our only child. She is just so damn wonderful.
She has always been that way. She wowed me from moment one with her mighty lungs when she entered the world, seeming to shout, “I am here! I am here!”
As her personality emerged, I loved watching her take in the world with her signature “f’row brow” seriousness. She still concentrates so hard to not miss a single detail in a book, a face, a walk to the park—or the taste of her first ice cream cone.
Lately, her incredible skill with language gives me a glimpse into how her mind works. I learn about what she’s interested in, what she pays attention to, the connections she makes and even her anxieties because she can tell me. And I make the time to ask.
But as the months go by and she grows into herself, she becomes even more astonishing. My breath catches when I am with her. I could not be more grateful to witness how she changes and who she is.
Her biggest development this month has been emotional. She was already very in touch with her feelings—at a recent midwife appointment, for example, she said, “Little bit nervous” and hid on my shoulder when the nurse came to get us.
Now she is concerned with everyone feeling sad. She’ll stop her play—or, even more telling, a story—to give a toy or a character in a book a hug. “She feels better,” she’ll pronounce, and we’ll get on with whatever it was we were doing. Her budding empathy makes me so proud.
A few weeks ago, I learned that a wonderful woman I knew from grad school had died. She was one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and it broke my heart that we all lost her too soon. Peeper didn’t quite know what to make of my tears, but at one point she left her play kitchen and gave me a hug.
Peeper only met my friend a few times, and she was too little to remember. But as I sat with tear-mottled cheeks and a toddler’s tiny arms around me, part of my grief lifted. My friend lives on in all of our kindness, compassion and caring; she lives on in a 23-month-old’s hugs. I know she would smile at that.
So in this, Peeper’s last month before her age turns into years plural, I’ll continue to stare when she’s around and flip through photos when she’s not. I want to steep myself in her, absorb her into my pores, revel in her unique self. I want to never forget.