When Jack turned three, all friends and family independently bought him Play Doh. Three appears to the be Year of Play Doh. (Four, by the way, is the Year of Hot Wheels and Racecar Tracks.)
Along these same lines, Two, it seems, is the Year of the Ocean. I say this by way of explanation that my sister and I both planned very similar birthday parties for Liam, separately, without communicating – both with an ocean/pail/fish type theme. (As I think about it now, I recall that when Jack turned two, he also got a number of beach/sand toys from family members. My Universal Jungian* Theme for Toddler Birthdays theory is further supported.) We both even had watermelons carved into sea creatures, decorated cupcakes, and put snacks into colored plastic pails. What can I say. Great minds, etc. etc.
Anyway, this second party was mostly for Liam, but also for Father’s Day, and also for us to meet some friends and neighbors here in Nashville. It occurred on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and was just as pleasant and lovely as one would hope for an early summer barbecue.
It spattered a bit of rain later in the afternoon, but it wasn’t much. We defected to the indoors, and there was even some barbershop singing (always a “risk” when dad’s around!) The boys had a blast, we got to meet some new people, the food was abundant and delicious (and in some cases, picked fresh from the garden), and Liam even got to open a few more presents from his Aunt.
*I watch a lot of back episodes of Frasier, so Jung or Freud were inevitably going to end up in here at some point.
Dear Liam, at Two:
A few nights ago, we gave both you and Jack a leftover birthday cupcake after dinner. Jack got one of the blue frosted ones, and we handed you a “sand” cupcake – white frosted with a dusting of graham cracker crumbs. You looked at it, then looked at us, and with great consternation announced “I no want DIS cupcake. I want da cupcake wit da froo schnacks in it.”
There’s no better way to represent you right now than that interaction. You are highly, delightfully, ridiculously verbal. And just when that fact makes us forget how little you are, you remind us that you are still just two – bossy, ungrateful, demanding, direct, and also sweet, loving, affectionate, and needy. When people ask how old you are, you say “Liam.” And we say – “no buddy, you’re two. Say two.” And you say “NO. Not TWO. I just LIAM” with the same rapidly declining patience as might be exhibited in a teenager watching his parents try to navigate email settings on their new iPhone. It’s a shame you’re only two and already are forced to spend your entire day surrounded by imbeciles.
When you want something and do not feel you are being heard, you just continue to ask for it louder. When you want to get somewhere, you go there in a straight line, and if there is an obstacle in your way (like a bush, or a dog, or a blazing pit of fire), it will be trod upon or clambered over as if it were not there. Your brother has always been obedient, with an eagerness to please that breaks my heart. You, on the other hand, are always devilishly close to the line we’ve drawn in the sand for you, challenging every Executive Order, testing what exactly we mean by “Please don’t drink water out of Grandpa Doc’s bird bath.” It seems to me, Liam, that that order is abundantly clear, unambiguous even – but you have found ways to test the limits of even so simple a demand as “Keep out of the freaking birdbath, for heaven’s sake kid.” It kind of reminds me of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, testing the electric fence for weaknesses. You are smart and rebellious, my son, and not a little bit dangerous for that.
And it is for this, and a million other things, that my body and soul overflow with love for you, wonder at the marvel of your gorgeous little self. We recently took a long drive with you in the car, and for the entirety of the trip you clutched a large Mack figurine (the Mack truck from the movie Cars). The toy eighteen wheeler is taller than you if stood on its end, and you held the bulky thing awkwardly in your lap for seven hours, not even letting go when you fell asleep during your midday nap (lest your brother get a chance to touch it for three seconds – horrors!) I turned my head from the front passenger seat to check on you several times, and I felt a little panic at the sight of two chubby brown knees extending from beneath this ridiculously over-large toy to which you were so devoted. I could give wobbly, teary-eyed testimony to the fleeting nature of boyhood, the precious essence of boy-child that certain much-beloved toys can absorb and reflect back over time, long after their little owners have grown and moved on. But I think how I feel about you being two years old is best summed up in the anxiety I felt watching you in the car, knowing that you wouldn’t be *This Liam* forever, that one day those legs would reach to the floor, that one day the Mack truck toy will no longer mean anything to you at all, and how much I will one day miss the You that you are today. I think two year old Liam is my favorite Liam of all, so far, and I’m happy that I have eleven more months to spend with you before you grow and change into some new marvelous kid I cannot yet contemplate.