18 months old.

I knew the day was not likely to be a smooth one when in leaving the house, I get you dressed in your fabulous gray H&M cardigan and blue & white striped Adidas hightops ready to charm the world, and seconds later after opening the door I hear a loud scream. I opened the door and had turned to grab my purse and jacket and you had walked right out the door and attempted to get yourself down the big concrete steps -  For the first time. I drop everything and swoop you up realizing I am not even sure where to look, are you breathing, are you bleeding, oh gosh, i didn't even see the fall. we recover after hugs and a mini exam on the bench where I determine you have a little bump but seem rather unmarked from the concrete roll. I am thankful and ready to now safely load you in the car. 

I see new neighbors running around in the front yard after getting out of their car. I heard about these new neighbors who signed a longer lease and had three kids so i am eager to say hello. First, a very energetic 6 year old comes over and I greet her and tell her I am glad she is here. In her beautiful British accent, she says to me, "I am Mila, and I have heard about you guys. And I saw your baby fall down the stairs." S.U.P.E.R. And, as luck would have it, her mom comes over at exactly the moment Mila is talking about my child's crash, and i have no choice but to introduce myself at this point, "I'm Ashley, two doors down, the negligent mother." Smile, smile. 

We return a few hours later, and I am chopping vegetables and talking to myself. It's lunchtime and Mateo has been cranky and clingy. I confess I must have completely blocked 18 months out of my head since Hannah - this phase where they have a body full up of emotions and so few words to express them.  So instead they throw their head back, fall on the ground, and cry huge loud elephant tears. And my mommy response does not feel gentle and kind and self controlled either. I want you to get up and pull yourself together and let me know what you need. The exposure this age brings to me of myself is not pretty. The reflexes that don't seem as quick (see above for exhibit a) this go round are trying me. 

I spread out the raspberries, cheese, ham, avocado and cheddar bunnies on your tray, and you receive it eagerly. I tell myself not to drag your seat to the living room so we can have a CNN update lunch, and instead I finish my salad and sit right across from your tray. I never know exactly what to do at these little lunch dates of ours. The silence is screaming but when I talk it sorta feels like talking to myself. And i don't even have the happy upbeat mommy voice thing. But I keep looking up at you, and I see you are glad to meet eyes. So i decide to sing a bit to you because i love to sing and you don't know yet how bad my voice is. You begin your version of singing right along with me. It's perfect. I see in your eyes the longing to connect, the hope for facetime, so i fully turn towards you and for some reason stick my foot up right to touch your sock foot and see our feet to feet. You think this is hilarious. You crack up each time i tuck my toes, you are grinning all the way across your chubby cheeks. And I think, good work, Ashley, way to resist Wolf Blitzer and stare at this beauty instead. And my body lets go a bit as I see that even without words you want to know my delight in you - you want to play together and you want to see my face see yours.  

All the exposure and all the imperfection is weighty to sit with, and in the same breath, the simplicity of forgiveness, the ease to reach joy seems quite miraculous. You forgive me for not catching you down the stairs. You forgive me for the cool responses i offered in return to your clings and whines of the morning. You share your joy so freely from our connection.  I am not advocating that I forget and repeat all my bad habits tomorrow - Only remembering that the other thing I blocked out about this season is this deep goodness in the play and joy.