Newsflash, girl: 2016 was not cool. Syria, Brexit, Zika, Orlando, Carrie Fisher, that guy in charge of America now (name’s not important), and the list of disappointments goes on. There’s no way around it – 2016 was a steaming pile of hot garbage in the history of the world.
But not in your world. You turned two just before 2016 ended, and by all accounts (i.e. most accounts; see previous paragraph) your second year on the planet was pretty darn sweet. Case in point: your Halloween costume was a pineapple. Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
And as god and Dora the Explorer are my witnesses, I am determined to remember Sweet ‘16. Even if it means remembering that Prince died (sob) and Hillary lost (weep). It’ll be worth it if it means remembering you, as you are right now, at two years old.
Rae Alice Murphy.
This morning, I asked you what your favourite colour was. You said: apple. Then I asked you what your favourite food was. You said: blue. It’s okay. I know you hit the bottle pretty hard last night.
Your favourite colour is yellow, formerly known as LELLOW. You’d look intently at my mouth and try your darnedest to follow direction and then, “Yaaaaaaaa LELLOW!” It was so adorable, I almost didn’t want you to ever get it right. But then you did.
Your favourite food is groceries. Okay, if I had to pick just one: apples. I have to hide the bowl of Granny Smiths on the counter under a cloth. If you ever meet a woman named Granny Smith, I fear for her life. If an apple keeps the doctor away, you are immortal.
Immortal indeed! On your second birthday, you wore a Wonder Woman shirt WITH A CAPE. It was a size 4, which is the size a 4-year-old usually wears. You are 33 pounds and tall. I want a shirt (WITH A CAPE, IT’S ONLY FAIR) that says, “My baby can kick your baby’s ass.” Just kidding, size only matters when your brother Max is deciding which half of a cookie to give you.
But if you’re a superhero, it’s probably Spiderman. Check it. Last summer, at 18 month old, you were watching Daddy play in a softball tournament. I took you home for a nap between games, but you just weren’t settling so I left you there to cry it out in your crib. As I washed the dishes downstairs, your cry got louder and louder, and closer and closer? Freaked out, I ran to the bottom of the stairs and there you were on the landing, sobbing and… UN-CRIBBED! You had escaped, even with the mattress at its lowest setting. There was no clunk on the floor, so I knew you hadn’t fallen. You had climbed! Or pried the solid oak bars open with your mini bingo wings and slipped out. That week you fast-tracked to a toddler bed with a super duper waterproof mattress cover. (Now if only you could graduate to the toilet.) Later that evening when I was telling Dad about your Olympic future in pole vault, you took me by the hand and led me to your crib. I tore the crime tape away, put you in, and in the blink of an eye you swung your chubby leg up over the side, hoisted yourself up, and used your webbed feet to slide down to the floor, where my jaw was now sitting as well.
Your favourite TV shows are Dora, Super Why, Horrid Henry, and Wanda and the Alien. (Netflix has changed our lives.)
Your favourite game is Hedbanz. Me: Am I am an animal? You: No, you’re a sandwich.
Your favourite movies are How the Grinch Stole Christmas and E.T.
You can say, “E.T. phone home.” When someone asks who you’re gonna call, you know the answer… Ghostbusters! And when Max built a Lego helicopter last month, you shouted “Get to the choppa!”
Your vocab is off the charts. Your aunt Kim who happens to be a speech language pathologist/doctor/professor (FYI feel free to follow in her footsteps) confirms it – you’re the next Cicero, or Pericles, or (please please pleeeeeease) Gloria Steinem.
A few weeks back when Max was in the tub, I had to pull you out of the bathroom kicking and screaming, “I want to touch Max’s vagina!” When I corrected you on the body part name you took note and yelled, “I want to touch Max’s peanut!” You kill me.
There are monsters in your room. You said Max told you. He denies it, but I’m suspicious. Just last week he got upset when I wouldn’t let him go into your room to save you from the creatures that looked an awful lot like your bathrobe and towel hanging on the hook. I finally gave in. He put his arm around you and said, “I never want you to be afraid of anything, Rae.” (Sounds guilty to me!)
You’re going to be a doctor when you grow up. At least that’s what you told my friend, Cecilia, while waiting for me in the Panera Bread parking lot. We toasted your future with a turkey apple cranberry on multigrain.
You do like giving examinations with your doctor’s kit. But what’s up with the constant needles in my face? Maybe plastics will be your specialty. Free botox, yasssssssss.
You might want to get potty-trained first though, Doc McPoopins. Imagine how long it’ll take you to scrub in if you keep using your pants as a toilet and sticking your hands down there. Last week you were excited to wear panties around the house for the first time. Disney princess panties! “Don’t pee on the princess,” I said. You peed on the princess.
You can count to 20, but usually get tangled up around 14.
Speaking of tangles, OMG YOUR HAIR. It’s reddish goldish brown and wavy and unruly and great for catching bats.
Your eyes are dark brown like coffee beans. Your father, Van Morrison, says you’re his brown-eyed girl. You’ve really nailed the stink-eye though, assisted by your big, magnificent eyebrows. These brows will come in handy as you question everything forever.
You have the most jubilant trot. Every stomp (not step – STOMP!) shakes the mugs in the cupboard. You walk to the bookcase or toy box like you’re the next contestant on The Price is Right and you’ve been waiting your whole life to play Plinko.
You love books! Max reads to you. That’s why I waited 5+ years to have you, so Max could do all the work. GENIUS. Currently your favourite story is Jack and the Beanstalk.
Max also taught you how to play “Daddy Goes to Hockey” on the ukulele. Dad and I have resigned to the fact that we will never have a family band.
Your favourite toy is MAX’S LEGOS. Especially the ones that he has already assembled.
You are fascinated by nature. Snow, birds, puddles, and “The moon! The moon!” One morning as we were leaving the house you asked me if I could see “the hun”. You meant the sun. You’re hill (still) learning to make the S hound (sound). It was a beautiful winter morning and you helped me see it. Sometimes it’s hard to see the sun even when “it’s cold enough to turn you into a popsicle.” (Simile provided by Max while I was proofreading this piece, to replace something about a brass monkey.)
You’ve taught me so much already, like this fun fact: It takes about 6-9 months to grow back a toenail. You lost the nail on your right big toe this summer after squatting it in the door. It’s almost grown back now and looks totally badass.
You like wearing make-up NOOOOOO ya don’t. But you grab my make-up brushes when I’m getting ready for work, and I tickle your face with the bristles. More than once I’ve caught you putting my deodorant on your armpits – on the outside of your shirt. When you’re a bigger girl, you’ll probably have your own lipgloss or something (so yummy, right?) Your body is your own, and if you want to have fun with make-up, I’ll help you. Also feel free to save your make-up money for books and puzzles. Just a suggestion.
You love trying on hats and shoes. Sometimes you wear Max’s old hockey helmet around the house just for fun.
When Dad and Max go to the basement to play hockey, you say “I play hockey too!” You grab your stick and put your boots on the wrong feet and go downstairs to run about, occasionally taking breaks to lean up against an old mattress and suck your thumb.
YOU SUCK YOUR THUMB. A lot. So much, it should have been the first thing on this list.
You like going to the arena to watch Max play hockey NO YOU DON’T. You go there to run around like a wind-up toy, put your mouth directly on the water fountain, and eat stray Timbits off the floor.
When someone sings “Hush Little Baby”, which ends with the line “You’ll still be the best little girl in town,” you promptly correct them with “best little girl IN THE WORLD!” Go big or go home, says you.
But try and be polite, huh? We were at a store recently and you were there in your stroller, arms outstretched like you were flying. A nice man saw how cute you were and asked, “Are you an airplane?” “No, I’m a bumblebee!!!” you corrected him, with the face of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. He apologized and moved along. Sin.
You’re sure not afraid to ask for what you want. Whether it’s a snack, a toy, or my iPhone, you say “I want it. I neeeeeeed it.” Sometimes you lay on the persuasion with “One more time?”(which you never mean) or “Just a little bit?”(also a lie) and “Pleeeeease?” (damn it!) in a voice that weakens even the strongest resolve. Here, just take everything. You win. You’ll be a great leader one day. “I want that report on my desk in 24 hours,” said President Murphy. “And I’ll have that apple on your desk too.”
You logged your second plane ride in 2016. We went to Ontario to visit family and friends. Aunt Robin kept buying you things bigger than our suitcase and her boyfriend, Frank, let you eat ketchup chips for breakfast. My friends’ 11-year-old daughters, Ainsley and Avery, put on a fashion show with you as their wee model! Your looks included geisha, blue-haired umbrella girl, and local Oshawa gal in belly top, leggings, and heels.
Everywhere we went on our vacation, you talked to strangers. (It’s okay, I was with you, but let’s have the stranger danger talk real soon, k?) While shopping, you forced eye contact with total randos and said things like, “I’m shopping with my mommy!” “Good for you,” they’d reply. On the airplane, you announced, “I’m on a big airplane!” just in case someone thought we were on a magic bus in the clouds. You offered a grape to the young man in the next seat; he accepted. (I was dreading you offering him a cube of wet cheese.) While in the checkout line at the store, you looked at a couple standing behind us and said, “I’m a pineapple!” They looked amused slash confused so I had to explain: Halloween. You make friends wherever you go.
We even went to a seniors’ home for a craft sale and charmed the pants off a couple residents who were sitting in the lobby. As we were leaving, I suggested you give one of the ladies a hug goodbye. (Old people make me weak.) You promptly marched up to her and gave her a big hug and kiss. She couldn’t have looked more delighted if she had just made out with Elvis Presley.
You are a fearless performer. I facetimed you from the m5 boardroom a few weeks ago when I was working late and you gave my bosses, Kim and Gary, an impromptu performance of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. They both died of cuteness overdose and now I have to run the company myself.
You’re well versed in all the classics and demand them in succession at bedtime, pulling your thumb out just long enough to shout: Row, Row, Row Your Boat! Rockabye Baby! Old MacDonald had a farm! You Are My Sunshine! Etc. You also sing some tune called “I love you” that Poppy taught you, that includes the line “it’s a sin to tell a lie.” Must be some weird Catholic tune that condemns you to hell or something. (JK, Pop.) I think it’s time to shake up this trad train. Gotta give Gaga a go. Or maybe we could try Metallica’s version of Hush Little Baby. It’s called Enter Sandman. LOL.
Not all your songs are traditional though. You like to sing “Dumb Ways to Die,” (based on the popular PSA for train safety, now also a game on Max’s iPad), which Poppy overheard and thought you were singing, “Don’t wait to die.” YOIKES. Darn tune is as catchy as heck, so I can’t blame you for singing it at the airport in Toronto as we were about to board our flight. But remind me not to teach you the word “bomb.”
We had a great first summer at our new house. We got you a water table for the back deck, which you proceeded to climb into, clothes and all. Gonna need a pool next year, I guess. A small one. Like, super small. One downfall of our new life in the suburbs: our backyard is an amoeba.
You also made your first snowman a few weeks ago! The snow wasn’t sticky enough, so I carved a picture of a snowman in the snow-covered ground. You stuck the carrot right in the middle of him, so Frosty ended up with a chubby instead of a nose.
You are very independent. You like putting on your boots yourself. If I do it for you, you rip them off in a huff and put them on again yourself. Needless to say, getting ready in the morning is very efficient and enjoyable. You like brushing your teeth by yourself too because Dad works at the dental clinic and you want to make him proud YEAH RIGHT YOU LIKE EATING TOOTHPASTE AND YOU KNOW IT!
You’re a tough cookie, so I was surprised when you were unsure of your new daycare at first. On the way there last week, you kept saying “I don’t like daycare” over and over in the backseat. I had to bribe you to go inside with cheese. We are so related. You’re content there now though. The girls at daycare say you’re the first responder when another child is upset. And yesterday you amused them by shouting “Get to the choppa!” while eating your lunch.
Your best friend is Wayne Murphy. I know, who names their kid Wayne anymore, am I right? He’s 71 but about 7 at heart, so it works. When Nanny walks into our house, you look right past her and say “Where’s Poppy?”
When Poppy dropped us off at the airport and you realized he wasn’t coming on the plane with us, your lip started to quiver and your eyes filled up with tears. We had never seen you like that. Nan and I had hearts so heavy, it’s a wonder the plane got off the ground.
I was Poppy’s Girl too (RIP Jack Stagg whose wool socks I’m wearing right now!), so I get it. “Are you daddy’s girl?” people ask you. “No, Poppy’s girl!” you clarify with that stink-eye we know and love. Poppy cries on the spot when you say something adorable. Please don’t kill him with your sweetness; we need him to keep babysitting you.
Sometimes I think about your other Poppy, and how unfair it is that he’s not here to enjoy you, and you him. But Poppy Murphy is doing such a great job (and Nanny Rosena and Nanny Shirley, too), and I know Poppy Jim would be so very thankful for that. So I don’t get sad about it much at all. Not anymore.
You may only be two but you’re the most compassionate person I know. When someone stubs their toe, you first exclaim “awwww” and then rush over to kiss it. Lips or feet, friend or stranger, your love is blind. (Again, let’s schedule that stranger danger talk.) “All better now?” you ask. Your sweetness really does ease the pain. See? You really are going to be a doctor.
Daddy had a really bad back this year. “It’s okay, Daddy. I right here,” you said, and our hearts exploded all over the living room. Dad and I share many a knowing glance. How sweet is this child?, our eyes say. Our eyes also say, how could two twits like us have made something so glorious? It’s quite possible you’re from another dimension. Planet Pineapple, perhaps.
I think you’ve dodged the “turbo ginger” gene, unlike your brother. It’s true – you’re a hugger, a snuggler, and a midnight cuddler. (Max used to hug knives and matches.) But you’ve shown some unusual feist these last couple of weeks – pulling a glass bowl of apples off the counter, yelling things like “I didn’t want dat!” and “I didn’t know dat!” even though we have no idea what you’re referring to. I think, with all your sweetness, I forgot what toddlerhood is really like. So I guess it’s begun. 2017 is going to be fun, and also “fun.”
Bring on the terrible twos; we can handle it. We’ll still enjoy the sweetest moment of the day when you’re back in my arms after work. You take a deep breath and sigh away all the cares of the world as you snuggle into my neck – thumb in your mouth, hand down my shirt, eyes closed, problems nil. In our circle of family and friends, this is famously called “boo-boo time.” Sometimes while grocery shopping, you pull me down toward you, my elbows leaning on the shopping cart handle, so you can cop a feel. I’m squeezing Sobeys’ oranges and you’re squeezing mine. Okay fine, mine are lemons, whatever. Half the city has seen my produce I DON’T EVEN CARE.
You are generous. As much as you love food, you will give away your last cracker without hesitation. You gave your birthday money to twin girls from Deer Lake who needed it more than you. (Rest in peace, sweet Autumn.) Maybe every year you can do something special like that. People say it’s not fair to deprive you of your rightful gifts, but I see this gesture as a gift to you in the first place. Just because everyone has done things a certain way forever doesn’t mean you need to do it that way. Question everything, girl. Use those eyebrows. There is often a better way.
Max adores you. Except the time he discovered his Minecraft Xbox game was broken and all signs pointed to NOT THE DOG. Just remember this when you’re older and maybe not so lovey-dovey: your brother is the only one you’re ever gonna have, and you might need him for spare parts or something. Dad got the ol’ snippity-snip a few weeks back. I’ll explain that if you don’t know what that means when you read this one day. Basically, you’re always gonna be my baby. Even when/if you have babies of your own.
You won’t remember much of your second year on earth. And maybe that’s okay, because it means you won’t be haunted by the yucky parts of 2016: terrorism, police shootings, Gord Downie’s brain tumor, and did I mention that buttmunch running the US now? Yeah. Ew. So much ew.
Maybe I won’t remember the details either. I won’t recall the squishy roundness of your face, or that bananas are lellow, or the way you tucked your head into my neck and all was right with the world. I know those details will leave me, because I’ve come this way once before with Max. It hurts. A beautiful kind of pain.
But I promise you, I will remember what it was like to have a little girl in the year 2016. Oh, how I root for you. Your presence here and your future up ahead have taught me to be more aware today, more tuned in to a world where many don’t want you to succeed. It taught me to be more honest, more kind, more realistic and optimistic at the same time. It made me want to be the kind of woman you can look up to, not just because I’m your mom. I want to be that person who takes the time to snuggle, or dance like a chicken, or talk about weird stuff, or write you a 10-page letter on your birthday.
I know this simple sweetness won’t last forever. You’re going to change, and things will get complicated, and you’ll have bigger problems than your boots on the wrong feet. I was a girl once too, and still am in some ways (stop laughing). I’ll yearn for these quiet moments when the world just melted away. That’s what makes me lean over that shopping cart to give you full range of my meagre dairy section. Because I know this wonderful ridiculous thing has an expiry date.
So yes, 2016 wasn’t exactly a shining moment in history. (And 2017 is looking like a rotting, worm-infested moose carcass so far as well.) But for you, last year was pretty great. And hopefully by the time you’re reading this, we’ll have cleaned this whole mess up and be shaking our heads at the blunders of 2016 the way we do at VHS tapes and hoop skirts and uranium dirt sitting. (“Was that even a thing?”) And you’ll be standing there in your adult-size pineapple costume BECAUSE WHY NOT, with the roads (plural) stretched out before you in all directions. And if things are still crap and people are still hurting, then I hope you’ll be one of the brave ones. Don’t get to the choppa, girl. Stay right here and fight.