As Ethan continues to inch his way to two (and, yes, I'm going to be in an obnoxious level of disbelief until his birthday, on which I'll likely move on to being a puddle of tears), I'm noticing that he's constantly the oldest child in all of the playgroups. The oldest child at all of the playdates. I realized on the way home from a mommy and baby lunch date that Ethan has an entire group of friends who he refers to as "baby" so-and-so, always tacking the "baby" on beforehand, like it's part of their name. Ethan is particularly fond of his "baby" friends, and he goes to sleep at night still giggling about the silly things they do, like drink from babas or eat puffs or take their first wobbly, unsure steps. He is particularly attached to a baby doll that was part of our tot school curriculum, often explaining to me that it's doing some of the same things he saw his baby friends do. Of course, Ethan still has quite a few friends his age and we still are enrolled in My Gym classes (until we die, or age out, which I hope happens first -- we're My Gym addicts over here!) with other children his age. It's just that slowly, the older children are all going to daycare or starting school or becoming big siblings to needy, demanding newborns and playdates are hard to plan with everyone's changing schedule as these once-babies become little people with needs. Sometimes I think I need to do something about that, like look for additional classes where Ethan can socialize on a regular basis with peers, since Ethan won't be starting school until he's four, the year before kindergarten begins. Other times, I think I'm overanalyzing this completely (what else is new?) and his same-age playdates with his best buddies, even if they're fewer now than before, and our current classes are more than enough. And maybe he just likes babies because they're neat and small and funny and he's obsessed with being a big boy now. Maybe I'm just noticing because of that awkward-nudge-nudge-hey-he-likes-babies thing people do whenever Ethan smiles at his baby friends (I just want to ask "what would you like him to do? Push the babies to the ground and stomp on them instead?").
Either way, our days have been saturated with mommy and Ethan time and I am his constant playmate at the park, or at Target for a two hour round of hat-trying-on, and I'm selfishly not in any need for that to change. I wake up excited about the adventures the world has in store for the two of us. Still, my mind is a little bit in a guilty overdrive, trying to figure out if I should find Ethan and I another weekly mommy and me class or playgroup with other toddlers to play with regularly, when we can't make playdates happen with his friends due to all of our busy schedules -- even if I'm selfishly hesitant to infringe on our mommy and Ethan time. (Also, toddlers totally have legitimate schedules. I never realized this until I tried to set a chiropractor appointment and realized that my kid's social life is taking up all of the room in my Erin Condren planner. Mine? Well, not so much. I'm wearing the same pants for the third day in a row.) Anyway, I'd like to know when the worrying stops, from the "has he eaten enough today?" to the "am I royally screwing him up yet?" Never, you say? Oh, motherhood.
Lately, Ethan has been wielding his "mister independent" attitude. We've been staying dry by practicing walking the mall without a stroller in the morning. Something about staying disciplined enough to hold my hand and we can ride the trains two times and see the dog mannequins at Old Navy. It's been going great until the last few times when he assures me that he can run through the mall like a crazy person because he's a "big boy." "Ethan, big boy," and he proclaims this while putting his chubby little hand on his chest and looking at me like I should know better, like I should assume once we walk through those mall doors I am following his lead. This has led to several battle of wills, him not wanting to get up from his sprawled out protest stance on the mall floor and me not willing to leave him to walk the mall himself (imagine that!). As they are happening, I realize that I am two high-pitched screams away from laying down on the mall floor myself, kicking and screaming out of the same dire frustration. As they pass, as we ride home in the car or move onto the next activity, I am reminded how quickly time flies and how I blinked and my baby is almost two.