small and sturdy, fierce and tender, he is a study in contradiction.

he communicates his needs and his affections most effectively, but with the vocabulary of a child much younger.  his consonants are few, clearly a struggle, and he has only one or two regular word combinations.  he builds puzzles, though, that would challenge a four year old.  he claps for himself when he completes them, and turns his face to his audience, beaming.  he knows most of his letters, can spell his name, but cannot actually say it.  he is more beautiful than i ever imagined a boy could be.

he is closing in on two with a rapidity that astonishes me.  he slams doors, sometimes shutting himself in his room in the midst of a meltdown just to be alone.  when he is done, he is tearful, snuggly, ready for comfort.  he kisses his trains goodnight as he lays them down for “naps,” pounds out violent scales on his plastic piano.  he has a wicked, full-body laugh and lives at full speed.  handed a telephone, though, he is all saucer eyes, shy and full of wonder at the miracle of the disembodied voice.

his favourite word right now is “mine.”  the cat walks across his dinosaur puzzle?  an affront.  mine.  mama folds his laundered pyjamas in front of him?  what you’re touching, woman, is mine.   we spend the weekend at his cousins’ house playing with their train sets?  he’s convinced the cousins are the interlopers…and those fine toys?  mine.  he’s easy to find in a group, these days.  he is the child hugging things wildly to his chest, squawking like the seagulls from Finding Nemo.

he is an equivocal kid, though, when not protecting his worldly goods – and yours – from the preying eyes of other living creatures.  he will befriend anyone who makes an effort, eat anything from raw tofu to zoodles, depending on whether it’s me or the babysitter feeding him.  he is gentle with babies, likes to bedeck himself and other surfaces in stickers, and is taking an interest in flowers suddenly, now that pale green shoots are beginning to peek through the soil of our backyard.  he is learning to ride his new trike, though his feet don’t quite reach the pedals.  he prefers to be pushed than to do the work himself.

he is suddenly, so clearly, ours.

for the whole first year of his life, love him though i did – and deeply – he was foreign to me, other.  this blond, curly-headed male child who could not sleep in my arms, who would not sleep past six am, who was genial and yet a still water i could not seem to fathom without language…he was so utterly himself, so entirely unlike me, so not any of the permutations i’d imagined when envisioning the mother-child duo.  no more.  and he has not changed, barely at all.  he still looks like a changeling left in our dark-haired gene pool by fairies, still wakes at ungodly hours, still can tell me very little – in words – of what is in his heart.  but somewhere along the lines, somewhere in the long months of learning to tolerate dinosaur puzzles and repeat “please do not throw your food on the floor” with a smile on my face, i have come to forget all that i ever imagined of children before i had them, all i ever hoped for this boy other than that he be who he is.