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Theresa D'Angelo Headshot

To My Son and Daughter on Their Second Birthday

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Theresa D'Angelo

My Favorite 2-Year-Olds,

The other day, you were both a little grumpy after your nap, so I took out a photo album filled with pictures of the first few weeks after your birth. It's a real photo album -- not the kind you flip through on the iPad, but the old-school kind that you actually hold. I put it together during my last few days of maternity leave and haven't managed to make another one since. But we've taken lots of pictures, and someday, probably after you leave for college, I plan to put them all together in real albums so I can carry them around the house with me while I'm complaining to your dad about how you don't call home enough.

We look at photos of our family pretty often, but it was clear from your expressions that you didn't know who the teeny tiny babies were on the first page. When I explained, I'm not sure if you believed me at first, but there was a string of Ooooo!s and Whoa!s as you studied yourselves more closely. And then I saw a flash of recognition in your eyes. As we turned the pages, you blissfully pointed to those beautiful newborns and shouted your names, adding more Ooooo!s and Whoa!s -- although sometimes you mixed up who was who. You were fascinated. Those teeny tiny babies were YOU, and just look at YOU now. Your reaction captured my own feelings exactly, in the purest, most essential way.

Two. Crazy. When I think about all you accomplished from 1 to 2, I'm astounded. You learned to really talk -- to ask for what you want and tell us when you like it and when you don't. Especially when you don't. You learned to walk with confidence and to run and hop and spin. You learned yoga. You learned who that is looking back at you in the mirror. You learned to feed yourselves without getting most of it in your hair. You learned manners. You learned to sing "Puff The Magic Dragon," "Michael Row The Boat Ashore" and "Skidamarink." You even sort of learned to unload the dishwasher -- never mind whether the dishes are clean or dirty.

Just in the last few weeks, you've mastered your ABCs and counted way into the 20s. Every day we hear full, perfect sentences come out of nowhere, like "I want to sleep in Mommy's bed" and "Don't eat the Butt Paste." You've put on your own shoes, a couple times even getting them on the right feet. You've put on your pants, sometimes even frontways and with each leg in its own hole. You've even had some stunning success on the Elmo potty.

You have grown and learned and thrived together this year, and your mystical twin bond has become even more intense. You are each other's yin and yang, and you are lost without the other. But you've also each become even more your own person this year. I want to tell you more about what you're like today so we all can remember the specific kind of cool you were when you turned 2.

**

My sweet boy,

You get to be first this year even though you're 42 minutes younger -- Mommy tries really hard to be fair. You're an explorer, like your hero, Dora. We can never seem to keep you out of the junk drawer in the kitchen where we stash the car keys, crayons, take-out menus and a bunch of other random stuff. We've replaced the safety latch at least six times, but you always manage to bust in. The other day, you reached in, grabbed the car keys and darted toward the back door. When you got there, you turned around, waved and said, "See you, Mommy! See you, Daddy!" Then you turned the knob and opened the door.

Someday you will really walk out that door with the car keys in your hand. And you will drive away. But today, thank God, you're only 2. You are one hilarious little dude, and when you do something clever, you get this smirk on your face that is completely disarming. You make the same smirk when you're being naughty, which makes it nearly impossible to enforce the rules because we're trying so hard not to laugh. You get a kick out of trying to pin the blame on your sister, and if she's not around, you'll find someone else. Once you blamed Santa for drawing on the wall. Whenever someone stinks, especially if it's you, you blame Pop-pop.

You are fascinated by trucks and buses -- every time we pass one on the road, you alert us by saying, "Whoa, Mommy! Whoa, Daddy! Big truck!" You love tools, especially screwdrivers. You are a huge football fan already, signaling "Touchdown!" when our Giants score and chanting "Defense" when the other team has the ball. It's a love that seems to come naturally -- and not as a result of the dutiful brainwashing from your dad.

You sing all the time, randomly bursting into song and concocting peculiar medleys of your favorite tunes. Sometimes you sing your sister to sleep. The other week when she stayed home sick from school, you kept asking your teachers about her, and when you got home, you ran right over to the couch and sang her "Twinkle Twinkle."

You are always on a quest for information, asking "What is that?" and "How do it?" Then you want to "do it self" and swat us away if we try to give you a hand. You want to blow-dry Mommy's hair. You think you can handle Daddy's job, typing away at his computer as you pretend to make business calls. You're convinced you can fix the icemaker. You're sure you're ready to drive the car. This confidence will no doubt serve you well one day, but for now, we're putting another safety lock on the junk drawer.

**

My sweet girl,

The other day when we got home from school, we spotted a patch of wildflowers outside our house. You ran right over to them, squatted and gently ran your fingers over the petals, cooing, "Oh! Pretty!" I was mesmerized, as I so often am, by your sense of wonder, your ability to find complete delight in something so simple. "What color do you want, Mommy?" you asked, looking up at me pensively. It took me a few seconds to register what you'd just said, not because it wasn't crystal clear, but because it was the longest sentence you'd ever spoken, and in that moment, it felt so poetic. Never mind that the flowers were all purple.

You can hold your own with the boys in a game of football or throwing sticks, but you're a "girly girl" to the core. You like to wear your pink tutu and pink cowgirl boots and dip your finger in Mommy's face cream and spend 10 minutes carefully massaging it on your cheeks. You like to have your toes painted and your hair done. You like to feed your baby doll and cover her with a blanket and rub her back to help her sleep. We are especially proud of your kindness. Your teachers say that whenever anyone's upset at school, you run right over to try to console them -- especially if your brother's the one who's crying. When I had a bad cold, you took pure joy in holding my cup of lukewarm tea up to my lips while whispering "Mommy, drink."

That said, you definitely know how to lay down the law, and you make it clear when you "no yike" something. I have to let you choose the color of your hairband, even if we're in a rush, or you will throw yourself on the floor and bellow "I pick it" over and over again in protest. One piece of chocolate is never sufficient. More "choc-o-late," you demand, adding emphasis by using the sign language for "more" that you learned in school. You have something against the number nine, preferring to go straight from eight to 10, and you shoot a dismissive look when anyone tries to remind you of nine's existence. (The nerve!) You no yike the sea witch, CNN or the big potty. And it's completely unacceptable when you can't wear your Dora jammies because they're dirty.

You like to be the leader and people like to follow you. You are the first to initiate "Ring Around the Rosie" or a dance party. When you want something, you don't just answer "Yes" but issue an adamant "Yes I do!" I hope you always tackle every desire and dream with that sheer enthusiasm -- and I hope you always find wonder in a patch of purple wildflowers.

**

The two of you bring us more joy than you will be able to understand for a very long time. There are so many moments when Daddy and I just stare at each other, stunned. Two is going to bring more of them. It's going to bring all kinds of things we could never imagine. And one day, when we look at old family photos, I hope this letter gives extra life to each picture, offering the finer details of your magnificent toddler souls and revealing a love that only got bigger, when no one thought that could even be possible.

Love,
Mommy

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