Photos snapped seconds apart in time.
We've been having an up and down time with Elan lately. On the one hand, he is completely delightful, interacting in new ways with us, with language, with music, focus, imagination, making up stories that always seem to feature the line "suddenly, a storm came!" And on the other hand, he is impossibly difficult, fighting us over every little thing, turning a simple request into an epic power struggle and exhausting Mikhail and me with his defiance.
Tomorrow he turns 3 and a half, and it's clear that some major internal struggle is going on inside him. He wants to be a big boy, and he doesn't. One moment he runs up the stairs, sets up his potty seat, and proudly poops on the toilet unprompted. The next moment he refuses to talk in anything except baby-talk, frustrating even the simplest exchanges. One day he cleans up his toys and revels in getting a star sticker; the next day, he refuses to help us pick up his trains, stubborn even against the threat of them getting taken away (a threat we of course then have to follow through with).
He's testing us, that's for sure. But he also seems to be testing himself, trying to calibrate some internal compass: is he ready to be a big boy or does he still want to be a baby? And I'm sure that the difficult nature of the last few months, my retreat from normal life to my bed while grappling with morning sickness, is part of his insecurity. So now I try to reassure him that I'm really here, and part of that is keeping my temper while being very firm with him, even when I'm feeling crappy and would rather just let things slide. However, I keep reminding myself that I want some of these systems in place before the baby comes. So that even when there is the inevitable backslide post-baby, we'll at least have a history of things like clean-up time, quiet time, toilet training, to fall back on.
When I step back from the inevitable frustrations of this age, I can really appreciate how incredible it is to get to watch another human being develop. And to have influence over that development (though Elan's strong personality is always reminding me the limits of my influence).
There are times I get overwhelmed by the thought of having another child when this one is already such a (beautiful, delightful) handful. At those times I comfort myself with the knowledge that at least the baby won't come out knowing how to yell "No, poop!"