Dexter Ian is sixteen months old today.
Well, folks, we skipped fifteen months. We were deep into all of the logistics of moving and getting rid of our stuff and securing paperwork and I’m pretty sure we were also visiting family and I was sick as hell…. it just didn’t happen. It is my deep hope that Dexter will emotionally recover from this oversight.
So, strap in. We have a lot of ground to cover.
Dexter speaks! He says: Mama, Dada, baba (bottle), apple, uh-oh, gentle, bye-bye and hello, which is my personal favorite because he pronounces it “hewwo” and it is ADORABLE. See?
He barks at dogs and roars when he sees a tiger. Dex doesn’t yet say “no” but he shakes his head to refuse things all the time, so once he learns that word, I know we’ll hear it a lot. His vocabulary is growing but he’s not great at applying words properly – his meaning of “mama” is a Venn diagram that covers me and sometimes Matt and also “I want this thing,” and Dexter almost never successfully says bye-bye when actually leaving someone. He waits till they’re gone.
Dex is mastering (sort of) a fork and spoon. It started with me putting the food on there and handing it to him but he’s recently shown a strong interest in stabbing his own food. He LOVES that part, and will sometimes stab the crap out of it excessively, for no real reason.
During our last week visiting family up north, I looked at Dexter and said, “Kid, you know what? You used to wave all the time and now you never do. I haven’t seen you wave in probably a month and a half. I miss it,” and I swear to you, he’s been waving on the regular ever since. Apparently, sometimes he does take requests.
Dexter is really, really into dogs. He barks at them when he sees them, and when we were staying with Matt’s folks, he was both obsessed with and terrified by their lab mix, Luke. Luke is taller than Dex and Dex spent the whole visit gradually working up his courage to interact with the dog. The last couple of days, he successfully approached and petted Luke. It was, of course, adorable.
He did even better with Lola, the dog belonging to our friends who we stayed with when we were stranded in Florida. Lola is more his size and they were good pals, playing together and fighting over toys and even snuggling a little.
I’m certain Dex will be one of those boys who grows to resent his allergic-to-dogs mother because it means he can’t have one. Sorry, buddy.
Dexter is displaying some distinctly Matt-and-me characteristics. As a kid, I was serious and curious, with a big imagination and a strong desire to explore. Matt was gregarious and energetic, full of energy and into everything. Dexter is exhibiting traits from both columns and while it’s great to see, holy crap, it is EXHAUSTING. He’s constantly pulling things down or out or lifting them up, testing and inspecting and fiddling and throwing and sometimes even licking them. Unfortunately, Dex also inherited both of his parents’ tendencies for stubbornness, and he also happens to be pretty much fearless. So when we tell him not to lick the hotel remote control or play with the electrical outlets or for the love of all that is holy, would you leave the trash can alone, that’s the 14th time you’ve reached inside in the past hour, Dexter DOES NOT LIKE IT.
So Matt and I say “No! Don’t touch that!” a lot and then have discussions about being more specific about our feedback and trying not to say “No” so much lest it become (more) meaningless and I don’t know, man. We’ll see how this goes.
On that topic, he hasn’t mastered holding hands, which is making our current lifestyle of increased walking and crowded streets pretty scary. Today, though, for the first time, Dexter grabbed my hand and pulled me somewhere he wanted to go so I have hopes we’ll develop.
Dex is a shameless flirt, and he’s also a chick magnet, so everyone feels the love. There are meaningful stares and charming grins and waves and sometimes, if the lady is really lucky, kisses. I’ve lost count of how many strangers have commented some version of, “Well, HE’S going to break hearts someday, isn’t he?”
Right now, our family is just starting down this crazy path as expats in the UK. The beginning is always the hardest part, and Matt and I are under a lot of stress, trying to secure housing and juggling our funds and working towards sleeping through the night. (Matt is doing better than me on that final item.) And it’s really, really easy to find ourselves thin on patience toward Dexter. He’s at the aforementioned stubborn/curious phase which, bluntly put, means he makes everything more difficult because he never wants to be still, we have to constantly police that he won’t plunge down the stairs or sprint into traffic, and he touches and moves every single items he comes across. When living out of suitcases in a cramped hotel… well, it’s not him being naughty, it’s him acting like a toddler, but it’s still stressful. But it’s also a chance for me to really, really stretch my mommy skills. I’m constantly reminding myself and Matt – Dexter has no idea what’s going on. He’s sleeping in a pack-n-play on a hotel floor in a strange country. We’ve uprooted his sleep schedule and taken him away from his network of aunts and aunties and adopted uncles and even his little daycare friends, and we have no way to explain to him why.
So I feel guilty.
But I also feel optimistic. Through all this, Dexter remains the sunny, intelligent boy he’s always been. He grins, he waves, he’s an entertainer forever obsessed with making people smile and laugh. At least once a day, Matt and I look at him and say, “We are SO PROUD OF YOU. This is a big change. Your mom and dad are struggling with it. But you are doing SO, SO GREAT.”
Because it’s true.
And one day, Dexter will understand that it’s all for him.