Wally V likes things to be exactly as they should be, in their proper places. If a cabinet is open, he yells at us and points until we close it. If we open the microwave to take food out and it scrolls “Press Start” instead of displaying the time, the world must stop until we press the clear button. Only when the numbers are in their proper place will he continue with his lunch.

It must be hard to be 19 months old. Sometimes I feel like we’re living with a little Charlie Chaplin. Wally can clearly understand everything we say—if I tell him he shouldn’t cry when he goes to see his Uncle Joe (separation anxiety), he rubs his nose because he remembers that for the entire hour that fateful day, Uncle Joe wiped his runny, sad little nose while he cried and cried. So he understands and has a powerful enough mind to be able to recall things that happened a while ago, but he can’t talk about things. Besides elaborate gestures and the few words and signs he knows, he is stuck.

Although, with those signs, words, and gestures, he does an amazing job telling us what he wants sometimes. Every morning now, I get him out of his crib when he’s up and we play in his room until his dad wakes up. During that time, we’ve fallen into a routine the past week: I sit in the rocker, and he promptly shakes his head no and points to the ottoman. I move to the ottoman, and he laughs and climbs in the rocker to read a few books.

This reminds me of something his Auntie LizE said—do you ever stop and think, a 19 month old is telling me what to do? Like, come on, kid, you’re 19 months old. You don’t get to tell me where to sit! Which further reminds me of his Auntie Jane, who said every time her son (WV’s cousin) Grady gets something he wants (whether he was whining for it or it was something simple like his sippy cup of water), he laughs a throaty, high to low “ha ha”. It drives her crazy—the taunt of a two year old, who she has to give things to all day and who taunts her with his little sweet baby voice every time. (I just picture her cringing, like she must have done when her brother W4 picked on her growing up. I picture her trying to find a way to give Grady his sippy cup of water without him seeing her give it to him—like by setting it on the ground somewhere that he’ll just find it, trying to avoid the “ha ha”. Then, I picture him finding it and laughing that little two-toned wonderful laugh anyway.)

But Jane and I know, as a mom, you just do these things. You sit on the ottoman, because you know there will be bigger battles later in the day where you won’t take his orders. (No, Wally, you can’t stand on the couch. No, Wally, I can’t make Buttercup go in the fort with you or Ellie look out the window with you. No, Dad won’t keep on laying there while you use his abdomen as a trampoline.) Yes, I will sit on the ottoman, every time.

But I’ve noticed that WV is a lot less demanding if he understands there will be an order to things. Like closed cabinets and times on microwaves, if things follow the expected order, he’ll go with it. Tonight he was demanding book after book (another demand I’ll always fulfill), and I finally told him that after A Mother for Choco, we’d go upstairs to bed. As soon as the book closed, he stood up and walked to the stairs.

On the way up, I asked him to say goodnight to his dad (usually meaning a wave or a kiss). For the first time, his little froggy voice said “Nigh nigh.” We gave him lots of hugs and praise and kisses for his new word. And I could see it dawning on him—maybe this talking thing has something to it…

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