Anybody whose ever raised a toddler knows that it's exhausting.  They just!  So add all of our other issues: adoption, small house, culture shock, new parent struggles together and sometimes it's too much. TOO MUCH I TELL YOU!  Except that sometimes your kid is so ridiculously cute that you forget about all the other stuff.  Arnold likes to say that Elian pays us back in smiles. I present to you Exhibit A.

And sometimes when he is feeling extra generous he pays us back in other ways too.  Like for instance this weekend when he started calling me Mommy.  I KNOW!  BIG DEAL!  He actually calls me Mommy all the time, just not when I'm around.  Apparently when I'm gone, he calls for me incessantly, but when I'm home he resorts to my other name which is "A BUBUBYAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!"

It's hard to convey in print how high-pitched, whiny and irritating this sound is.  I'll let your imagination guide you. It's sufficient  to say it's not my favorite.  So you can guess how  surprised I was on Monday morning when I opened the door to our bedroom and was greated by a triceratopcito bouncing in his crib, holding out his arms towards me with expectant eyes and a sweet grin while calling "Mama, Mama, Mama!"

Oh kiddo, that payback was worth like a thousand tantrums.

But no, I think Elian is remembering how hard those first weeks were for all of us so he pulled out another trick from up his sleeve... his first words in English!

On Sunday as we were heading out to visit his Godparents we waved goodbye in a cloud of "Ciaos" and besitos and all manner of dramatic goodebying.   Life with toddlers is very dramatic. I threw in a "See you later" for good measure and we stepped out into the blessedly warm April sun.... and my sweet little dinousaur turned to me and said in an extremely clear voice.

"See you yater!"

It was too much for me.  I buried my face in tiny neck and strangled him with a bear hug.  His little body curled around me like a tiny koala and we stood there together on the front walkway basking in the wonder of it all.  When I looked up, he gave me a smile that only a parent gets to see.  The one reserved for the moment they know the one that loves them most is irrationally proud.  A hopeful smile that says "Did I really do good?  Is it true you love me?"

Oh sweetie, you did really good.  I'm so proud of you and you'll never, ever know how much I love you.

When I think of this moment in the future I know I'll remember it as one of the first times we felt like mother and son.  I'll remember standing there soaking in all his adorable softness and feeling a palpable connection forming between us: a thousand invisible strings tying my heart to his.  I'll remember his head resting contentedly on my shoulder and his impossibly tiny hands wrapped around my neck.  And I'll remember the moment we looked at each other with a mischievous grin  because we knew we couldn't keep the moment to ourselves.  So we had one last laugh together before running back in the house to share the moment with Daddy.

Posted on April 19, 2010 and filed under Livin la Vida Loca.