"Write about Yousef," she answered when I asked her for a topic. I was sitting in front of an empty blog post page having just published my last piece. I was out of ideas and reached out to Jannah-Rae who was sitting next to me on the couch "doing Reading Rainbow" on the iPad. I thought it would be interesting to see what she would propose. The last post was about her and she had seen her photo, so she was wonderful in suggesting I write about her brother next.
"What about Yousef?" I pressed. I wanted to better understand her idea and use it as a starting point.
"About how he doesn't listen all the time," came back her response.
I smiled, I giggled, I laughed. She followed suit. In all her innocence Yousef's rebellious almost two year old ways are a worthy topic of recording, and I cannot but agree that they are. At the risk of being charged with comparing my two kids together, I have to say that Jannah-Rae was an angel of a two-year old. She listened, followed directions and had few, if any, tantrums and meltdowns. She was sweet and charming and very pleasant to be around. Yousef, while also a wonderful companion, is certainly very different.
Yousef's personality came about like a volcano, silent and peaceful one day, and loud and destructive the next. The easygoing tag-along toddler became an inquisitive boisterous almost two year old. Once content with the toys in front and around him, now the entire world is his toy, nothing is out of reach or out of bounds. While JR would sit next to me in the kitchen while I cooked and busy herself with the plastic-ware, Yousef would not leave any cabinet unopened. And should he not be able to reach something, he would grab the stepping stool, set it up and proceed. He pushes the chairs around to get to the light switches, and climbs on books and boxes to get taller.
With Jannah-Rae there were no gates, no toilet locks, no "out of bounds" areas. With Yousef, on the other hand, we were introduced to physical boundaries. Some days I think that he would not hesitate to climb into the dryer if he could. Toys and trash end up in the toilet, JR's art work and school work end up in the recycling bin. And should he see something of interest in the garbage he doesn't think twice about fishing it out and exploring it: one day it was an empty chocolate container, he wanted to have some, another it was an empty Starbucks cup, he proceeded to drink from it, a third it was an expired food item that got tossed in its packaging, he attempted to open it.
"Not everything needs to be touched, Yousef," instructed Jannah-Rae while we were browsing the kitchen store. Of course Yousef did not heed. The next thing I hear is a ceramic plate swirling and twirling on the floor. My first thought was, "there goes $35 down the drain." Yousef had picked up an expensive dish, called out "ball" and threw it down. Luckily, it was sturdy and did not break. Unfortunately that brought an end to our outing.
Then there were the times he picked up a Godiva chocolate bar and a Nutella snack box from the stands near the cash registers opened them up and started eating them. Of course I then had to pay for them and take them away from him.
"Did we buy that," Jannah-Rae would ask every other time we leave a store. What she would be referring to is the item Yousef would be holding in his hand unknown to me. It might be a plush toy, a bag of M&Ms or a bar of soap. The decision then becomes whether to let him keep it for the drive home and return it to the store on the next visit, or leave it behind in the cart while distracting him with another toy.
There are also the knock down drag out scenes at home, and elsewhere. A complete and utter meltdown over not getting or not wanting. The screams that pierce the ears, the tears that flow. The crouching to the ground, head between the knees, legs tucked underneath. The laying on the floor, face down, arms and legs flagged out. The arched back, the stiff body. There is the defiance, the repeated requests that are met with a "no," the "make me do it if you can" looks.
But then there are the times when he is loving and lovable. There are the hugs and kisses, the snuggles and cuddles, the hand holding and pant grabbing. There are the two hands that hold my face in place while they plant a kiss on my lips. There is the head that turns to me when I ask him for a kiss. There are the "hold me mama", his arms outstretched towards me. There are the "do not put me down, mama" his legs grabbing my waist. There are the "I am tired mama" his head resting on my neck. And the "it's bedtime mama" laying on my chest, his arm reaching through the neck of my shirt. There are the laughs and the giggles, the smirks and grins, the looks and the smiles. There are the eyes that sparkle and the lashes that shine. There is the (double) chin and the doughy neck. There is the soft hair, and the smooth skin. There is the chocolate mouth and the beet lips. There is his warm body next to mine in bed, reaching out to me while he sleeps. There are his lips that kiss mine in the midst of sleep, and his cheeks that touch mine just the same. There is cuteness and mischievousness, affection and tenderness. There is love and warmth and presence. There is Yousef: the best son in the world!