Me and my son in June 2012
Meet my toddler, nicknamed Kung Fu Panda, for his remarkable "Kung Fu action grip" at birth and because, after his first bath, he came to me bundled in a panda blanket. Now, at 2 1/2, he continually surprises me with new accomplishments. The other day, when a pan grew too hot and started smoking, he dashed in, wearing his firefighter hat , and said, "Hi! I'm a fireman!" While his combination of interests, talents and physical characteristics is uniquely KFP, on a daily basis, much of what he is and does reminds me of my husband and myself.
Like his daddy, The Gryphon (nicknamed after the kindly storyteller in "Alice in Wonderland"), KFP has deep, brown, long-lashed eyes full of warmth and emotion. I claim his button nose and oval face, as well as his wide hobbit feet. He has his dad's tendency towards a strong upper body, and his honey-blonde curls blend our hair texture and color.
Our panda has a penchant for books, and reading to him only whets his appetite for more. There's a stash of children's books in every room, because he loves "reading" them to himself. He revels in words, and tries to spell with his magnetic letters, getting at least half the letters right. Shortly before Christmas, he surprised us by singing the Alphabet song, more or less perfectly.
His voracious reading, fed by frequent visits to the public library, reminds me of a story my parents relate. When I was KFP's age, I used to wake them each Saturday, carrying a stack of books and demanding, "Read to me."
Like his father, the Gryphon, KFP is a budding gamer. He's gotten so good at the jigsaw puzzles we gave him for Christmas that he put all four of them together without help, even when the pieces got mixed up.
In addition to honing his puzzle skills, KFP has been building increasingly more complex towers from the Duplo blocks he began "practicing" with at age 1 1/2. His most recent tower, he bragged, was "the tallest tower in the world… with flags!"
This, plus his unfailing interest in robots and dinosaurs, and his attempts to build a rocket-ship from Duplo blocks, indicate he's well on his way to becoming a science geek, just like his father and grandparents.
His love of music has become legendary, as I tell anyone who will listen how he kicked to the beat before he was born. Like me, his taste is eclectic, with his prenatal preferences leaning towards Stereolab, the blues, and the Beatles.
Yesterday, while helping me put new CDs in a case for the car, he chose Bach, the Beatles, a compilation album of space lounge music, and a live album by Jimi Hendrix (although I suspect he chose the Hendrix album for the flaming guitar).
I grew up listening to classical music alongside show-tunes, folk and rock. In college I discovered the blues, as well as jazz, reggae, and alternative rock. Music makes me happy, and when I have a difficult or unpleasant task, music makes the work easier.
My son sings along to any song he hears, becoming adept at memorization. He dances, and frequently plays along with his small collection of instruments: drums, shakers, a bell, harmonica and an ocarina. As a former first-chair clarinetist and longtime pianist, I look forward to the days when he, too, will learn to play an instrument.
I believe his exuberant activity comes from me, if only because of my parents' stories of how I climbed everything and babbled nonstop. I even spoke in my sleep. KFP is following suit: I've heard him exclaim while fast asleep, "My fire engine!"
The talkativeness, along with his independent streak, create challenges. Similarly, his impish sense of humor can sometimes test me. This morning, KFP asked me to pretend to be a dog, and when I barked, he said, "No, no, no, no, no, bad doggie" with a wicked grin. He did this until I licked him, and then he giggled.
I've been known to tweak the ones I love, stemming back to my childhood, inspiring this poem:
Why I Called You Stinky
I, the jealous, short-haired tomboy.
You were a flitting faerie princess.
Dancing in family photos,
you were afraid of ants.
Always inventing songs,
a delicate pixie, your punches
really, you smelled like
fresh grass and daffodils.
Having reached the magic age of 42, which as any Douglas Adams fan can tell you is the answer to the Ultimate Question of the Secret of Life, the Universe and Everything, it may seem odd that I'm introducing myself by describing my child. But of all the things I've ever done, he is the most amazing. Watching him develop and grow makes me believe he will be the most lasting and remarkable achievement of my life.
There's only one thing more to say, and I'll let my son tell you. One night while taking care of KFP, my husband mentioned me. With a cheerful voice that might have even sounded a little proud, KFP declared, "Mommy writes."