- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2002

It's natural, I guess, for parents to want their children to grow up quickly, which is why many of us are so quick to gush praise over them: "You're getting so big, Johnny," or, "I can't believe these clothes are too small. I just got them two weeks ago."

My wife, Lisa, and I are no different with our 2-year-old, Jeremy. He is growing up quickly. I think all second children are like that. We focus so completely on recording every milestone and achievement with our firstborns that the second ones just fly through those stages without our even noticing sometimes.

Jeremy left the infant stage long ago. Now he's in that second awkward period, the one between toddlerhood and little-boy-hood, or whatever comes after toddlerhood. He considers himself very much a big boy, and in many ways, he is. In many other ways, though, he's still strapped to toddlerhood.

His speech is the biggest giveaway.

He's miles ahead of where Sean was at his age. Sean didn't really start to talk until well after his third birthday. We even had him in speech therapy for a while, although in retrospect, I think the real problem was that he couldn't hear very well. We had tubes put in Sean's ears last year, and the result was instantaneous.

Jeremy, on the other hand, started talking much earlier. He turns 3 next month, but he has been talking most of this past year. His stuttering, we're told, happens to many young talkers when their brains simply work faster than their mouths.

So we're in the grin-and-bear-it stage that anybody who lives with a stutterer understands smiling and waiting patiently while Jeremy tries to get out what he wants for lunch or for playtime. Fortunately for us, the stuttering is receding already, but Jeremy still trips over the word "I," and as luck would have it, 90 percent of his sentences seem to start with I.

He also can't handle too many similar consonants in close proximity. Bob the Builder to him is "Bod the Builder." Fruity Pebbles cereal becomes "Fruity Petals." For some reason, he thinks Lisa drinks "foffee" for breakfast instead of coffee.

Lisa worries that he might be colorblind. He knows the names of all his colors blue, red, green, yellow, brown, orange, purple. He just doesn't know what any of them are. Any of them. He knows his alphabet (to the point where he can recite entire pages of "Dr. Seuss' ABCs"); he can count to 20 and sometimes beyond; and he is starting to learn his states, thanks to a wooden-puzzle map of the United States that Sean got for Christmas. He even can pronounce California correctly, which explains why we can't fathom why he can't get "coffee."

But his colors? Nope. Not even close. One day he'll correctly say that I'm wearing a red shirt, but Lisa, who is wearing the exact same shirt (a long-sleeved University of Maryland national championship shirt Go Terps) is wearing "blue." Aargh.

Potty-training is another awkward stage for him. I wrote recently that he was well on his way to being fully potty-trained. That was two months ago. He still is.

Oh, he'll go on the "big potty." We even have discarded the little potty we put out for him. He tells us when he has to go, and he even can pull down his pants. He'll wear regular "big-boy underwear," but he prefers diapers. He won't wear pull-ups. Ever.

Taking him out of the house in "big-boy underwear" is still an adventure. We went to the park at the end of our street the other day with Jeremy in regular underwear. He told me he had to go potty. I raced home as fast as I could, carrying him under my arm. He enjoyed the ride immensely, but when we got home, he couldn't or wouldn't go on the potty.

Fifteen minutes later, back at the park, he went at the top of the steps on one of the pieces of playground equipment, wiggling his right leg to shake off the urine as he did. I covered my eyes, and Lisa said, "Good thing it's going to rain tonight." (Thankfully, it did.)

A few weeks ago, Jeremy came down with an ear infection, which is rare for him. We gave him a dose of the medicine our pediatrician prescribed and laid him down on Lisa's lap to take a nap. He wriggled and squirmed, trying to get comfortable. He's getting too big to lie on her lap. He whined and fussed and finally found a position he could handle.

I watched him and thought to myself, "This is what your stage of life is all about, Jeremy. Wriggling and squirming and whining a bit here and there to get comfortable with yourself. Welcome to the next stage of life, kid."

I just hope there aren't too many more "top of the playground steps" moments along the way.

Mark Stewart is the stay-at-home dad of two boys, Sean and Jeremy.

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