In my heart, I consider Ava to be very much a toddler right now, not a baby. She’s 16 months old. She’s in the “baby” category in terms of milestones (we don’t really have any new ones, in case you were wondering), but I feel like it’s not true to her to keep calling her a baby. Sometimes I think of the fact that the term “toddler” certainly implies toddling around…something we are still far from…but etymology aside, Ava is almost one-and-a-half years old.

She doesn’t look like a little baby anymore, but is behind in many ways. I see pictures or video of Elijah at her current age and it’s so different. He was talking (a lot, actually). He already liked trains, ate chicken vegetable soup with a spoon and had friends. He was already starting to send Happy Birthday videos. 

Ava seems to be in a category that’s all her own.

This is all the beginning of people noticing that things with Ava aren’t quite as they should be. We flew a few times this summer, and twice I was asked by TSA if Ava could walk “even a little” through the metal detector. The first time a flat “no” was enough. The second time they pressed, and I had to explain she has special needs and really can’t toddle through at all. They are just doing their job, and she clearly looks old enough to toddle, but it’s not fun having to say no.

Sometimes other kids are starting to notice. Mostly when she unknowingly whacks them in the face with her flapping arms. They don’t appreciate it. Or when she hollers really loudly (I think that’s more a consequence of the hearing loss). But even though I know it’s Ava’s disabilities that cause her to do these things. I remember when Elijah was one, I was often having to explain to two and three-year olds-that he didn’t understand yet what they expected of him. Most 16-month-olds are equally frustrating to older kids. Toddlers don’t know the rules of play yet and don’t usually speak well. Sometimes they hit, too – with a lot more purpose than when Ava does it. So we would be dealing with that sort of toddler-to-big-kid-intervention right no matter what. 

When Ava’s in her stroller or the carrier, most people still don’t know anything is off and swoon over her. She’s beautiful – truly – and usually happy. I soak in these times when people can’t get enough of her because I know as she gets older, fewer people will probably see her this way. They’ll be distracted by other Ava-isms they don’t understand. I like that right now, I don’t usually HAVE to explain Ava to the rest of the world – unless you work for TSA, apparently. 🙂

I try not to worry about how this will be when she is five and I have to explain why she is acting like a one-year-old. Or ten, or fifteen. At least right now she IS one. It helps. And I will enjoy this part of the moment.
I think this will be the year Elijah starts to understand Ava better, too, because so far he attributes everything to her being a baby. He says that’s why she can’t walk or talk. But toddlers do those things. And as he sees younger babies this year start to pass her up, I think he’ll start figuring that out. That’s fine with me. I want him to understand his sister. 

For now I just follow his lead. If he says something that lends toward me teaching him more about Ava, I take the opportunity. Once he said “When I was a baby, I wore hearing aids!” So…I explain. Other times he complains that she’s loud, and well, that seems like more of a pot-and-kettle situation to me, even though it’s true that her loud noises don’t form words like his do.

Truth is, I think Elijah will see Ava in a different way than even Craig and I do. He will love her as his sister and whoever she is will be his “normal.” So even as I teach him, I want to learn how Ava look through his eyes.