Saturday, February 03, 2007

One Year Old!

Our birthday entry is a joint effort; Kristin starts it out, then Graham's portions are indented.

Dear Fern,

As you walked down the hall today toward the living room where everyone had gathered to celebrate your birthday (you had just woken up from your nap), you pressed yourself into my legs expressing only a few moments of concern. You quickly gave everyone a coy smile and jumped into opening your presents with gusto, taking each in with keen interest.  The flirtatious looks you threw about the room while you were eating your lunch, commanding attention from your high chair, made it clear how connected you feel to those you love and who love you back.
You are now a true toddler (you have taken your first independent steps after several weeks of cruising, and now you utter strings of "no no no no no")—it was hard to imagine a year ago what that would mean.  At that time, all of the nurses in the hospital affectionately called you "the toddler" because of your massive mop of hair and size.  You came out a solid, healthy girl, and remain so to this day, even after weathering acid reflux and casts on both legs.  Your first cry was a throaty complaint, to which we responded with tears popping out of our eyes.  When we caught our first glance of you while the nurses were cleaning you up and weighing you, I remember exclaiming "Oh my god, look at those feet!  NO!  Look at that HAIR!"  And, "No ... really?  9 pounds 6 ounces?!"

In the following weeks, we plunged into a new lifestyle in which we kept the lights down low in the evenings and carried you in Sven (our name for the "Baby Bjorn" carrier) much of the day and all evening to keep the witching hour at bay.  When we finally had enough courage to set you down, we would put you in the basket from Grandma Joanie and Papa next to our bed.  My superstitious nature would kick in each evening as I felt a surge of relief at the sight of the protective totems hanging from the basket, tied there by one of my favorite authors, Louise Erdrich (how that came to be is another story), who also provided much comfort to me in her essays about motherhood, which I read when I wasn't catching up on sleep.  Somewhere between three and four months (the end of the "fourth trimester"), you seemed much more at ease in the world—and we began to gain confidence as parents.  I no longer had the regular urge to call your wonderfully responsive pediatrician to make sure we were doing everything right.  At six months, we moved you into your crib in your own room and began the long journey to "regular" sleep.

My memory's not as good as your mom's, so I remember those first weeks as individual images. Changing your diaper for the first time in the hospital. Waking up from my perch on the chair to see you nursing in your mom's bed. Installing and re-installing the car seat base. The time you squeezed my finger for the first time. And, finally, taking you on outings. You've probably seen all these pictures by the time you're reading this, but try to imagine them the way they were: experienced first-hand by two new parents trying desperately not to be too clueless.

Four months (what your mom called "the end of the fourth trimester"), was also around the time I really settled being at home with you by myself on weekdays. Your mom had taken care of lots of babies before, but with very rare exceptions, I never had. What I had done is cared for a lot of wild animals, and strangely, I took comfort from that. Like any seal pup, you seemed the happiest when I was relaxed and calm, or at least when I pretended to be. So that's what I did.

You would never have known that your dad had any moments of not being relaxed and calm.  While he took comfort in having cared for wild animals, I drew comfort from his stoic serenity.  Through his tireless efforts, he has been the one to establish your regular sleeping patterns (someday we'll share with you the recordkeeping we continue to do to track your sleep, diapers, nursing, bottles, food, etc.), starting with regulating your nap times.  Now your nighttime sleep has started to become more solid—at times even including eight-hour stretches.  And it's much easier to help you fall asleep.

You've gotten more social by the day. You've always loved to smile back at anyone smiling at you, but increasingly you seek out others as well. This is great for me; I was getting a little lonely at the playground! Having you socialize with other babies opens an entirely new parenting dimension, too. You enjoy touching other babies, and an occasional touch becomes a grab. You sometimes steal toys, even, and they're stolen from you. I'm frequently asking myself when I should intervene: does it do more harm than good to interrupt your normal play? Baby chimps climb over one another and wolf cubs play-wrestle. I'm sure this behavior plays an important role in their development, and perhaps yours, too.

Then again, there are a lot of things baby chimps and wolves do that I wouldn't allow for you (except for licking gristle off of bones, of course). But there's no book to guide these kinds of decisions, so every day I redraw these boundaries for myself. Sometimes my limits float toward liberal permissiveness simply because I'm sleepy. Other days I realize after the fact I've reined you in too closely. I guess that's part of teaching you about life's disorderly nature.

Everyone comments on "what a good waver you are."  At times, you wave even when no one is in sight as we stroll to and from the park (when I'm taking the "weekend shift" where I connect with the other weekend shift parents—often daddies).  You also wave at the webcam in your room, at Wilbur (the name we finally chose for Roomba), and at "kitty cat" Carson.  When I leave each morning, you wave goodbye and assure me with your dimpled smile that you will remember who I am when I return at the end of the day.  I can't fully describe what it feels like to see you at said end of day, but know that there is nothing sweeter than the moment I walk through the door and see you and your daddy.  I treasure our evening bedtime routine, which once focused on reading Good Night Moon, but has expanded to include your current favorites, I Love You as Much, Baby Beluga, Goodnight Gorilla, and Who is Coming to Our House. And I feel myself fully releasing all tension from the day when I sing some of the same songs to you that Grandma Joanie sang to me: Kentucky Babe, The Little Shoemaker, and Over the Rainbow.  I have internalized the importance of setting limits at bedtime—if I let you pull books off the shelf (by reaching over my shoulder while we're sitting together on the chair in your room), bedtime can take three times as long.  Once I started setting limits and sticking to them, you responded beautifully.

When people comment on your personality, I wonder how much of it is going to stick. When you're reading this—how old will you be, 9? 15? 32?—, will the same words describe you as those we use today? Gregarious. Contented. Responsive. Goofy. Resourceful. Determined. Um... jolly? Don't get me wrong: it's fine if you change, too... this is an exercise in early nostalgia more than an expectation. But ever since you were born, I've looked at your face and thought I saw glimmers of your older, wiser self. At times I'm secretly surprised that we're not yet having full conversations in English, although we have clearly started conversing in some language. Lately I've even begun to sense that you, too, are frustrated that you can't say more, as if that word you want to know and articulate is just on the tip of your tongue. Then again, I may be wrong, and simply grownupopomorphizing. I blame all that hair. Makes you look older.

You have learned to use your words.  In addition to mastering a few words in sign language---milk (which you seem to use for mommy too), more, eat, and avocado (in that order with the latter three emerging on the same day this past week)---you now say "daddy" (ever since October), "mom" (or, more often, "momom"), and "kitty."  Most recently, you learned to  say "up" after I told you that you needed to use your words instead of shrieking when you wanted to get out of your high chair.  What started as general vocalization from the time you were very little has now turned into full-blown singing.  You favorites of late are La La La Lemon and Clap Your Hands (which also includes lots of "la las").  When you hear these songs, you stop what you're doing, turn your face toward the music, and burst out with "la la la la." 

You scare the mothers in your music class. Whenever people sing, you sing, and sing loud like a mezzo-soprano on a roller coaster. To strangers, it can sound like you're miserable, but your face is filled with joy. (I think you're happy because you're finally getting your message across.) You're not always thrilled with big groups of people (neither am I, come to that), but if you've got an activity to focus on, like singing or playing, then you're comfortable. I have to confess to a little guilty satisfaction when you're feeling discomfited, because you've started to hug for security, which is fun! You are so at ease in so many situations that I can already feel left out, watching you play and enjoy yourself without me! It's nice to be needed.

Yes, your newfound ability to hug (even when that hug includes a little bite on my shoulder) is incredibly fulfilling.  When you turn to me when you're feeling insecure, or when you're just wanting to give me a squeeze, my insides get all squiggly.  It's the same feeling I get when I enter your room to find you beaming up at me after a nap or when we get into giggling fits together over silly things (your laugh of late is sounding like Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter).  Sometimes it looks like your smile is going to explode.  Or maybe I'm just projecting the feeling of delight and awe inside me when I look at you.

We love you very much! Thanks for a wonderful year, and get ready for many more adventures to come!


Mommy & Daddy