Monday, May 16, 2011

A Letter to My Daughter: Eight Months Old

Dear B,
Your 8-month picture with the Giraffe

Yesterday you reached 8 months (I seriously have every intention of penning these on the actual date, but sometimes life has other plans). Anyway, there have been some big developments in the last month.

Physically, your eyes, which started out blue, now resemble more of a gray color, and when I look closely, I see flecks of gold, so I think they will end up being brown before long.

Your second tooth has popped out, and the merest point of it can be seen next to your first bottom tooth. You're still pretty ambivalent about food, but you have become quite the kisser. This consists of you pressing your opened mouth against our faces - quite messy, yet worth every slobbery streak.

Slobbery kisses in action

We're constantly entertained by what you do with your hands. Sometimes you fold them primly in your lap, and other times, they're outstretched and doing a series of interesting movements, starting with the palms up, then being turned around gracefully. The best thing I can liken it to is a Hawaiian hula dance. I'm sure you're just fascinated by what you can make your arms do, but it's quite amusing to watch them rotate.

Enjoying the warmer weather outside

You're still not mobile in the strictest definition of crawling/scooting/walking, but you can rotate yourself around from your seated position, and when you're on your back (but not so much your stomach), if we apply resistance for your feet to push against, you will impress us by mimicking a worm's movements.

Opening your Easter basket

We often fall into the habit of rocking you to sleep when you're teething and need some extra comforting, and then we forget we don't need to keep doing it once you're past the painful bout. This month found us trying to break ourselves of that habit. It's funny - I think you actually prefer to put yourself down sometimes. We might be trying to rock you and it appears you're fighting it as you squirm and kick, but if we then set you in your crib, you happily settle. There's a special little stuffed kitty (a gift from Grandpa Claire) we often give you, and you will hold it and coo to it until you drop off. Once in a while you fight putting yourself down so we rock you to sleep, but that's the exception rather than the norm now. This makes me feel like there's more time to the day; you might spend 5-10 minutes playing with your kitty in bed, and then you take your nap, which tends to be at least 30 minutes. And an added bonus - now that you're putting yourself to sleep, it appears you take better (and longer) naps. Lately, your first nap of the day is around 75 - 90 minutes, which was unheard of before. And now you are starting to take a slightly longer afternoon nap, too, perhaps another 75-90 minutes, which has been a welcome treat. Instead of four naps a day, we appear to have reached a point where you average about 3 naps. These longer naps give your daddy time to catch up on work or mommy a chance to sew, clean the litter boxes, etc.  We do adore time spent snuggling with you, but I can't complain about the opportunity to get a bite to eat or use the restroom instead of wondering when you might wake up so we can tend to those needs (during some naps you insisted on being held or else you'd wake up when we tried to transition you). It's good for your introverted parents to have brief solo times in between tending to you. It makes us better parents and more ready to introduce the world to you through play or walks.

Some of your wonder captured

You go back and forth with sleeping through the night. Sometimes you'll sleep through until 6:30, and other times you're up at 4 (or last night, it was 1 AM - ouch!). Actually, this is another change we've experienced in the last month. We used to wake you before we went to bed to feed you one last time, and this sometimes helped you sleep straight through. However, in another example of your parents being slow to pick up on your cues, we finally acknowledged that you were big enough to sleep through and had stopped appreciating being disturbed for one more meal; additionally, you seemed to wake at the same times, whether or not we'd fed you around 11 PM. So we phased those out, choosing only to feed you if you woke on your own. The first couple days you were conditioned to waking up then to be fed, so you'd sometimes get up as you heard us preparing for bed, but now, you fall asleep somewhere between 7:45 and 9 PM (depending on when your last nap was, how well you've slept that day, or whether we had evening commitments that you tagged along to) and wake up for the day around 7 AM, give or take. Again, there's sometimes a brief wake-up that occurs around 4 AM, but we all seem to be happy with this arrangement. Now if only Mommy and Daddy would go to bed earlier, we'd feel well rested. Unfortunately, we night owls are slow learners.

This past month also held Mother's Day. I have to admit that it was nice to have you around for that day. The past few Mother's Days have been bittersweet. Some people told me I was still a mother even though my arms were empty, but it was a hard day all the same, symbolizing what was all too short for us. I remember the first Mother's Day after we lost Katherine; our high school group decided to give flowers to all the moms, and I was touched that they remembered me (apparently in the planning session, one girl specifically said, "What about Faith? We're including her, right?"). It was emotional, but I appreciated that our daughter was still remembered by these students. This year, while I wished I could have celebrated with both my daughters at my side, I was reminded of how blessed I am to get to be a mother to you every day.

Our church holds a child dedication every year on Mother's Day, and we chose to have you dedicated publicly. It was a simple ceremony, but it was meaningful to be a part of. You'll have to pardon the picture, as the sanctuary was dimly lit. In actuality, such a ceremony won't change how we raise you, but it's a recognition of how we want to raise you, and it's an opportunity to acknowledge this in front of others. It also allowed us to admit that we want our lives to be centered around pursuing God and loving others in all we do and we aim to raise you in kind, however imperfectly. We trust our lives and actions will be a testimony for you to witness and hopefully embrace and we acknowledge that you are a gift and we are entrusted with your life.

Listening to the pastor

One of my favorite memories of this last month took place when you and I went to Panera to meet for coffee with one of my high school girls. The weather was so beautiful so we sat outside, you in a high chair. For starters, your heart sunglasses, a gift from your paternal grandparents, were quite the hit. Honestly, I think everyone (male, female, young, old) fawned over you as they came and went. But that wasn't the memorable part.

"These glasses get me so much attention!"

What brought me joy was when you felt the breeze on your face - you doubled over in laughter, and it was so contagious and just wouldn't end. It was the most sustained laughing I'd heard from you yet, and it was so absolutely precious. I wished several times I had my camera on me so I could have taken a video. You're now starting to laugh on your own with little prompting. Just tonight, you were giggling (kind of in a fake, forced way, though) as you buried your face into a pillow and smiled coyly at me; I think it's a sign of you developing the ability to laugh socially.

No matter where we go, people are constantly telling us how beautiful you are, and we can't help but agree. We are so struck with your perfect features, although I joke that we'll have to ban such talk around you in a year or two so you don't become vain.

But let's ignore the superficial characteristics. I just want you to know what a joy it it to be a mother to you. You are such a darling and I can't imagine how things could be improved any more - we have such an easy time being parents to you. You are mellow and entertain yourself with solo play. You are curious about the world around you. You don't fuss; other parents are surprised after observing you, and they insist that you certainly can't be like this all the time, but you really are. Sure, a teething bout here or there, or some passing annoyance if we take away something prematurely. In every area, though, you are so perfect. Your personality is a welcome complement to ours and your presence in our lives adds so much.

The biggest adjustment has been figuring out how we retain ourselves while caring for you. We weren't under any pretense when you were born; we knew it was a big transition to parenthood, and it does take much of our attention. But we still strive to hold onto our original activities when possible (volunteering with the high school group, my knitting night, even our hobbies to some extent), and while it's an evolving experiment, I think we've settled into something comfortable.



~Amanda said...

Wow, I love reading these, Faith. I think I've cried actual tears while reading each and every one of them. You capture things in writing in such a beautiful way, and you write about things that I've forgotten or hadn't paid attention to in Tate yet, and so it's fun to remember or re-discover them in my third kiddo. And she is beautiful, smart and funny! I have promised Stef's daughter a husband in one of my sons already, but I have two others. Do you think we could arrange for Brennan to marry one of them? ;-)

Faith said...

Amanda, thanks so much for your kind words. I once read of a mom who took notes over the months and then wrote an annual letter to her child; upon the child's graduation, all of them were given to her. I loved that idea and vowed to do something similar, but as there are so many changes that take place the first year, I started these at three months to try to remember down the road all the new experiences and feelings. I realize I cram a lot into them (and perhaps I do a bit too much rambling), but there's just so much that happens, and I'm not sure I'd remember these milestones otherwise. And since I rarely blog anymore, I thought my family and friends might like to see these early letters. I'm glad they've touched you. And yes, perhaps we'll have to make sure Brennan crosses paths with one of your sons some day. ;)