Friday, March 13, 2015

A Letter to My Daughter Gretchen: Eleven Months Old

Dear Gretchen,

You are nearly a year old. My aspirations of writing monthly letters from three months to one year quickly disappeared. I think this is due to having two children (before, with your sister, I could compose letters on my laptop while she slept on me, whereas now my attention is often focused on her while you nap). Also, your sleep has been a work in progress, not often allowing for much downtime. Come evening, my ability to coherently string words together can be sketchy at best.

You are clearly a determined and busy child. I joke that you will be the one we need to take to urgent care for stitches or the like, as you are so curious and mobile. You can climb your sister's armchair and you attempt to get on the couch by yourself.

Crawling started early for you, at six months. Then you were pulling yourself up to standing within a week. And that was the last time I felt productive! I'm sort of teasing, but mastery of those skills also led to the deterioration of your napping and sleeping. You would stir and the first thing you would do is pop up on your feet. It was as if you believed your crib was hot lava and to willingly go down would surely lead to your destruction.

This led to some exhausted weeks and months for your parents. Your naps were to the point of lasting around 15-20 minutes, and with sleep, you got to the point where some nights you were waking up every hour to 90 minutes. After Christmas, when you were sleeping much worse than your newborn cousin, we finally addressed it. I didn't think we would ever try crying it out, but what it came down to was that something had to change, and I'd already read and tried several other techniques but got nowhere. I could handle poor napping if you slept well at night, or several night wakeups if I was getting some relief with daytime naps, but we were fighting it on both counts. This meant that when I got sick (which was repeatedly this fall and winter), I would be fighting the illness for weeks, since it was hard to get sufficient rest.

We had a rough night of sleep training in early January. You actually fell asleep standing in your crib, which made me both want to laugh and cry, because you knew how to get down from a standing position whenever you weren't in your crib, but you would stubbornly refuse in your crib to budge. However, after that first night we saw immediate progress. You realized your crib wasn't out to get you and you could safely lay yourself down. This was about the time naps improved in length as well.

Around seven months or so, after your mother regularly whisking you away from the steps whenever you tried to scale the first one or two, I decided to spot you and see what happened if I let you have continue on, as you so clearly wanted to. You made it all the way to the top and were beaming with pride. We quickly abandoned the gate at the foot of the stairs after that. It was more of a nuisance than anything, as your sister couldn't operate it and we still had to keep your distance from it since you could pull it free if you got your hands on it.

You are an adventurous eater. Since you already were accustomed to putting everything possible in your mouth, it was a pleasant change to learn some of it was edible. We retired purees fairly early on, as you were determined to eat anything we were eating, within reason. You have had eight teeth since Christmas, and I can spot somewhere between four and six more trying to break through. Teething has made overnight sleeping ebb and flow. In the last couple weeks, we've had some amazing nights, anywhere from zero to one wakeups, but sometimes there might be a couple when you're pretty miserable. At least we're to the point that after some medicine and/or some milk, you go immediately back down, even if I'm returning you to your crib awake.

One thing that you insist on at bedtime is having your sister in your room. You're like an alarm system - you may be contentedly laying in your crib, nearly asleep, but if she climbs out of her bed and comes to us with a question, you alert us immediately to her pending arrival with your sudden cries.

The two of you are still close. You have equal interest in each other's toys, although she gets to play with far more of your toys than you do of hers (the day you finally get to color with her you may faint from elation).

Around the time you hit nine months, you became a little more content to play quietly with a toy for a season instead of the near-constant ball of movement that had become the norm since you learned to crawl. Now you have specific ideas of what you want from your toy basket, and it's fun to see you dig and emerge victorious.

It is always amusing to have you draw attention to anything we unwittingly left out from the night before. You are quick to spot laptop charging cords, earbuds, remotes, pens. Basically anything you want to get your hands on but we keep away from you during the day because everything goes immediately into your mouth.

One big change is that we are moving to a new home. We expected this on the horizon, likely with a move before the end of the summer. However, we went to an open house on a whim after church one day (not entirely out of the ordinary). What was unusual was that we left the house really excited about it. That began a whirlwind process of contacting our realtor for another visit and placing an offer. The move is actually in less than a week. I think it will be great to give you so much more space to explore. And at least for the time being, you will get to continue sharing a room with your big sister. She wanted this, and as I have fond memories of the late-night conversations and moments with my own sisters in the times we shared rooms, I am happy for this room-sharing to continue for the two of you, at least in the near future.

It is such a gift to see how close you two already are - I wished for enduring friendship between you two, but I thought the emphasis would be on the "enduring" aspect until you were both older. It's a pleasure to see it otherwise.


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