Friday, September 30, 2011

A Letter to My Daughter: 12 Months


You are now one year old (and, um, a couple's been hard to get away to type this up - probably most of it psychological as it seems pretty big to be writing your one-year-old letter).

Since last month, you now crawl everywhere, including up the stairs. The first time you did this, it was actually after a bag of yarn I'd set halfway up as a reminder to mail to a friend - I was amused (and frightened) that yarn could be an incentive for you.

You pull yourself up on everything and cruise along while holding onto the furniture. This means you sometimes lose your balance, and we're starting to spot some marks and bruises because of it. Mostly, while you cry, it appears to be more from surprise than pain since you quiet quickly with some cuddling. Today, there was a new incident; you were digging toys out of your toy box, piling them up behind you (your typical MO), when next thing we knew, your feet were in the air and you found yourself in the toy box. This was not a happy discovery on your part.

You are still a pretty quiet baby, no surprise when you have two introverts for parents, but there are times we'll catch you in a babbling mood, talking away to one of us, the cats, or your toys. In fact, while you do strings of mamamamama and dadadadada along with some other syllables, I'm not sure you've figured out what they mean. But if you have said a first word - and we're not confident of this yet - it may very well have been "kitty." It seems like you say something like this when one of the cats are around, but perhaps they're just in the proximity during one of your talkative moods. And sometimes you're tickled that you can squeal like a dolphin.

I love seeing you interact with your toys. Furthermore, as you continue to get older, it's fascinating to watch your preferences exhibited. Certain toys you're drawn to and will always go after as soon as you notice Mom has tried to tidy in your wake. For example, there is this giraffe and a lion that you will pull around in tandem, taking turns snuggling - and maybe even kissing - them. And certain books have won your favor, as well as a tea set (with a zillion pieces constantly strewn about the floor).

This month also saw the first overnights I took away from you. Previously, I'd only been gone long enough to work my short days, but after I had an opportunity to surprise my sisters, I begged off for a weekend, and you were well cared for in my absence by your daddy and grandparents.

You are still figuring out food - you'll only feed yourself certain foods (and the spoon is a rare occurrence) - but you're getting more and more interested in what we're eating. If we're trying to feed you something, it better be the only food in sight, or we better be sharing what we're having.

We're happy to see this development. I knew you wouldn't forever be eating pureed foods, but sometimes it felt like you just weren't curious about other foods and weren't in a hurry to figure out chewing. We could do without the food and cups getting deliberately dropped on the floor, but I understand, from accounts from other parents, that this just appears to be a stage.

You're getting better at drinking from sippy cups, and periodically we'll put a splash of water in a cup without a lid and you'll slosh it down.

You're fascinated by all animals. We never see any fear exhibited, no matter the size of the animal. The only thing that seems to hold you back from petting them is the euphoria that you finally got close enough to do so. Anytime we're in your nursery when the neighbor dog is yapping outside, you look up at the window, letting us know it's time to put you on the changing table so you can lean forward and put your hands and face against the glass as you giggle and smile and squeal. The neighbor has gotten used to seeing us there, laughing at your expressions.

I know a year has passed since we welcomed you into our lives, and I know you're no longer a baby (as much as I hate to acknowledge that I may, indeed, now have a toddler), but I look at you sometimes and I wonder where exactly that fragile little infant went and when did this excited, joyous toddler appear.

You are learning everyday. There is a funnel toy with balls; the aim is to drop them (through a funnel top) into the toy, activating the lights and music. I demonstrated this hundreds of times over the months, and while you knew where the balls rolled out from the bottom, you preferred to pick them up from there and shake them since they made a delightful rattling sound. Then one day, I saw you rip the funnel top off and drop the balls repeatedly through the small opening. Whenever I'd try to replace the top to make it easier, you'd give me a look and rip it right back off. Just like that, it was as if you'd been doing that task for weeks.

Sleeping is going well. You had a cold and a couple new teeth that messed up your naps and bedtime for a week or two, but now, you sleep around 13 or so hours a day. When all is going well, after brushing your teeth and reading a few stories, we lay you in bed, turn on the sound machine, and you curl up and pass out. Sometimes you do this before we even finish walking down the stairs - you're still at two naps (around 75 minutes each) and go to bed around 7:45 PM or so.

Your mouth boasts six teeth now (four on top, two on bottom), and I can see evidence of a couple more on bottom wanting to come out before long.

Your birthday was a simple affair - we sang to you, you investigated a cupcake, and we opened presents.

You weigh 23.5 pounds and are off the charts with your height - 32 inches!

Your noggin is pretty large as well at 18.75 inches. You look like you're going to be long and lean.

And that's about where I'd normally end your monthly letters, but it seems that on the occasion of the birthday letter that I should also reflect on what the year has done in your parents. Aside from the amusing observations, like the fact that I was one week away from going a year between haircuts (June to June, baby!), there have been some notable changes.

But first a tangent or two to help set this up. I recently read the preface to Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It, and I think Buchanan accurately compares motherhood to the culture shock that can be experienced when living in a foreign country: the initial charm and quaintness of being there that later transforms to confusion and frustration when you can't understand the language and don't get the customs, only eventually morphing into a confidence as you settle in. I've hurriedly painted a broad picture of her premise, but it resonated with me as she connected it back to motherhood.

We weren't naive about what was in store for us when we brought you home - I recall vividly seeing a friend after the birth of her first child looking like a zombie, and I have long told Eric that he needed to be kind after you arrived and if the house was as untidy (or more so) when he returned home as when he'd left, he should not ask what I'd done all day but understand that a little grace might be in order. These tidbits we could pick up after observing friends, but it's hard to be prepared for what's in store. There's so much we don't know, and there's a desire to do things right, even while knowing you're going to mess up and make mistakes.

In our case, I remember on one of the first days home, you started wailing in the evening. We were so sure it was due to gas, so we were reading in all the books about ways to help relieve it: pumping your legs bicycle-style, making sure we did a more thorough job burping you during and after feedings, etc. This continued until the second or third day in a row of you crying at the same time. Then we realized it was just the oft-known "witching hour" for babies - a time of day (right around 9:23 PM) when you just need to cry to let it all out. Nothing was wrong, you were fed, clean, and being comforted, but you just needed to wail for 20 minutes, and then you'd abruptly stop. This only continued until you hit three weeks, and then it magically disappeared when that growth spurt hit.

I could list more instances of adjusting to figuring out what we were doing, but I'll focus on broader strokes. I went from working full time, very well knowing the expectations set out for me, to suddenly working only 12 hours a week and spending the rest of my time caring for you. Because you are around all the time, it was an adjustment trying to figure out how our lives embraced yours. When would I get time to be myself? How did Eric and I balance caring for you as well as caring for ourselves?

You have always been an easy child to care for, so most of the tension was figuring out how we adjusted our lives with you here. I absorbed many of the household tasks because I was home more, and that freed up your dad to focus on you and his own work while he was home. We have a better understanding of when one parent needs some free time - not that you have exhausted us, but just as a way to remember who we are outside of caring for you.

Now that you typically put yourself down for naps and bedtime, this has alleviated some of the pressure - there are suddenly pockets in the day to do housework and an evening free to fill as we choose. But I understand how the first child can cause a lot of change in a marriage as we try to find a routine, all while sleep deprived early on.

I remember watching friends and family enter parenthood. There's the type that has their lives revolve around the children, and the type that includes their children into their existing activities. I much preferred the latter; after all, one day you're going to up and leave us, but until then, it's our job to demonstrate to you what a healthy marriage should look like, model positive friendships, show you how to volunteer your time to serve others less fortunate, and so on. I'm glad that, while you are so important to us and loved beyond description, we've welcomed you into our routines - you were fawned over by the high-school students at the church youth group, you've tagged along to countless knitting outings. This is not to say that you haven't changed us, or our choices of activities, but we wanted you to come alongside us in some of these things instead of leaving them entirely. It meant some aspects changed: your dad changed your diaper on the floors of many venues, I'd put on the baby carrier and rock you to sleep during the message or worship at youth group, and sometimes I wouldn't get my knitting even pulled out of my bag, but it meant much for me to bring you to these places that held meaning for us and had an air of familiarity.

We've grown a lot as parents, just as you have grown; for the first few weeks, we kept a small lamp on in the bedroom, both to aid us in waking during the frequent nighttime feeding sessions, as well as to allow us a peek at you when we needed that affirmation that all was well. I used to know when the DVR did its cycle in the middle of the night, and I streamed several movies in 30-minute stretches in order to keep me awake when you were nursing. You started out taking 25-30 minutes to nurse every three hours, then you increased efficiency and brought that down to 10 minutes a feeding.

Brennan by month

So here we are, you a year old and every day learning new things and continually bringing us joy. It's been a blessed year. There was the stretch where every time I washed you after feeding you at the table, you would dissolve into giggles whenever I washed your left hand; that meant the left hand got washed beyond the point of being clean just because I was so enamored with your laughing. Or when you mimic our actions, dance to music, or laugh as you try to keep us in your eyesight while we try to hide around the couch or into the next room, you continually on our trail. The way you have to peek at yourself in a mirror once we put a hat on your head. How a bump can be forgotten if Mommy will hold you close. The fascination you have with the simplest of objects, like ROTC brochures. How you pause your play to lean down and lick the floors in our house as I look on in confusion (and a little disgust) and you grin widely in response.

Someone asked me recently, after I mentioned your great sleeping habits, if I missed the times of rocking you to sleep, and, without hesitation, I said no. My favorite time with you is whatever stage you're currently at. True, when you were young you were often being carried around in my arms or a baby wrap, and those were enjoyable moments as I watched you alternate between sleeping and watching everything around you. But now, you will sidle up to me and rest your head on my leg, or give me a hug or a sloppy kiss. Why would I trade that? Now, instead of me giving one-sided kisses to a sleeping babe, you demonstrate your love by affectionate kisses and big smiles. Now you reward my silly antics with laughs, and I'm continually entertained with discovering what warrants a big guffaw from you. Certain words during normal conversation will elicit hysterical laughter - yesterday, okey-dokey was the winner. You loved controlling our singing as you kept opening and closing your musical birthday card at arbitrary points. Why would I want to miss out on these discoveries to settle for what was known and comfortable?

While I will miss aspects of each age as you grow older, I embrace learning more about your personality and the person you're becoming. I don't wish to turn back time, and I'm in no hurry to rush things along.

You are beautiful and bring us so much joy, and I am so honored to be your mother.



~Amanda said...

It's perfect! She's perfect! I've been waiting for this post. :-) I love reading about Brennan and your recollections of her development. I think you should turn these into a book for her.

Are you going to continue these letters monthly, tri-monthly, or whenever?

Faith said...

Thanks, Amanda - as I was late in getting it out, I knew that at least you and my mother-in-law would notice the absence. ;)

I haven't decided how regularly to continue them after this one. I originally planned on annual letters, but once Brennan hit three months I figured I needed to write more regularly in the beginning because there were too many things changing and I was bound to forget if I didn't write it down. Maybe quarterly?

madalyn said...

She really is such a beautifully wonderful and perfect child! Thanks so much for letting us be a part of her life, too!