Hello sweet, sweet little one! You are an improbably Brobdingnagian ten months old today. I am writing this update from the master suite (which I do not deserve, but got nevertheless after pitching a teary fit at the “glamping” accommodations I’d originally and enthusiastically requested) of an eight-bedroom ranch in the middle of Texas, where your extended family on your mother’s side is reuniting in honor of Thanksgiving. Because your father and I are true Americans, we allowed you to partake in the classic American pastime of catching a cold on the airplane, and thus the past few days have been alternately heart-wrenching for you, and rather low-key, usually having to do with the frequency of baby Tylenol administrations.
Your aunt and cousin visiting Eugene from Austin. (Not pictured: Your uncle. Also not pictured: you and your cousin fighting over toys.)
I always fly with baby Tylenol and your “SnotSucker,” a contraption that (ostensibly) involves me gently placing a funnel on the perimeter of your nostril and then sucking out whatever godforsaken biomass is parked there obstructing your breathing, but which actually involves your father pinning you down while you scream bloody murder and I flail about with that instrument of death until by some miracle of miracles it manages to extract the distustingness and you can breathe again.
Rocking your jogging stroller in healthier days. I do no jogging with this, obviously.
As you can possibly tell from that description, I have, for the first time, had to break out said Emergency Baby Sick Kit on this trip. At the moment of this writing, you seem to be on the mend a bit, but I am deep in the throes of whatever it is you had, and all I have to say is that I now understand 100% why you woke up caterwauling inconsolably at 3 a.m. the other night. I understand completely. Right now your grandmother is watching you while I hole up in the aforementioned master suite and when I flopped down onto the bed to type this I actually let out an actual whimper.
Being sick with a baby is tough. Having a sick baby is tougher, though. I would gladly volunteer to be sicker than this for every day of the rest of my life if I could guarantee that you would never feel the sore throat pain you felt at 3 a.m. the other night, my darling little one.
As such, your ten-month update is going to be even more of a narratively-dubious mishmash than usual. But I made a solemn promise to myself that I would write something about you every single month on the day of your “month birthday” (which, make no mistake, is NOT A THING and we have never used that term in earnest) no matter what, so here goes.
So, no big deal or anything, but a week or so ago you started talking. You went from an adorable lump of grunting, squirming, smiling, sleeping foie gras to a human being who speaks limited but nevertheless recognizable English. NO BIG DEAL. So, sure, your vocab isn’t the hugest. You would probably only score about a 1500 on your SAT at this point (I am assuming they’ve been recentered so many times by now that 1499 is the starting score). You say “Hi” (and wave) to anyone and everyone in your vicin, although it sounds more like “Hah.” This extends to yourself in the mirror, which is as adorable as it sounds. You sometimes say “uh-oh” when you drop something off your high chair. I realize this isn’t standard English per se, but you often smack your lips when you want to nurse. But the one actual, unmistakeable word you say, your real and irrefutable first word is…
Mama. (*heart implodes*)
I’d be outright lying if I pretended to be anything other than smugly delighted with this development. I’ve only spent the last ten months with you cleaved onto me almost nonstop, kid. I have EARNED your first fucking word. Mama FTW. It is especially wrenching when I have the gall to go to the bathroom and leave you with your father for forty-five seconds and you would prefer I don’t do that, and I can hear you screaming MAMA! MAMA! MAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMA! (*heart collapses in on itself*)
You’d think this meant that I was your favorite person in the universe. You’d be wrong. Sometime in the last week, as we prepare at long last, after a wonderful three months in Eugene, Oregon, to take our leave of my parents, you have become so attached to your Grandma that when I try to take her away from you, you physically cling onto her like you are a barnacle and she is the world’s only boat.
If one of us does successfully wrest her from your grip, you are inconsolable. Granted, she’s garnered this favor largely by pandering to your insatiable desire for dangerous objects to play with, but still. I really hope you haven’t developed any long-term sense of time or space, because when we take her away from you tomorrow, it’s going to be rough. Of course, we’re then depositing you directly into the arms of your other grandmother in San Diego (the second-to-last phase of our Endless Paternity Leave of Travel), so your anguish should be limited to our four-hour flight, wherein you will certainly pick up your next cold (and thus also your parents’ next cold). Thank all deities and all science and Sir Richard Dawkins himself that you have had all of your vaccinations and a cold is (knock every available tree-based surface) the worst thing you can catch on these hurtling metal petri dishes whose every surface you insist upon shoving directly into your maw.
Speaking of your maw: Although you can now use it to use your words, your spoken oeuvre is not the limit of your language (and therefore world). You have also started using your baby sign language, albeit not usually in conjunction with your desire for whatever each sign portends, but rather in concert with the given page of the Baby Signs book we read you. The only sign you sometimes use “correctly” is the sign for “more,” often in the context of your books, at the ends of which you have been known to raise holy hell if there is not another book immediately ready to be read (or, more often, the same book, over and over again).
Speaking of your books: You never learned the sign for “mother,” but every time we open to the “mother” page of Baby Signs (or, rather, you open to it; you’ve been insisting on turning your own pages for almost two months now), without prompting you say…you guessed it, Mama. (*heart explodes*) You have also learned to identify a miś, or teddy bear, in any book that has a picture of one, and with that identification you utter a sweet little sound, a sort of “hmmm.” In addition to waving, you’ve also recently (today) learned the cherished art of the high five (right now you only respond when I do it in Borat accent; I’m trying not to be proud), and your new favorite game is to stick your tongue out, especially when someone else returns the favor.
Sure, it’s not all fun and games; your newest favorite hobby while nursing is to use your fine motor skills to pinch the outer layer of my boob skin as hard as you can, sometimes often executing a breast-tissue-based Titty Twister, sometimes also compounded by the godforsaken talons you will no longer allow your father and me to trim, even when you’re sound asleep. No shit, you can snatch your hand away from us even in the deepest slumber.
Tomorrow we will take you on an airplane for the fifth time since August. (The tenth, if you count connections.) As of now you have not cried or expressed anything other than delight and curiosity for more than about two minutes, and you have charmed each and every passenger in your vicinity, up to and including the woman into whose lap you crawled for a full third of the most recent flight we took. There is no person in the world less deserving of this luck; I am the asshole who, when my row companions remark I feel bad for the parents when an inconsolable babby screams, used to go I feel bad for me. I’m the asshole who once rolled my eyes to my also-childless seating companion and nodded in strenuous assent when he said, There should be a licensing exam to parent. I am the asshole who, when stuck next to a blubbering couple absconding their shell-shocked new adopted one-year-old from his home country to their McDonald’s-filled household, took my earplugs out of my bag and kissed them before putting them in. (The kid was unbelievably sweet the whole time and I am an ASSHOLE.) I AM THAT ASSHOLE.
We have two more flights to survive before our days of flying with an infant are over. I fully expect at least one major event of some sort, and if I get no sympathy from a single soul on board, I will deserve that fate.
At any rate, back to you, my sweetest cold-suffering little bean. Because you actively charm anyone who is not us (whilst also suffering from some minor-to-major stranger anxiety, directly proportional to the maleness and loudness of voice of your interlocutor), you have been characterized as an “easy baby” by people who have no fucking idea what they are talking about, no offense. What you are is largely very good-tempered because we know exactly what you want and can usually either give it to you (if it’s food, a boob, sleep, to be hotter/colder, to be in your Grandma’s arms) or distract you away from it (the electrical outlet, the fireplace, wrought iron spikes, unattended swimming pools, knives). On the rare occasions we don’t know how to or can’t help you — or, for example, to use a TOTALLY random example, when you’re exhausted and want to sleep but you’re too congested to sleep and the congestion makes you cry and that worsens your congestion, and I have to SnotSuck you and you believe that to be akin to waterboarding — your anguish is evident to anyone in a half-mile vicinity. (Of course then they just go: “Wow, she doesn’t usually do that. She’s so easy.”)
Another example: At the Eugene airport before we left on this trip, you had an ill-timed Code Brown that needed attending to in the airport restroom, and since we were in a public restroom I could not indulge your usual diaper-change acrobatics, that often take upwards of a quarter hour and involve you rolling over and crawling everywhere (often through your own excrement, which is just fantastic, and if you didn’t want me to tell the Internet about it you should have thought about not doing it!). I had to make use of the Baby Straitjacket feature of the Koala Kare changing table, and let’s just say that the passengers at the furthermost gates one full escalator away were aware that you were irate at this turn of events.
Speaking of escalators! Or, rather, stairs. You LOVE stairs. You can scramble up an entire flight of stairs in about a minute. You are just beginning to figure out how to get down (backwards!) but at this point a spotter is necessary at all times. You are also just starting to stand unassisted for a few seconds at a time, often when you’re on ceramic tile or poured concrete or some other surface that would be great to fall down onto. Your confidence with your growing motor coordination is only rarely punctuated by mishaps, such as the time you toppled headfirst into your toy bin at my parents’, your flailing legs the only thing visible as you voiced your considerable displeasure at your new milieu.
Speaking of falling down: Every night before you go to sleep, you spend about 20-90 minutes flopping around the bed, delighted and adorable (Beanie Smooches abound, which are sort of like a Dementor’s Kiss, except they fill you with happiness instead of taking it all away, and are possessed of substantially more slobber), but not falling asleep. Sometimes you flop yourself down onto your belly with your ass in the air, and literally kick kick kick yourself to sleep; the intervals between kicks become longer until they fade away altogether. Your other new favorite position for slumber is what I call the Snuggle Buggle Ruggle, where I drape you across my chest and plant your head in the vicinity of my left boob, so as to gently coerce you into drifting back off (and allow myself to do the same). It works a little too well, and as a result I’ve had to spend a few recent nights with your head plopped directly on top of my face.
You are still usually enthusiastic about eating. You suck down those unappetizing-looking pouches of organic baby food, yes, but also oatmeal mixed with chia (which then smears all over you and will NOT come off; the other day we found a half-sprouted chia seed in your butt crack). Your favorite foods are broccoli and frozen blueberries cut in half.
Your second-favorite foods are still non-foods, preferably the very dangerous sort. And still nothing compares to your parents’ iPhones, despite our constant admonitions that they are “not for chomping”! Recently you have also, to my simultaneous dismay and delight, begun to figure out how the iPhone works, and can even work a few of the less-insidious baby apps (the “rattle,” the “bubble popper,” the animated versions of Blue Hat, Green Hat and The Going to Bed Book). By far the best thing you have begun doing with the phones, though, is sniffing them like they’re a 40-year-old cabernet. Then you look straight at us, smile, and begin to chomp, knowing full well that they are not for chomping.
For a few weeks there, you were too impatient to love your books, preferring instead to turn the pages at warp speed and then chomp on them for a few minutes before hurling them across the room and then launching yourself for parts unknown once more. Now you are once again enthralled by them. Your favorite is Global Babies, a gift from your friend Gretchen, that has adorable pictures of babies from around the world: Mali, Spain, Afghanistan, Peru, South Africa, Fiji, etc. Your favorite of all the Global Babies is the baby from Bhutan. You love her so much, in fact, that sometimes, I say, “Beanie give the baby from Bhutan a kiss?” and you lean down and smooch the page. (*heart spontaneously combusts; phoenix heart rises from heart ashes; implodes again*)
Sweetest little one. May you feel better soon, and may a little cold be your only hinderance for the rest of your long and joyous life. I am in constant awe of your curiosity, your bravery, and your humblingly monumental heart. I wish I could read you a baby book that never ended, and watch you flop around on the bed and giggle and say Mama for time eternal. (Also, simultaneously and fully not mutually-exclusively, I wish I could hire Mary Poppins for juuuust like the next twelve hours and watch Jessica Jones on Netflix and drink warm water so that I could recover from the brutal adult version of the fucking cold you slobbered onto me.)
MAMA (*heart collapses*)