My dearest little one,
Today you are eleven months old. In a mere month’s time, you — safely ensconced back in your very first home in St. Louis, surrounded by your parents and their (hopefully) well-childproofed apartment, and the unrelenting, frigid weather that welcomed you on that dark, dark night when your papa drove us home from the hospital at seven miles per hour, thinking every pothole would break you — will celebrate your very first birthday. Your passage out of babyhood and into toddlerhood. I cannot believe it’s been almost a year already — and simultaneously I can’t believe you’re not already in college.
Whereas the last time I caught up with you via letter you can’t read yet I was just getting over the adult-strength version of a cold you caught by eating the entire interior of two different aircrafts, this time I am just getting over a wicked case of norovirus I got as an extra-special Christmas present from heaven. While everyone else in Arizona passed out on top of a pile of new toys (probably Republican toys), or “Netflix and chilled” (that is what TEH KIDZ say when they mean “having the sex”), I spent the wee hours of two to seven in the o’clock breaking what was until now a fairly impressive eleven-year vomit-free streak in dramatic fashion. For your part, you slept like a stalwart little champ through almost the whole thing, only requiring me to nurse you while hellaciously nauseated once. For your father’s part, he stayed up with me the whole time and did not complain once, not about my moaning, not about the graphic and horrifying sounds of my horking (“…and those awful, awful burps. Oh my god, those burps”). Not about me ordering $5 ginger ale from room service at 5 a.m., nor about me being a complete and utter zombie the next day, when the violent vomiting subsided but the fever remained.
No, instead I made myself a little bed out of hotel pillows and blankets on the floor, and your father kept watch over us both as you played on and around my limp body, me always in view so that you wouldn’t get anxious that I was away — but rarely having to actually move, which was increasingly taxing as the day wore on, until, as quickly as the plague came, it left.
Luckily your new preferred Downward Facing Titty nursing position was compatible.
I know, little one, I know. This 11-month update has been a lot about me and not enough about you. This is true. I readily admit it. And yet, this is my fucking blog and I will write whatever the fuck I want on it, and if I am in a lousy mood because yet again everyone else is enjoying a semblance of “vacation” while I am stuck in the room on mommy duty, so be it.
It’s not that I don’t love being your mama, little one. I do. I love being a mother in general, and I especially love being a mother to you, the happiest, funniest, most inquisitive, interested, sweetest little little one I could ever hope for.
I cannot believe how lucky I am to get to be with you so much of the day, every day, to be the one you need when you’re upset (when, as toddlerhood encroaches, you suffer your occasional meltdowns and tantrums! I can’t believe this is happening already!), to be the one you call out for in the middle of the night in the sweetest little voice the world has ever known. “Mama? Mama? Mama?” Yes, Beanie. Mama’s here. Mama’s always here. Mama loves being here, in fact, and would rather be nowhere else in the world — but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a LITTLE bit annoyed that everyone else is going down the waterslide right now, while she’s watching you nap. Because if there’s one thing your mother loves almost as much as you, it’s a waterslide.
Could it be possible that as each month passes, you become more ridiculous, more hilarious, more dangerous — and yet easier to parent? What a paradox. And yet.
I have a pretty decent theory as to how I got the food-poisoning (or Norovirus, or whatever the fuck it was). I’m pretty sure it’s the Baby Jesus Himself punishing me for being a SICK DISGUSTING MOM. Because if you thought it was AWFUL SCUMMY SLUT when I briefly offered you a one-finger salute during your most difficult sleep regression to date, just WAIT UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT I DID NEXT.
Let’s backtrack a second. Your eleventh month has brought yet another litany of advances, from your ever-closer-to-walking quasi-walking (which we cannot capture on film somehow!)…
…to your almost impossibly sweet habit of kissing people and photos of people (especially babies and small children), to your marvelous ability to play on your own (whilst attempting to eat and/or loose upon yourself the most dangerous object in your vicinity)…
…to your ever-expanding palate, which currently lists blueberries, broccoli, waffles and avocados as its favorite foods, and only occasionally gets so stuffed with food that you forget to (or can’t) swallow it all, and I notice you haven’t opened your mouth in awhile, and then suddenly you do and I gasp in terror and distract you so that I can sweep the offending mass out of your maw before you choke on it, which PISSES YOU OFF SO MUCH. I’ve never seen anyone so attached to partially-chewed food. HEY ASSHOLE, you emote through your screams. I WAS USING THAT.
Speaking of your mouth: By far the most delightful advance you have made this month is the extension of your vocabulary from one word (the still popular MAMA, now said with increasing Frenchness the more upset you get — MaMA! MaMAAAA! MaMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!), to this list of words real and fake, English and Polish, spoken and signed:
papa, your beloved father, which you pronounce as the impossibly adorable ah-ah, and to whom you have become intensely attached in the past month. He used to be able to sit out the 90-minute bedtime drunk-baby flop-around ritual. No more. Now when he leaves the room you hold out your hand in the general direction he went in and go ah-ah, ah-ah-, ah-ah. Sometimes in the middle of the night you say ah-ah in your sleep.
Asher, your newborn cousin, whose name you can pronounce perfectly. Also stands in for all babies and small children.
NaeNae, your stuffed dog, which also, Asher-like, extends to all stuffed animals. (NB: Miś, after a mishap with the Lafayette laundry, went on an extended “vacation” to his homeland of Kazakhstan, and he will be “meeting” us back home in St. Louis looking, er, just “like” new.)
Żaba (frog), which you currently pronounce baba, which you also use to say babcia (grandmother), to whom you cleave with the force of a thousand super-magnets and from whose devoted and loving embrace I cannot imagine wresting you in three short days.
kaczka (duck), which you currently pronounce kat-ka.
piłka (ball), which you currently pronounce a lot like “duck,” but in the context of having, seeing, or wanting a ball, so, hey.
Titi, the name of one of the characters in the song “Petiti y Titi,” on your World Music Sing-Along album, aka Your Songs, aka the thing I have played eighty-twelve bajillion times in the past month.
Between last reunion and this reunion, my dear, you had the wonderful experience of living for almost an entire month in the glamorous Lafayette Hotel in San Diego.
Before it got too chilly (by which I mean 65 degrees) we swam in its beautiful pool; you charmed its residents and staff alike as we carted you around day after day, and then set off on foot (you in the stroller) through the neighborhood of North Park, where your aunt (and Asssssshhhhher) and your babcia live.
For the first time in your little life, you decided the stroller was THE place to be — even preferring, PREFERRING, to fall asleep in it, and not attached to my boob like a life-force-sucking monster from the deep — and that was in large part to the sense of security and fun you got from Your Songs.
As a bonus, I am now way better at Spanish, can say “Hello, my friend, how are you?” in Portugese, could recognize the Mandarin for “going to school” with a gun to my head, and know far more about Australian Bush Ballads than anyone with no connection to the Australian Bush probably should.
While your Polish, gibberish, proper-name and Spanish vocab is going gangbusters, your English vocab is a bit slower to pick up speed. You understand tons, but so far the only actual English word you say — and this is where I once again become the world’s SICKEST SICK MOM — is shit. Specifically, you say sheeeeeeeeeit, like Senator Clay Davis on The Wire. This started because the other day when we were making the seven-hour drive to Arizona and my phone died, and your ah-ah‘s phone was needed to navigate, and we had exhausted your massive repository of toys and books (as well as some improv toys from the rest stop that probably gave me Norovirus, such as “Beef Jerky-y” and “Comb-y”), there was nothing left to do but get right in your face and say sheeeeeeeit, which you inexplicably understand is a naughty word and thus think is THE. FUNNIEST. THING. you have ever heard. It wasn’t long after that you started repeating it back. This is, and I am not exaggerating, the greatest accomplishment of my life so far.
Speaking of me being a terrible mother and you loving curse words, you have yet to develop the fine motor dexterity to return my one-finger salute, BUT you have learned a whole bunch of other signs in the meantime. You can currently sign for milk, water, more, all done, dog (which you do by panting with great gusto, sometimes with an accompanying dance; NB we will probably have to get a fucking dog soon, just so I can spend the better part of the rest of my life cleaning up someone else’s shit), and, your personal favorite, book. You love your books so much you often sign your very first utterance, which is more book. Sometimes you sign more book the second you wake up in the morning. Sometimes you do it in your sleep.
All of this put together means that you are more communicative than ever, and this could not bring me more joy. I have always felt very connected to you and known more or less what you wanted by the look on your face or the tone of your cry, but now that you have the real power and autonomy of language (or languages), you have a kind of pride of self, a self-sufficiency, that just floors me. Yes, this also means that you are very good at knowing when you want something, and that when I take that something away sometimes (half-chewed giant chunk of bread; wallet you’ve inexplicably eaten half of), you go all tantrum-style on me, and that is a completely new phenomenon that may dictate the better part of my life for the next year.
But I still couldn’t be happier.
Yes, sure, I wish I could have gone on that waterslide just now. But besides being able to write this update, I’ve also gotten to spend the last hour snuggled in next you you while you resettled yourself to sleep with your NaeNae, I’ve watched you as you conk out, the spitting image of your newborn self, and yet so much more.
This will be our last monthly-update letter. Your next one will be a yearly-update letter. I’m not sure what I’ll do after that. With your letters, or in general.
But it’s been almost a year, and I’ve gotten used to the uncertainty. I’ve gotten used to the constant terror that I am doing something gravely wrong and that you are in grave peril. I’ve gotten used to — gotten to love — the constant give-a-thon that is being your mother. I’ve gotten back as much or more as I’ve given. I’ve gotten begrudgingly used to getting left out of “fun” things in favor of other “fun” things that only occasionally involve puking my everloving guts out in the middle of the night.