My dear Ellie,
Today you are eleven months old, just one month shy of a whole year. I can hardly believe it. Last year at this time you were rolling around in my belly, seemingly trying to will yourself more space as your feet dug into my ribs and your limbs stuck out every which way. I chuckle when I remember your in-utero movement habits, because now that I know you, it was just all so you. For instance, you would often nestle your feet into my ribcage, causing me some decent discomfort. I would try to massage you downward and out of there, to which you would respond with a swift "back off, Mom" kick before repositioning yourself back where you wanted to be. I should have known then what a little firecracker I would have on my hands! (An incredibly sweet firecracker, to be sure, but a firecracker nonetheless!)
This month has been another fun one, although your developments have been more subtle. You continue to master previous skills such as standing (which you have now done with NO HANDS for several seconds on countless occasions, and even when you do hold on I can see how much your balance continues to improve) and cruising (you make your way from one piece of furniture to the next with great ease, and especially love to head over to the piano to play a few notes for us!). Your scoot-crawl lives on and you tear around the house on your two hands, one knee and one foot. Everyone gets such a kick out of it and I love this distinctive movement of yours. I assume next up will be walking, whether we're ready for it or not. As of now, you will take a few steps while Daddy or Papa holds your hands, although you usually won't do that for me, because you just get mad that I'm not picking you up (apparently I've spoiled you). And just within the past few days there have been several moments when both your daddy and I have been just sure that you are about to let go of whatever you're holding onto and start walking towards us. You just look like you want to walk! Alas, you always think better of it and decide to scoot-crawl instead, so for now we're left with the video camera constantly at the ready in case you do decide that maybe a couple steps aren't such a bad idea after all. But, as usual, no rush, Ellie! Once you start walking it seems to me that you will be a real Little Girl and no longer a baby, and I'm perfectly happy to hold on to your baby-ness for just a little while longer.
As for language, you have still been babbling your little heart out. You can say "mama" and "dada" but you still say "dada" more regularly. There have also been a couple of times when we thought you might be trying to say something else (such as "dah" for "dog"), but we can't be sure. You do, however, understand a lot of what we say, including things like "eat," "milk," "may I have that" (which results in you handing us whatever you are holding), and "no" or "don't touch" (which usually results in some whining, if not a full-blown tantrum). It is really cool to be able to talk to you and know that you understand what we're saying!
And, even though you're not really talking, you do your very best to make your wishes known in other ways. For instance, much of your day is spent crawling over to someone and reaching your arms up, asking to be held. When you are in someone's arms, you point all over the house to direct us where you want to go, asking us to show you whatever it is that you want to inspect a little closer. Your favorite things to look at around the house this month are any and all ceiling fans (preferably ones with a chain you can pull), the light switch in the dining room and the wooden pelican art piece hanging over the dining room table. You also often ask to be led to Achilles!
As for regular play, your big thing this month is emptying containers. You love to pull all the toys out of your toy box, and if you can get your hands on one of them, you particularly enjoy emptying my purse, your diaper bag or your daddy's wallet. You also love to tear paper and really did a number on a clothing catalog the other day. In addition to those games, your other favorite activity is peek-a-boo. You love to play peek-a-boo anyway you can, with anyone who will indulge you. It's very sweet and I love that you are now able to initiate a game yourself and interact with us in that way.
Your sleep continues to be interrupted at night, and you are still waking up two or three times expecting to be nursed back to sleep. Your naps, however, are great. You are taking two good solid naps every day, and it is something I never take for granted after all of our nap struggles in the beginning. As for eating, you are still doing quite well although you are less enthused about your purees these days and would rather more finger foods. We've started letting you sample more and more things and it's always fun to watch you experiment with something new. You always try something at least a couple of times before deciding you don't like it, which is something I hope sticks with you!
Another notable thing about you this month is how great you are with all of the outings we drag you on. Even if you have to miss a nap, if you are out and about, you are happy to explore your new surroundings and meet new people. You are bold and outgoing, and reach out to be held by anyone and everyone, including total strangers (such as people in the lobby at the mechanic or in the aisles at the grocery store). Although I do hope you learn to be a little more cautious around people you don't know for the sake of safety, I love your willingness to interact with new people. That's a trait you get from your outgoing dad, and your shy mom is very proud of your little social butterfly self.
And Ellie, I do love your boldness. And your independence, and your fearlessness. Not only do you love meeting new people, but you love new experiences. Every new situation is a chance to learn, inspect, watch and study, and you are always game. For instance, many babies (your mother included) hate the feel of grass on their feet or legs and will cry in protest when forced to touch the stuff. You, however, when plopped down in the grass, immediately go to work pulling it up, inspecting it, and handing it to us so we can also see what is so interesting to you. Similarly with sand, you were hesitant at first touch, but within seconds you were scoot-crawling your way around to chase sea gulls or get a closer look at the shells. You are constantly on the hunt for something new to examine, and you will try everything at least once (and sometimes more, as I mentioned in reference to food), before forming an opinion. This is a trait that, frankly, I hope sticks with you until high school then goes on hiatus until you start travelling the world in your twenties! In all seriousness, though, I so very much love your adventurous spirit.
Ellie-Girl, I realized the other day as I watched you play that the thing I love most about you at this age is that you are just so completely, genuinely, unapologetically you at all times. If something pleases you, you respond with your biggest, happiest, most scrunchy-nosed smile. If something upsets you, you let loose your biggest, unhappiest, uninhibited cries. If you want to go somewhere, you will climb over whatever obstacle may be in your way to get there. If someone tells you "no," you protest whole-heartedly (and loudly!). If something interests you, you will study it relentlessly until you are fully satisfied. If you are hungry, you will enthusiastically stuff food into your mouth. You do everything to the very fullest, without a care in the world about things like social graces or peer pressure. Your personality is on constant, wonderful display and you just are who you are, completely and totally, every second of every day. As adults, that quality is almost nonexistent and to watch you is refreshing, beautiful and inspiring. I know that there may come a day when perhaps you will smile a little smaller, because you are worried about how you will look in the pictures, when you will eat with more decorum so as not to seem rude, when you will worry about what others think of you and you will let self-consciousness dictate your behavior to an extent (although I certainly hope not!). There will come a day when your reactions are more measured, when you keep your opinions to yourself, when you put your own wants and desires aside in favor of social convention. I know some of that is necessary as you learn various social graces, and some of it is unfortunately inevitable as you become aware of the fact that others can form opinions about you. But right now, at this age, those things don't matter. You are completely and totally you at all times and I cannot even express how much I love to see your personality out on full display every day. I love every bit of the baby you are and the little girl you are becoming and I hope that you will always feel the freedom to be yourself and let people love you for who you are. Because you, my girl, are outrageously lovable.
Ellie, even at only 11 months old, you are an extraordinary person. I cannot believe I am so lucky as to be the mother of such a wonderful little girl. My heart can hardly stand it.
Happy Eleven Months, Sunshine. I love you so very, very much.
All my love,
* * * * *
First of all, you are going to notice that this letter is being written on a day other than the 29th. You have no doubt worked out that there was no February 29th in 2013 and may be wondering how your mama and I chose today over February 28. As the answer to that question is not even a little important, I will only admit that we had more than one legitimate discussion about it and invite you to make of that what you will.
In any event, you have continued your inexorable march towards becoming one year old. I would probably be sadder about moving farther from your tiny days if you were not so much fun to be around. You are always full of excitement and smiles when I get you up in the morning and when I first see you after work. You are also interested in so many toys and things and get better coordinated every day. That said, if I take time to think about it, I realize you don't fit as neatly in my arms as you used to and there is too much to look at these days for you to bother with resting your head on my shoulder. You don't really need me to feed you solid food (though you still tolerate it in between your many distractions) and you sleep in your own room so I can't stare at your perfect peacefulness every night before going to bed. After your birthday party, you are also going to be out of first holidays. Fortunately, we tried to do the best we could at being in the moment and enjoying you and them. We also have more than a few pictures in case we forget anything.
This month you have continued to show so much personality and really seem to be learning new things all the time. You lift your arms when you want to be picked up, point at the things you want and know what Mama means when she tells you not to eat something you shouldn't (even though you strongly disagree). You know where and when she usually nurses you and get excited when you can tell it is about to happen. You even turn book pages yourself (in fairness, you are still working on this one, but it is clear you know what you are trying to do). As you can imagine, it is incredibly daunting to know it is our job to teach you everything you will need to know in this world, so it is nice to see you eager to pick some of it up on your own (and especially nice to see you are capable of doing so!).
Speaking of things that are satisfying and fun to watch, you are going on eleven months old and are anything but shy. With the exception of "mama month," you not only allow new people to watch you be yourself, you happily invite them to play along. This past month, we had a lot of family outings where you preciously asked to be passed from one relative to the next, while also taking time to play on your own. This does not seem to be an especially common trait and it has been exciting to have my first glimpse of fatherly pride. Of course I want you to be yourself and I will only ever ask that you do the best you can, but it doesn't mean I can't also be proud when the results are objectively impressive.
In closing, I want to mention how grateful I am to have written these letters. Not only will they give you some idea of what you and I were like during your first months of life, but writing them has forced me to consider in a meaningful way the inexpressible greatness of fatherly love. I had no idea how vast the range of emotions was that came with being a parent for the first time, and it has far surpassed what I expected and looked forward to for so many years. For me, these letters have unintentionally given me a way to try and step back inside the earliest stages of the incredible journey that is being your daddy. I love you and your mama so much and am so grateful that the best things ever to happen to me happen to be so very great indeed.
All my love,