Monday, May 4, 2015

Dear E.J. - 10 Months

My dear E.J.,

Ten months old! Wow! We are staring the end of your first year right in the face and I do not care for it one bit. As much as I love watching you grow, I cannot stomach the idea of the impending end of your infant days in just two more (way too short and far too quickly-passing) months. First birthday party plans are already in the works and I'm just going to throw myself into making your party awesome and try not to think about the end of the era it celebrates. I know, I know—overemotional mama alert! But I can't help it; I have just loved my time with Baby E.J. too, too much for it to be over so soon.

The first word that comes to mind today when I think about 10-month-old E.J. is CRAZY. You, my friend, are hellbent on your own destruction and the graying of Mama's entire head of hair. In particular, this month you have discovered climbing. Almost exactly two weeks ago, Daddy and Ellie went to the playground while you and I stayed behind. I allowed you to explore Ellie's room (a rare treat, usually prohibited by Ellie herself, so let's keep that between you and me), and when you made your way over to her bed, I wondered if you'd be able to figure out how to lift your knee to hoist yourself up into her bed. Well, you did just that as if you had been doing it every day of your life. "Adorable!" I thought. Then we moved out to the living room, and I let my attention wander from you for a moment, only to suddenly get a glimpse of your little feet sticking straight out in the air, as you lay fully extended on top of the toy box. You climbed up and in, got yourself situated in a seated position inside the box, and literally stuck your tongue out at me. "Oh," I thought, "TROUBLE is the word I was looking for."

Sure enough, since your very first climb onto Ellie's bed two weeks ago, you are UNSTOPPABLE. You climb in and out of boxes like it's nothing. You love to climb up onto the dishwasher door while Daddy is trying to load it full of dishes. I caught you with your foot in one of the holes of the baby gate at the front door, climbing your way up. I watched you SCALE A WALL to try to get up onto a windowsill. Needless to say, your crib mattress is now at its lowest setting but I have watched you climb halfway up the wall of your Pack-N-Play in the living room, which, until just three days ago, was the "safe place" I could stick you if I needed to leave you alone for a moment. No more, my friend. No such "safe place" exists anymore, and I am left searching Amazon for safe sleep solutions for you during our upcoming summer travels. Thanks for giving me a new project, I guess?

And climbing is hardly the only physical development you've enjoyed this month. In addition to the fine-tuning of your rapid one-legged scoot crawl technique and ever-increasing steadiness while standing (including some very controlled, hands-free sit-downs from a standing position), you started walking with the walker toy. You pull yourself right up, happily march yourself across the room, and stand there patiently waiting for someone to come lift you and turn you around (your favorite part!). Then it's right back across the room to do it all again. I love seeing the proud expression on your face as you strut your stuff across the living room, but man, oh man. I am not ready for this.

When you're not manning the helm of the walker toy, you are scoot-crawling all over the house—and I mean ALL OVER THE HOUSE. You especially love to do so with a toy in hand, and lately that toy is generally a toy car or pull-toy on wheels that you can "drive" around in front of you with one hand. You still love to try to make your way into Ellie's room or the kitchen (that dog bowl is just far too enticing), and when you see me hurrying along behind you to try to cut you off at the pass, you pick up the pace in a desperate attempt to beat me to it. For the time being, I'm still faster than you! And thank goodness for that, because you would otherwise be eating a LOT of dog food.

Speaking of eating, it just would not be a monthly letter to you if I didn't discuss both your eating and sleeping habits. Last month I talked a lot about the doctor's concerns about your (lack of) weight gain. We had a follow-up appointment mid-month and, for the first time, your weight percentile did not drop! You stayed strong at a peanut-sized third percentile, but you were consistent! This was encouraging news and we were instructed to just continue what we've been doing and come back in six weeks (instead of the usual month) for another weight check. Way to go, buddy!

As far as your solid food journey goes, I would say you have made some very good progress this month! Just a couple days after my last letter, we decided to try feeding you in Ellie's old high chair, which has a tray that can attach closer to your body, essentially pinning your arms at your sides and preventing your patented grab-the-spoon-and-dump-the-contents-everywhere-except-your-mouth move. You didn't always love it, but it allowed us to feed you some purees at every meal (without having to hose you down afterwards), and then we would give you a chance to try some finger foods. Over the course of the month, the arm-pinning has become unnecessary and now you are willing to let us feed you, especially if you simultaneously have access to some finger foods to eat yourself. You are particularly fond of peas, but have also started to enjoy broccoli, shredded cheese and wheat toast, in addition to your beloved Puffs. I'm excited to try some more new things with you this month, and hopefully all this eating will pay off at your next weight check.

As for the sleeping, your naps have really found their groove, which I only dare type as I use one hand to knock on everything wood within arms reach. You take two naps per day now, each lasting about 60-90 minutes. I can work with that! I nurse you in your room before naptime and then put you in your crib awake, and you are able to put yourself to sleep when you are ready. Bedtime goes similarly, but you are still waking at least two times a night. I have perfected the zombie-mom stumble to your room for a half-asleep nursing session to help soothe you back to sleep after each wake-up, so we're getting along. I wouldn't hate sleeping straight through the night, but it could be (and has been) worse, so for now we'll just keep on keeping on. At least you have generally shifted your morning wake-up time to a more respectable 6:30-7:30 a.m.! Much appreciated, buddy. Thank you.

This month has brought several other notable firsts for you, including the first time you said "Mama" (on the very day you turned nine months), your first Easter (you can really rock a sweater vest, kid), and your very first tooth, which arrived with only minimal fanfare and is cute enough to keep me from being too mad that your gummy smiles are done for. Speaking of your cute face, you also adopted the "duck face" this month, and bring it out primarily when you have been forced to taste a food you don't particularly enjoy.

You have also started pointing (which I find adorable), waving (often when we say "hi" and always when Daddy and Ellie say goodnight to you), and possibly kissing (big, wet open-mouthed smooches on my chin). You also love music right now, and when you hear a catchy tune, you can't help but dance. At a street festival earlier this month, you heard some live music and were nearly jumping out of your wrap to move to the beat. I loved it!

You're just so much fun these days. You're still so smiley and happy and sweet and cuddly, in addition to being crazy and adventurous and curious. You keep me on my toes and some days you really wear me out (please-oh-please let that self-preservation instinct kick in for you soon!), but each day with you is a delight. E.J., I know it is in the nature of a child to want to grow up far more quickly than they are able. And I know that you don't actually have any control over the situation, but if by some strange twist of reality you do find yourself with some say in the matter, could you please try not to grow up too quickly? I feel this desperate urge to grab time and clutch it in my hand, not letting any more pass until I am ready. I love this age for you, and I don't want it to pass, although I do remember that I loved the previous months and know I will love the next. I just feel so helpless as I watch the days pass by, each one bringing us closer to the end of your babyhood. I'm not ready for that yet, to say goodbye to my infant and hello to my toddler. Please, slow down, my love. I just need more time.

Happy ten months, my sweet boy. I love you so.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear E.J.,

Happy 10 months! Double digits! By the time you read this, it will seem like such an insignificant stretch, but is literally your entire life, so you will have to forgive a little enthusiasm. On top of that, do you realize it's going to be almost eight years until you add another digit to your monthly total, or that I still have fifty years left until I add the fourth? Big things, little man.

That said, I have to admit that I was tempted to apologize for the math. That was until I realized that instead of rolling your eyes, you are just as likely to be a fan and to have tried to re-work the calculations for the then (now?) present day. Therein lies one of the most interesting and difficult parts of parenting at a macro-level. I have no idea who you are going to become, but feel more than a little responsible for it. On one hand, it's possible that most of your grown-up personality and proclivities are relatively set. Essentially, things with you are going to work out the way they are meant to. On the other hand, I feel a palpable need to talk to you and play games and give you sufficient time to crawl and climb and explore so that you can develop as quickly and fully as you are physically capable of doing. I feel the weight of responsibility for ensuring you become everything you are capable of being. The best way I can think to handle this dichotomy is to downplay the sense of obligation and just enjoy being your daddy. This leads me to do the things that flow naturally from that and from wanting for you what I think I know is best. There is a long-ish quote from one of my favorite speeches that addresses the two ideas really well. Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple, said:

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even with it leads you off the well-worn path.

As for enjoying you, that is still pretty easy. You are so often pleased, and by so many things, that I have a hard time believing you are a real kid. At ten months old, you are still describable as the "world's happiest baby." It's awesome. That said, you have started getting displeased by more things. This makes sense as you become exposed to more things, but also because you sprouted your first tooth, which can't be fun, and aren't sleeping for long enough stretches at a time to be fully rested. Whatever the cause, it doesn't approach the ridiculous amount of happiness. You also continue to be extremely active. You modified your crawl to look more like Ellie's scoot-crawl thing, but really I think you are just doing whatever things your body tells you will get you where you are going the fastest. You pull up on everything and try to climb when you think you can. You started pushing a walker and are doing much better at bracing your inevitable falls (congrats/thanks!). Notably this month, you watched your first Masters(!), started adorably waving, and particularly love to get big squeeze-y group hugs. You also spend lots of time pushing cars all over the floor, and insist on having something in your hand when you are exploring, wheels or not.

E.J., you are a delight, but even if you weren't, there is something just so indescribably cool about having a real, live son. I am very excited that it is you, grateful for all the time we spend together now and eager to see how our time gets spent by the time you read this.

All my love,

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