This month you went on your first big vacation, and I think it’s safe to say you won’t be on another vacation so long and luxurious for a long time to come. Traveling for two weeks with one kid was hard enough on your mommy & daddy. I can’t imagine us doing it again anytime soon with two. But we sure enjoyed those 16 sweet days with you, the three of us together all the time. At the very start I think you were frustrated to be in the car seat so long and so often. By the second week, I noticed your demeanor subtly change whenever we’d plug you back in for another haul. I think you realized this was the fun thing Mommy and Daddy and I do together, and it stopped worrying you.
This was a month of big, big food fusses. You started the month insisting on eating nothing but fresh fruit and the occasional cheese or cracker or bread. You ended it having ditched the fruit and the cheese and refusing anything but plain old carbs, and preferably sweet. We still managed to get oatmeal into you, but most of your meals for most of our vacation were bread or pasta. You are quite the pasta slurper, and that is an adorable skill. And it’s a good thing Grandma Lynne, who we stayed with in Minnesota, made such yummy banana bread. I admit I was relieved when we got home to normal and you stopped being quite so particular. To have you respond to a simple touch of the finger to an offending blueberry with all out gagging your stomach into my hand was a little much even for me. I felt doomed to utter failure as a parent, since obviously this child of mine was going to grow up to eat nothing but bread the rest of his life. Well, and Chipotle. We discovered that all things Mexican were also on your short, short list of acceptable food, and Chipotle, especially could turn any sky blue for you. You must be your daddy’s son.
Really, I feel like we can hardly blame you. We spent breakfast, lunch, and dinner with different people, in different places, every day for two weeks. Changing things up on you that much was asking a lot, and you were a trooper. You learned a lot about restaurant etiquette, that’s for sure! And on top of all that, you decided to pop your third tooth in the middle of our trip.
You really were a great traveler. I loved the giggle fests in the car. It was fun when you learned to clap your hands to your head in response to our asking “Where’s Jacob’s head?” You learned to make lots of silly faces and one time when I was reading out loud to Daddy you jumped into the fray and babbled at the top of your lungs for half an hour, not to be outdone.
I was also impressed with how well you slept, and how well you managed all the sleep deprivation we asked of you. You just patiently stored up those naps till we’d give you a proper one and then you’d be out cold for four hours at a time. One morning you slept in past ten! And you never seemed to mind snatching ten minutes of Zs in the car just to be woken up to go sit politely in a restaurant and eat a lunch you weren’t going to like, anyway.
You acquired a third set of grandparents this month, Grandpa Al and Grandma Lynne. The way you three took to each other was one of the highlights of our trip for me. It was lovely watching you play with them, reach out for them to hold you, explore the playground with them, trust them. We left you with them several times and you barely seemed to notice. And you brightened their world for those couple weeks, too. Thanks for being a sweetie.
This month you started walking in earnest and now you just trot along everywhere. You’ve also decided it’s time to go down the stairs like a grown-up, instead of backwards on hands and knees. We did not see eye to eye on the timing of this milestone, but I gave in pretty quickly rather than be guilty of squelching your determined enthusiasm to grow. So I stand there and let you hold my two hands while you gingerly take each step.
Now we are enjoying quiet and rest together at home while we wait for your sister to arrive. Everything I do I am intentionally doing at your pace, not just walking down the stairs. You helped with dishes this morning, standing on a chair and scrubbing the counter and sink with the long-handled brush while I worked away. When we folded the laundry you contributed by tossing everything out of the basket. When it’s time to empty the dishwasher, you stand there and meticulously hand me each piece of silverware and smile in satisfaction as I say “thank you!” every…single…time. No, really, thank you. I love it. You toddle after me around the back of the house across the yard when I go to turn on the hose, and then you follow me back to where I am standing at the garden. You chuck handfuls of mulch into the grass when I’m pulling weeds, and one day you sat in my lap and I handed you each weed to throw to the ground.
I am trying to be intentional about interacting with you, giving you growing opportunities, helping you learn. I’m trying to minimize the amount of time I spend at the computer in your presence so you don’t grow up thinking that’s a person’s default place in life, a epidemic misconception in our day. I’m hoping I’ll get lots of books read while you play, and then you’ll learn to read books, too.
We’re also spending time playing together, relying for our cues on a set of learning cards your Auntie Laura gave you. She is all about little ones learning, and she helped you with an exciting moment herself last week, when you got to climb up on your first tractor with her at your side. Anyway, the cards are full of ideas for little discovery moments for tiny people like you, and we are working through them systematically. Yesterday we took an old yogurt container and I cut a slit in the top just wider than your letter magnets. You learned how to slip each magnet into the tub, and then pick it up and shake it like crazy. Then you want me to open it and you shake it again while they all fly out, and then we start from scratch. This morning you were hard at work putting all the letters in while I sat on the sidelines, and I was ridiculously proud. Daddy’s & my favorite TV show lately is about a math genius. You might as well have been a math genius for how I sat there and reveled in your skills: your patience, determination, problem-solving, attention span. It all amazed me.
You love water, whether it’s a big splashy bath in Grandma Lynne’s tub, playing at the kitchen sink, splashing in the toilet water when I forget to put the lid down, or dipping your little paws into my watering can. We took you swimming for the first time on vacation and you are probably at least 10% fish. I expected you to act fearful, but there was no hint of it. You even kicked along as we floated you down the length of the big pool, and you loved the big water slide you rode with Daddy. I think we’ll get you a little plastic kiddie pool this summer so you can just hang out in the water beside the garden.
You’ve settled on another sign and now whenever you fuss for help I just have to remind you to say “Help,” and then you reach up in the air. Not exactly the sign we tried to teach you, but it’s definitely “Help” to you and it’s the cutest thing ever. You’re still not really saying anything, but your babbling is getting more and more determined and varied. It’s hard to know of the strings of Dadadada are related to Daddy or not, or Mamamamama to me. You did grace us with your first real word on our trip, and there was no mistaking it, because it happened twice in five minutes. We were minutes away from our destination after four hours in an un-airconditioned car on a hot, humid, sunny afternoon. All your fussing and protesting suddenly quieted and then you blurted out “No!” Daddy & I just looked at each other in awe and horror and thought “Maybe that didn’t just happen.” And when you did it again we laughed for the rest of the drive. So if anyone’s asking, your first was indeed “No,” and yes, we deserved it.
You love animals and your favorite thing is watching birdies. You love the neighbor dogs, too, from the big golden retriever to the 10-week old beagle. You also love the tacky, gross, hairy spider decoration our neighbor decided to make a permanent fixture after Halloween last year, and you always reach out to it like it’s a friend or something. Gross. You need to understand that spiders are actually GROSS. We went to the Como Zoo in St. Paul with your Aunt Gwen and you got to meet lions and seals and penguins and bears and giraffes and tigers and lions… the whole lot of ’em. It was a great zoo, but you were a little distracted by the immediate things like fellow tourists, stroller wheels, caging. It will be fun to try that again when you’re a little older and it’s not lost on you.
You’ve gotten proficient at feeding yourself and I rarely spoon feed you anything anymore. I clean up lots of serious messes, but I don’t mind. You are learning to put spoon or fork to your mouth, even if you can’t keep food on them in the process. I’ve gotten pretty laid-back these last few weeks about your actual intake. I give you lots of good things and you eat what you eat and you’re clearly not starving even if I throw most of it away later.
You’re also learning patience slowly but surely, and you’ve figured out that when it’s time to eat we say “Let’s pray,” and then you volunteer your sweet little hands for us to hold and when we say “Amen” you grin and start eyeing the food. Praying together is something that we’re starting to be more and more intentional about, and the fact that you know “Amen” and “Let’s pray” proves it. We are racing the clock, asking so much of you, because we want you to be able to sit quietly with me and your sister in church this fall while Daddy plays the organ. So we’ve only got a few more weeks to get you used to that, and to speed up the process we decided it was time to institute a daily worship time for you to practice sitting still.
So now every night after supper we sit on the couch and you drink your milk in my lap. Daddy prays and reads a Psalm, then you sit in Daddy’s lap and we sing out of the hymnal and sometimes we get you clapping or bouncing, and then Mommy prays and as soon as “Amen” happens you are squirming all over us, enjoying having not one but two parents to climb on. In the mornings, too, I’ve gotten into a routine with you of getting you dressed and then sitting down on the rocker. First we sing the Doxology, which you usually observe by squirming in displeasure. Then I say “Let’s pray,” and you get the hint and sit while I say the Lord’s Prayer and then a quick thank you to Jesus for our new day, and then you are off and running. We want you know that talking to God is just something that you do, whenever, wherever, all the time.
We left you all alone one day last week, and didn’t even see you the whole day. It was good for us to get away and just feel like we were boyfriend and girlfriend again, and I think it was good for you, too. I worried my fair share, but I never let it get the better of me and I never called in to check up on you. I knew you were in good hands and I left it at that. By all the reports, it sounds like you took it in stride just fine, and had a good time. It was fun to think how you are so separate from us in a way, and you will keep growing away from us and living your own life. As fiercely as we love you, that is what we really want for you, and we will keep trying to encourage your independent spirit and curiosity whenever we can. We want you to be strong and secure whatever happens, wherever you are, whoever you’re with.