Oh, what a good buddy you’ve been this month. It’s been quite eventful for you, chiefly because of your first two teeth, which you tenaciously worked on finding under those gums for several weeks before they finally popped through on the day we travelled home from our holiday adventures.
(New Years’ Day was the first time you decided to bite me with those almost-erupted gums. On the airplane. Rude. You are still exclusively breastfed at seven months, though I’ve been handing you carrot sticks and apple slices and the ribs of kale, and this morning you got a little taste of my oatmeal. But, boyfriend, you better watch yourself or Big People Food is gonna get real important real fast. …I’m kidding. But still.)
You are sitting like a champ now and just barely beginning to move. You still do the “bridge” pose and then launch with your feet in a rather alarming backwards scootch that makes me fear for your little neck. Now also you can swivel around 360 degrees on your tummy or travel in the beginnings of a backwards army crawl. It’s enough to keep you entertained but still not very effective for actual travel. But I know this will be the month I have to install a gate at the stairs.
My favorite new thing you’re doing is bouncing on your butt. It’s mostly a display of happiness or excitement, like when you spot me walking towards you. I just love how your whole body bounces up and down. I love how each of my babies has had a different innate way of expressing excitement at this age. You’re doing the Butt Bounce right now, on the carpet next to me, and you’re positively cackling love at me, open-mouthed, your head wagging back and forth for the joy of it all. You are just the happiest kid.
Your first Christmas was a happy occasion. I think that barely-half-a-year age must be one of the easiest in all of childhood, and everything about you felt serene around Christmastime before the teething started and the travel upended you. You were always either happily sleeping in your bed or happily watching the world go by alongside us. Your first Christmas present ever was a set of eight two-inch rubber stacking blocks in bright colors, and we’ve been having fun with them every day since Christmas. You love to knock down the towers we stack for you or fiercely gnaw the corners of the blocks. Mommy kind of enjoyed indulging in some new baby toys for you. There was a stack of cardboard nesting blocks too. And you got a new toy from Nana & Papa, too, a darling little hard plastic lion, about six inches long with clicking, bending legs and a twisty head and a swiveling mane. It’s adorable, and golden yellow – the signature Joshua color.
The day after Christmas was your second marathon road trip, this time to Kansas City to meet your Papa for the first time and reunite with Daddy’s side of the family for a post-Christmas celebration. You were a champ on our car ride and that fateful day was the last easy one we’d have with you for quite some time. Being in a strange environment – and one which involved five large dogs and fistfuls of dog hair no matter how much sweeping could be done – messed with your universe pretty drastically. Add to that the small quarters we were co-existing in and the thin walls between you and the TV and all the excitement of a family reunion… Well, for the week we were there you basically never slept unless you were in Daddy’s or my arms. Not only that, but you basically never left our arms, because even when you were awake it was hard to carve out a safe, calm space for you to play on the floor in the bustle, and I didn’t think to bring one of your chairs with us. So you were in our arms endlessly, and you became shockingly over-tired, which was good in a way because it meant you’d actually sleep in our arms instead of just freaking out all the time. But I was awake feeding you at least every two hours around the clock, and you spent much of each night in our bed with us, and at bedtime you’d scream for an hour or more and usually I’d end up just getting you up again and letting you hang with the grown-ups. In this fashion you rang in your first new year, smugly sitting on Daddy’s lap like it was high noon while we watched Tommy Boy, our ritual end-of-year hilarity.
Anyway, que sera sera, as they say. From there you and I flew to Florida for your Uncle AJ’s wedding, your very first plane ride. We got up at 3:00 a.m. to prepare for our flight. We were pretty great traveling buddies, you and I, and we had a grand time. You did well on our flights, sleeping most of the time, charming most of the people, and only causing a scene as we landed, when you’d scream in pain until your ears would pop, then be cute again until the next wave of pain hit. It was rather pitiful and completely endearing.
We made the trip accompanied by our trusty new toy, the Ergo. It’s a soft-structured baby carrier instead of the Moby wrap I’ve always used. It became clear to me last fall that I needed a quicker way to go hands-free with you, not only for daily business like grocery shopping with three babies, but for the looming solo air travel on the calendar. So I snagged a hand-me-down Ergo for $50 and I am in love with it. I navigated those airports like a ninja and got all kinds of impressed looks from gawkers who watched me effortlessly produce my boarding pass from the zippered pocket at your back while shouldering our four bags. (I pretend it was all glamorously easy and inspiring, but to be honest there was a lot of residual pain to deal with later, and the trek clear across Miami airport in swarms of internationals on our way home last week was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life.
Our visit in Florida was shorter than the one in Kansas and there was plenty of calm floor space for you to occupy, and you managed to successfully take half a dozen naps on your own in a crib, a welcome respite for me. Still, my bedtime was your bedtime, and you were up over and over every night. You spent lots of long evening hours hanging out with your gluttonous aunties (and Gramma and Grampa), entertaining them with your awesomeness.
Our return home was overwhelming, as I already alluded to, and as I headed for the baggage claim carrying all but the rolling suitcase and the carseat, you strapped to me, coffee in hand (which I chugged) I dropped your little yellow blanket. Yes, the magic one that makes sleep irresistible. But I was feeling too exhausted and overwhelmed to notice. I watched the baggage carousel go around dozens of times before finally concluding that your carseat was nowhere to be found. Sure enough, it hadn’t made it onto our plane in Miami. So we were sent home with a loaner carseat and a promise that ours would be delivered to our door. Only upon putting you down for your first nap in your crib at home that afternoon did I discover the absence of the magic blanket. I was horrified, but managed to keep my head. After half a dozen phone calls I felt reasonably certain that your blanket was in the hands of someone who would put it with your carseat and send it to us (our home is over an hour’s drive from the airport) and then I just had to wait. Sure enough the next morning, there it was in a bag with my name on it, brought to our door with your carseat.
I have rarely felt so relieved. Also triumphant. And smart, for making all the right phone calls and saying things like “Would you please have someone check in the family bathroom at Gate B9? I’m guessing it’s on the floor in there.” So then I washed it and it changed back from the color of mustard to the color of sunshine (you’ve been hard on it in six months) and once again it goes wherever you do.
Not that it is that magical anymore, because you emerged from those twelve days of 100% Attachment Parenting into that wonderfully unavoidable phase every kid experiences sometime before Age 3 called Separation Anxiety. The day we got home I set you on the carpet to play with your blocks and as I walked away you looked at me like “Are you kidding me?” and started to weep. And the next morning I put your whiny butt in your Daddy’s arms while he was hanging out with Meredith and I was trying to Do All The Things and I headed back up the stairs and you looked at me like “You cannot actually be serious” and started to scream. And so it has been for the last week. And even on the hopeful moments where the blanket triggers the thumb to point toward the mouth, you get almost there and you stop as if to say “Wait. I choose NO. This is not what I want” and then you scream. Occasionally your over-tiredness will serve up a marathon nap, but mostly it just looks like short ones all over the map, angsty bedtimes, and two or three night wakings. I’m seeing progress back towards sanity in the last day or two but I feel like I may’ve forever ruined my Perfectly Easy Baby by disrupting your beautiful, satisfying, blissful normal.
The upside to the separation anxiety is that bouncing butt when you see me coming. It’s fun to be The Awesome One and I don’t mind that you’re in love with me.
And even though you screamed your head off yesterday for 45 minutes because I wouldn’t hold you while I packed our bags for a busy day out of the house, I’m in love with you, too. I know because when I went to bed last night across the hall from where you’d been asleep alone for three hours already I heard myself say to Daddy “I miss my baby.”
Also, for the record? For as exhausting as our trip was and as frustrating as it was to see you unable to sleep unless I held you, it was also really special for me. I’d been missing those early weeks of perpetual snuggles and I got a reprise of that. I treasured the time with you immensely. And I guess that’s why I find myself missing you at 9:00 on a Wednesday night while you’re sleeping across the hall.
I love you.