Dearest Stevie Bee,
I could’ve told you that you wouldn’t have a one year letter. In fact, I think I said as much in your first (month) and only letter thus far. And also in your sister’s last birthday letter which I wrote on your birthday.
Such is life, as Lola says.
It’s not that there’s nothing to write about. Or that you’re boring. It’s that there aren’t enough hours in the day. And when your sisters were your age I was more concerned about pumping out weekly (if not mania-fueled daily) blog posts than I was about sitting around watching them play, enjoying their joy, observing their curiosity and making sure they didn’t find THE MOST dangerous object in the room to do THE MOST dangerous thing with--not that they did that last one. That’s all you.
[Inset segue into developmental milestones here.]
[Not enough time for poetic segues.]
[Stepping away to pull you out of a pit of vipers--no idea how or when that materialized. BRB.]
[List of baby milestones that are only exciting the first child go-around. And whose dates I couldn’t remember if my life depended on it, but I assure you were behaviors exhibited all well within the appropriate developmental age range. I mean, I think. I couldn’t find a single pen or piece of paper in our house to write anything down. And if I had, I would’ve recycled it on accident anyway. Side note: I recently unintentionally sent a sharpie inside of a package of Christmas presents. The recipient was worried I might have been looking for it. But I told her I could hardly keep track of my children, let alone my sharpies.]
You started standing up in the middle of the room around nine-ish months. Most babies pull to stand then “cruise” around the room holding onto furniture or an adult’s hand while working on balancing. You were all squats, all the time. For some amount of time. Then after that amount of time you started taking steps. For another amount of time. Then after that amount of time you were walking. Then running and spinning. I just know I’ve been chasing after you for a few months now.
We’ve already been to urgent care when you fell face first on the corner of a wood step stool. You split the skin right near your eye and facial wounds being what they are, it looked like your eye exploded as it pooled with blood. Thankfully, it just looked dramatic and was actually just a tiny old thing, millimeters from your eye. And now we have a round stool. Which honestly--aside from the kitchen cabinets--is the extent of my baby proofing. Because I’m a parenting blasé, lazy, rebel like that. Can you be all those things at once?
Well, since you learned to defy gravity all on your own, you have no concept of holding hands. You didn’t need one to stand up. You didn’t need one to steady yourself. So why would you need one for walking? Or climbing stairs? Or crossing streets? Or parking lot sideshows? Or public transit commutes?
Luckily you are also a teeny tiny pumpkin doodle (on the scale, on the percentile charts and in my heart) so you are easily into-my-arms-swoopable. And you are only on the cusp of not liking this. It depends on what you were doing pre-swoop--playing in the dirt, playing with sticks, playing in the dirt with sticks, looking at garbage cans, touching garbage cans, picking up litter to put in garbage cans.
Okay, aside from physical development, your brain has been doing it’s thing awhile too. I’m pretty sure your first word was dog and you were maybe seven or eight months old. I don’t know! I didn’t write these things down. You were definitely crawly. Or climby, grabby. Because I was still nursing you and I would bring you into bed in the mornings, trying to cling to any minutes of sleep you’d give me. After you’d nurse for about five to ten seconds, you would muscle yourself over me and practically fling yourself on “du!” who sleeps right next to my bed.
Everything was “du!” then “dug dug!” for awhile. Then came “Dada” and shortly thereafter “Da-yell”--sister #2. You started to call most adults “Dada” and kids “Da-yell.” You didn’t say “mama” until about two weeks ago. Maybe I wanted it too badly even though I tried to play it cool. We finally noticed you were saying your oldest sister’s name, but who knows? You may have been saying it for weeks now but we were too dense to notice. Also, you call her “ba-bal” which--even though that’s what her cousin called her when she was little (more like: “ball-ball”)--is a pretty loose interpretation of her name. So, can you blame us for being a little slow on the uptake?
You are just entering the stage of being able to parrot words though you don’t do it on command. More like when I drop my phone at the grocery store and say “oh, shit!” and you say “osha” and I just tell the people around me that you’re very concerned about worker safety. JUST KIDDING, PEOPLE! I don’t say that! I say “oh, fuck!” JUST KIDDING AGAIN! It’s really more like when we’re reading “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and you say “ba br” or “yell duk” and our minds are blown and you smile your huge, dimpled, proud of yourself smile.
I feel like in our modernizing world, kids don’t act their age anymore. There are parts of the world (and even in our country) where tiny people are responsible for caring for OTHER tiny people in their family. Or have to actually work to help support their family. But many American children try to act older than they are. We have this whole new category of kids called “tweens” which are basically kids who spend four years wanting to be teenagers. Though it’s sort of a paradox because they also seem increasingly immature to me. They’re in such a hurry to grow up yet they balk at any responsibility.
Like, Stevie, you want to be just like your sisters; you want to read books and stay up late; you arch your back in protest every time we put you in your car seat; just yesterday you started hitting; you basically want to hurry up and enter your Terrible Twos already. But you don’t want any of the responsibility of being a two year old like holding your own bottle or getting up at six in the morning to do your farm chores and milk the cows to fill aforementioned bottle. I mean why else do we (us specifically, but also as a society) keep having children other than to do the farm chores? Or bring us our phones from across the room? This world is already overpopulated and our resources are overtaxed, so you better be worth it. You better learn how to bring me my phone ASAP.
To be fair, our pediatrician friend has said that this is technically your second year of life so it makes sense that the Terrible Twos, the back arching and hitting would start--which really amounts to your frustration at not being able to communicate in English what your wishes are. It’s one of my pet peeves when adults belittle their children, laugh at them for crying or melting down over things we deem illogical. You have your own logic and desires. And I respect that. But also, I mean, c’mon, just use your words!? Okay, I’ll give you a couple more years of crying because you want your noodles over here and your glass of rosé over there or because your shadow keeps following you around. I know that it’s pretty easy in theory to use your words, but sometimes adults don’t get it right either. [Raises hand.] So, I’ll give you a break.
We’ve been trying to teach you a little bit of sign language. Your sisters especially love this--Bel even checked out a book from the school library about sign language. We are by no means a baby-can-sign-and-read-and-poop-in-the-potty-at-fourteen-months type of family. More power to you and your babe, but also--to borrow a super judgy term from the kids these days--so #extra. So we teach the very, utmost essentials: milk, more and all done (which you’ve got down pat), water, orange (which really is a stand-in for clementines which are your fave), cookie, cheese and meat (obviously the most important foods). Of course, you don’t care at all about using any of those other signs. You look at us, then the food item, then sign “more”--clearly your adults are idiots if they don’t pick up what you’re putting down. Food words that you do have:
- “m-n-ms” or any form of chocolate
- “tapatas” or blueberries
- banana--I think that one is obvious
- “snacks”--which is more lip-smacking than it is a word.
Non-food words, some already noted above:
- “Doe-doe” or Lolo
- “Doe-da” or Lola
- Ta-ta (I think, cousin Ava’s name)
- TT (cousin Travis’ name)
- Wow (which you used to say all the time--because I do--even in your sleep! Side note: you talk in your sleep)
- No (obviously)
- “Mo-na-na”--your favorite movie
- “Da-yell” (facing TV) or Daniel Tiger not to be confused with the sister version of the word said facing said sister not a TV
- “tees” or trees
- “bubbas” or bubbles
- And I’m sure a bunch of words that you fully understand the meaning of, but I frustratingly (for you) have yet to pick up on--some of your favorite things: garbage, chickens, stick, dirt, etc.
You are gaining words, feelings, hypotheses and ideas by the minute. Hypotheses about gravity and inertia a.k.a throwing things. Ideas for getting into dog food or prying open and emptying cabinets. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. But also, I can wait.
This third edition of infancy and too-quick toddlerhood has been everything your sisters’ early childhood wasn’t. While they could hold still and I could reasonably expect to find them in the same spot I left them in when I ran to the bathroom or the casinos--you, on the other hand, cannot be left unattended. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be admitting to leaving a fourteen month old unattended--even in your gated, outlet-covered, “safety” and “yes zone” of a room. So, do me a favor, forget the last few sentences.
The past fourteen months have been different in amazing ways too. I am a slightly different person that I was nine years ago. I’m more present. More in the moment with you. Gentler with myself. So, when I start to think about all the Shoulds and Coulds of my day or my Life’s Purpose, I snap out of it and think to myself, “would I really rather be folding laundry or dismantling the school to prison pipeline?” Or would I rather be reading you the same book a hundred times and sniffing your head and handing you objects to throw away? And I think for right now, we know what the answer is.
[Though you know me, we’re dismantling the patriarchy and institutional racism every day! Click through the links below if you’re a parent and fed up with the daily news about sexual predators that don’t look like our idea of creepy people but actually look exactly like our bosses, coworkers, pastors, parents and, hm, presidents. Or if you’re tired of another form of bullshit--racism in all its forms, possibly including our own parenting! I want to note that if you have any repulsion or even uneasiness with clicking on the below links, you might want to sit and think about that for a minute. Then, be brave and open and click away!]
I diverge. People often say that being a parent is “the hardest job” or “the most important job” and I used to roll my eyes because to a stay at home parent it sounds a little condescending. But, I realized I didn’t value what I do enough--because I’m an overachiever perfectionist with a valuable education that people have suggested I’m wasting (so I feel insecure about that), because society and paychecks tell us work by women isn’t valued. But, then I look around at all these jerks coming out of the woodwork (but c’mon, who are we kidding, most women and POC knew they were there all along). And then when people vote for them!? I know what I’m doing with one tiny boy (and the girls too) is SO SO SO important. My kids will (and do) roll their eyes at my daily diatribes, but as my best friend assures me, they are sponges, soaking it in. And one day it will pour out of them.
So, to finally conclude this magnum opus of a letter, making up for a year of no letters, here’s to you and I, testing hypotheses and thinking up ideas, learning to use our words and our feelings, soaking up the good stuff and literally and figuratively throwing away the garbage!
I love you no matter what!
Until the next letter (whenever that may be),