I predicted that you would be walking by your first birthday, and here you are, my little baby, my big boy. You're a bit of both, here, at the end of this stupendous first year. I watch you walk, and a lump rises in my throat, tears stinging my eyes, in this roller-coaster mix of pride and sadness. I am so proud of you, and everything you do; I am sad at the fleeting nature of babyness, at the inevitable passage of time.
It is still boggling to me, that you went from this:
In the mere span of 12 months. This first year of a baby's life is almost incomprehensible, with the sheer speed and degree of change.
I look at these pictures of you from a year ago, and I can't even believe that little creature is YOU. The images don't match up with what you are today. And then I have to sit down, and take a deep breath, because it's going too fast.
My other senses are a bit different. I can remember, with all certainty, how it felt when I held you for the very first time, when they put you on my chest, the umbilical cord still connecting us. It's holding you where I have the most memory, the most emotion. Holding you for the first time then; holding you now in a dim room, as you work your way to sleep in my arms.
We still rock you and hold you to sleep. You won't have it any other way. You are too busy, too full of life and sound and ideas to go gently into the night. If we try to lay you down in your crib before you are really asleep, you pop up almost instantly, standing up and yelling. Someday, I know, you will lie yourself down and put yourself to sleep. Until then, it doesn't matter. We hold you, we listen to music, we sing to you, we soothe you, my dear baby boy, because it isn't forever. It isn't that long now until we won't do that any more, so we hold on to you as long as we can.
You were, are, my do-over baby. I got the unmedicated labor and birth that I wanted with you, cooperative as you were at staying head down, and being born in one fast push, all at once. I felt so good after your birth; thank you for giving me that experience. You were the best idea ever, once you were born, and here and ours. You completed us, made our family perfect. We're all here now.
You're our sweet boy, so happy. You only cried as an infant if something was needed: a diaper change, a nap, a pacifier, some milk. You screech in frustration now, when we won't give you the exciting, forbidden things that you so desire: our hot cups of coffee, our iPhones, electrical cords, toilet paper to shred and eat, our wine glasses. But then you move on, busy boy, to the next thing. Sometimes, you suddenly turn, and do your funny, all-fours run at high speed to some very important destination at the other end of the house. I love it when you do that, and I wonder what it is that made you go.
You are so sheerly, wonderfully, delighted in every new accomplishment, big and small. You grin from ear to ear, and laugh and smile, as you hit all these milestones - shaking a rattle, drinking from a cup, crawling, waving, walking. You cheer everyone on, including yourself, saying "yaaay!" and clapping your hands at anything that seems to need cheering.
You're so fast, so strong, on all fours running; wrestling with you on the changing table; your speed as you snatch our forks and plates at meal times. We can't believe how high and how far you can reach, ever pushing the limits. You've started to climb too, whatever seems it can be climbed. A cushion, a toy box, a toy, one foot up, and then the other. (Please, let's keep it at no ER trips, little boy.)
You're a delight, you really are. Even when you had that horrible ear infection in October, even with the teeth pushing through, you're so happy most of the time. You say "yeah!" and "yay!" and "mama!" and other unrecognizable, but very enthusiastic babbly words. You smile and clap and hold your hands up high for "so big!" and you work so hard to engage the nearest person in play, playing peek-a-boo, bobbing your head, waving, ducking around the sofas and chairs and then peeking out, grinning like a toothy loon the entire time. You absolutely shriek with laughter when someone chases you around and around the sofa or back and forth on the main floor of the house. You've hardly had the anxiety about strangers that hits some babies so hard. You're usually ready to play with someone new within a minute or two. You are definitely very social; you seem to thrive on getting out of the house, out in the world; it improves your mood every time.
You love balls. You'll chase and bat them around, playing catch and fetch with yourself or someone else. Big foam balls, little bouncy ones, it doesn't matter. You love to chase them, back and forth across the floor.
And music. Wow. You respond to music in such a profound way. It quiets you instantly if we sing to you. Janine tells us you are one of the stars of the show at your music class. Playing music, singing to you, clapping, playing instruments - you light up, watching our faces so intently as we sing.
Some of your other favorite things are: watching the microwave; opening and closing the little door on the thermostat; eating shoes; trying to climb in the dishwasher (I try to let you unload the plastic kid plates); pushing the buttons on the dishwasher (you've started it more than once); splashing in the tub (you have actually gone head over heels into the tub while we waited for it to fill, and I can't even have you in the room if Helene is in the bath - you just want IN); having a spoon or fork like everyone else at the table; opening and closing all the doors on the play kitchen; nibbling our toes; pulling off your socks; the stuffed llama (it's kind of Helene's, so I don't want to call it "yours"); the metal whisk in "your" kitchen cabinet; eating paper; crawling through the play tunnels at the rec center; greeting your nanny Janine in the morning (you just light up when she arrives); going for walks; watching dogs; watching Helene do things and trying to get in the middle of everything that she does.
Some of the things you do not like are: getting dressed, getting undressed, getting ready for bed, going to sleep, having your diaper changed, wearing socks, having your nails cut, taking medicine. You fight all of these things with every last ounce of your wriggly, surprisingly strong, little being, and doing any of them with you resembles a wrestling death match, which may result in a head butt from you and a fat lip for one of us.
You ate baby food from a spoon so readily, but it took you a little time to catch on to feeding yourself and chewing bigger bites. Like so many other things, one day, you just did it. You seem to tend towards protein and carbs; you are definitely our kid. All of a sudden, you drink from a straw, just like your big sister, holding your own cup. These things literally seem to happen overnight, and never cease to be amazing to us. Now, you cannot be left alone, say, in the backseat of the car with your sister's bag of Mini Oreos. We turned around on our Thanksgiving trip to New Jersey to your wide-eyed face covered in chocolate crumbs, after some suspicious rustling and a chocolately smell in the air.
This year, my sweet boy, THIS YEAR. A dichotomy - it feels both like everything was just yesterday (as I remember the feel of you in my arms that very first time, that very first day), and that it was ever so long ago, since you are such a dramatically different creature from the one I held on your first day with us. One year ago, I held you, so tiny, as you slept, delicately touching your perfect, miniature hands. Today, I hold your hand as you grin and walk beside me, eyes and face alight with wonder.
Oh my boy. Let us always wonder at each other. I love you so much, beyond anything I ever imagined, and you will delight me always.