My darling, you are eleven-months old – you’re still my little baby, but you’re on the cusp of becoming a big one-year-old girl, my little toddler. Every day, it seems you are more and more a little girl, and a little tiny bit less a baby. It is, as this journey has been the entire time, both lovely and heartbreaking to watch.
At eleven months, you are a fiery little girl, full of personality. You have been particular and sensitive since the day you were born, and that hasn’t changed a bit. You want things – clothes, food, activities, comfort – to be just so, and anything less is unacceptable. I remind myself this will be a good quality to have, when you’re older, picking out dates or clothes or jobs or colleges. Right now – it’s a little exhausting. You are so sensitive, so easily touched by the people and energies, the sounds and smells around you. All I can do is grin, a little chagrined, and say, I wonder where on earth she got that from?!
You are very clever, finding loopholes to the boundaries Papa and I create for you, mimicking our actions and sounds, and grinning with pleasure when you succeed. You are cheerful, for the most part – I swear, I don’t know any other baby who laughs as often and with such gusto as you do. You delight in being delighted. You laugh, and then you give a little grin, a little check-in glance to Papa or me, that was funny, wasn’t it? I’M funny.
You are sweet. You are lovely and sweet, and you want to be held, you want to hold hands, you want to stroke my face or neck or Papa’s beard. You love companionship, you love having someone near you at all times – and yet, you are growing independent. In the mornings, in your best moods, you roll and crawl and hobble all over the den floor, pounding on the couch cushion then stacking your blocks then pulling up on a box then chasing Kitty so you can “gently” pat-pat-pat her.
Here are some of the things I love particularly about you right now – some of the details that I don’t want to fade from memory as you become an older girl with more talents and tricks –
You twirl your beautiful golden hair in between your fingers, while you nurse with me, or have a bottle with Papa or Auntie. You twist or pull on it gently with your little chubby fingers, as you get drowsy. It is your comfort, and helps you slide into sleep, those repetitive, soothing motions.
Your hair. People cannot stop talking about your hair. It is golden blonde, and it is so long and thick. You have more hair than other toddlers we know. It is so long and thick, your baby hair brush is no good now, I use my hairbrush on you just the same. It’s growing out in this perfect little pixie cut, and although I’d always imagined keeping your hair long as long as you wanted – part of me is tempted to keep you rocking your short hair as you grow older. Who knows – we’re in no rush to do anything at all with your hair, but you have such a fashionable little head of hair for such a little girl.
You sing, more or less constantly. Especially if you’re in a situation where you’re more isolated – your car seat as we drive, in the stroller on our walks, in your crib in the morning as you’re waking up and waiting for someone to come get you. It’s adorable, this soft, high-pitched ooing and do-do-doing. I have no idea where you got this from either, certainly not from your choir nerd mother or your never-stops-singing father. It’s another little comfort that you do to keep yourself company, and occupied, and you don’t even seem to notice you do it. It clues us into your mood – content, for the moment – and as it spirals into more rooster-like noises, we know your peaceful time is coming to an end.
No part of our day is sweeter than our mornings together. These days, I’m usually up before you during the week, and I stumble around to brush teeth and put contacts in and get make-up on for work. If I still haven’t heard from you, I dress and pack up my bags, so that when I do get you up, I don’t have to worry about anything else, I can devote that last 30 minutes before I leave totally to you. When you start singing over the baby monitor, or it’s close enough that I have to start thinking about leaving – I head into the nursery. Usually, you hear me coming, and are standing in your crib with a big grin, waiting. Here lately, you’ve been gently dozing and I rub your back until you roll over and look at me.
You are soft and snuggly in the morning, laying your head on my shoulder as I speak quietly to you, tell you good morning, I love you, welcome to this new fresh day. We always stop in the bathroom on our way to the den, so we can look in the mirror and make faces at each other. You usually smile and pat my chest in the way the means you like something. You grin with your little teeth, pleased and fresh. We sit down to nurse, and it is hands down the best nursing session of the day. You are sleepy and content and latch easily, and you nurse in my arms, your beautiful big eyes heavy, your long lashes with slow blinks. The sunlight comes in the big window behind me and casts beautiful light on your cheeks. Papa is usually snoozing on the couch with Kitty curled up at his feet, and although I used to have TV or music on in the mornings for company, I haven’t done that in a long time. I love our peaceful quiet time together, so early in the day. The house is still, we can hear the birds chirping to each other outside, the wind in the trees. These 15 – 20 minutes are often my little fortifying period for the rest of the day. If I have a big day ahead of me, if you and I will be parted for most of it, or even if you and I just had a rough evening the night before – these mornings give me so much grace and gratitude. I feel as though I can bear our separation a bit easier, I can bear the demands of my day a little more bravely, as long as I have that quiet family time in the morning.
You are, undoubtedly, a daddy’s girl, and I honestly don’t mind a bit. I know that you love me and need me, and want me above all others when you truly need comfort. Most of the time, it’s your papa who makes you laugh and smile so easily, so quickly. He works hard at it, true, always trying to come up with some new trick or face or sound to make you giggle. But I swear he can no more than blink at you and you’ve got a giggle fit. But then – you like to watch his antics most from the comfort of my arms. And when you were sick, coming down with tonsillitis and cutting two new teeth, at ROMP – it was mama you wanted. Oh, how sad I was that you weren’t feeling good – but how good did it feel to be that needed? You are loving and affectionate on a daily basis, but it’s been a long time – since you were 6 or 7 months old – that you wanted to cuddle that consistently and intensely with your mama. At ROMP, you only wanted to be in my lap, head against my chest, arms fisted in my shirt, snoozing, for long stretches of time. It felt so good and natural to have you soft and sleepy against my chest again. It was a different first ROMP for you than we’d imagined, maybe – I’d thought we’d be exploring and dancing non-stop – but a gentle and wonderful introduction to one of our favourite times of the year, with you cuddling as we listened to music, perking up when everyone clapped at the end of the song, so you could sit up and clap with us, munching on a pizza bone before you settled back into a nap.
You are so very a part of our family now. You always have been, of course, from the moment we knew you existed inside my tummy, and each day more and more since you were born. But when you were first born, you were so new, you were such a shock – we had a baby now?! We got to keep it?! No one was going to take you away from us? I confess, sometimes I still feel that, and maybe that’s why I’m already so nostalgic for your babyhood when it’s not even fully passed yet. I wanted you so much for so long, and you being here has been such a joy and a gift – I sometimes feel I can’t possibly deserve the goodness that is your existence in my life. Surely someone will tell me soon that my time is up, that you don’t get to be mine forever.
But as months have slipped by, the newness has worn off – some, not completely. Maybe it never will – I certainly hope so. But you’ve fit into our family like a missing puzzle piece. So often, at the beginning or the end of a day, I’ll be holding you, your papa will be nearby, Kitty winding around our ankles – and we have a little family hug – one of my arms holding you, the other wrapped around Papa’s waist – his big arms wrapped around both of us, Kitty meowing to be included. Our family, I think to myself, our tribe. You are a vital and necessary part of our family, you give us the drive and the inspiration to keep doing what we do and being who we are, and trying to be influences of goodness and kindness and love in this harsh world. We cannot imagine life without you, and we are still – 11 months later – so indescribably glad you are here, with us, ours.