A Painted House

Dear James: Month Six

Posted on: January 5, 2011

Note:  Readers from my former blog will be familiar with the monthly letters I write to my babies for the first two years of their lives.   As each new letter will be posted here I will be moving over all previous letters to my archives for continuity.  Thanks for your patience as I work on all this administrative stuff!

Original post date: October 16, 2008

Dear James,

Today you turn six months old. I suggested to your father that we celebrate this occasion somehow, after all your first half-birthday doesn’t come around every day.  And yes, I look for reasons to eat food I could not otherwise justify, what of it?  Since cake is still out of the question for you (blame your father, I wanted to give you a taste of frosting months ago just to see if you suddenly learned to tap dance) we decided to introduce your first “real” food today: carrots!  That’s right, for your first full birthday we’ll let you drown yourself in sugar and fill every facial orifice with buttercream goodness if you want, but at only six months you have to settle for liquefied vegetables. And now, as your mother and Enforcer of You Must Eat At Least Two Bites, I’ll throw out the ceremonial first food-related lie and tell you they taste exactly the same.  That delectable, spongy treat they put in front of me at my next birthday?  I’d much rather blow out my candles over a bowl of mashed peas. Really. 

The whole concept of solid food won’t be new as we started you on baby cereal a month ago.  We had intended to wait to give you any solids until this six month milestone, but at your last doctor’s appointment you hadn’t gained much weight in a month and just to be safe we decided to introduce a few more calories. You weren’t impressed at first with this new game we were playing, but by your third solid meal you were opening your mouth like a baby bird, begging for more.  I’m familiar with this sensation; I find that strangely enough, it crops up most often when I’m in the vicinity of Taco Bell.

As of last week it seems that you finally found your volume button, as you’ve started babbling a steady stream of indistinguishable syllables for the entirety of your wake time and a good one third of your naps. Your Dad and I are participating in an unspoken contest to see who can get you to utter Mama vs. Dada first, but in reality I think we’re both losing to your Grandmother as the only real syllable you utter is “Guh, Guh, Guh.”  In an effort to encourage this new skill we’ve been practicing lots of words that start with G including Grasshopper, Gophers, Goobers, Grandma, and God.  Although upon reflection, though we want you to know about God at an early age, perhaps we should leave that particular word until you have more control over when you speak.  Otherwise you’re likely to start shouting “God!” without warning and those around us might think we’ve taught you to take the Lord’s name in vain before you even say “Uh-oh”.

Sunday mornings have become a bit of a challenge for us recently, as our church changed its meeting times so that your normal mid-morning meal falls during our preferred service.  To spare the nursery workers a starving, cranky baby by the end of the service, I try and feed you just before we leave home. Notice I said try. Somehow you seem to know when we are on a time-specific schedule because each and every Sunday morning you flatly refuse to eat.  It doesn’t matter if it’s been hours since your last meal, nothing doing, not interested, thanks for playing.  Last Sunday I got up at 6:00 a.m. to use the restroom and then peeked in on you to make sure, for the twelve-thousandth time, that you were still breathing.  When I looked down into your crib I found two bright eyes blinking up at me, two kicking legs, and an enthusiastic “Ga!” greeting.  I knew you were hungry after the 10 hours since your bedtime, despite how you had been lying there contentedly in the early morning darkness, so I picked you up to feed you and mentally calculated that in three hours when you’d need to eat again, it would be the exact time I needed you to eat before church  Perfect! My early morning check had inadvertently avoided our Sunday morning scuffle.  Or so I thought.  Silly Mama.  Three hours later we were all up for the day, washed and brushed and ready to eat breakfast before leaving…..and nothing doing.  You wanted nothing to do with me, with food, with the thought of me or food.

So when I handed you over to the nursery worker I explained that you might become cranky, as you’d refused your breakfast.  Sure enough, 45 minutes later your number popped up on the monitor, summoning me.  As predicted, you were now ravenous. I fed you and with just a few minutes left in the service, collected your things and returned to the auditorium for the music portion of our worship.  But as I’m sure God greatly enjoyed, just as I entered the room with you in my arms the music stopped, a hush fell over the congregation, and the worship leader began to pray. You can see it coming, can’t you?  No sooner had I set foot in the room but you opened your mouth and out came a stream of oohs and aahs that could have been heard by your Aunt Amy in North Dakota, had she been listening hard enough.  And all I could think as I firmly placed my hand over your mouth and rushed you back out into the foyer was to wonder, considering the locale, if it would have been more or less embarrassing had you shouted, “God!”

James, I have a hard time believing that six months have passed since you arrived and turned our world upside down.  If I could go back and tell that woman who at ten days past your birth was struggling with mastitis, residual pain and discomfort from giving birth and learning to feed you, sleep deprivation, and the emotional rollercoaster that is immediate post-partum life just how great life was going to be with you in six months, I would. I would tell her how one chilly Sunday morning she would pick you up for a now unusual (!) pre-dawn feeding and you would snuggle your little body into hers for warmth and comfort, that she would pull you in close and rock you as you ate, that you would look up at her with a flirtatious grin and giggle, and that her heart would once again, become inadequate to contain her depth of feeling for you.  She loved you then, James, but she could not even fathom how much I love you now.

Love,  Mama

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