A Painted House

Dear James: Month Eleven

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: March 16, 2009

Dear James,

Today you turn eleven months old.  Your tenth month was a busy one, culminating in the biggest trip we’ve attempted since your birth.  The three of us visited Jacksonville, FL so your Dad could attend a medical conference and I could try and locate the fraying edges of my sanity, lost somewhere between the record-breaking snow, subzero temperatures and the past six months of indoor confinement.  We opted to fly to Florida rather than suffer through two days worth of driving, which in retrospect I still see as the better choice, though not by much. I was nervous for a week leading up to our trip, about the logistics of security and timing of our flights and your particular preference for napping at home, in your bed, all by yourself.  At first it seemed I had been worrying in vain, as we inched our way successfully through security with enough baby gear to hamper any plane’s ability to clear the ground, made our flight on time, you flirted with the flight attendant, and then made yourself busy tasting the seatbelts, banging on the double-paned windows, and studiously examining the In Case of Emergency card.  I never read that card anymore, but perhaps I should have; there might have been instructions on there for what to do when one hour into a two hour flight, your baby completely melts down on a very tiny airplane completely full of strangers.  Because it sure felt like an emergency when you decided you’d had enough, you were past naptime and very aware of it, and you’d like to go to sleep, please. Right now. You didn’t want to play, you didn’t want to eat, you didn’t want to stand or sit or lay across our laps.  You wanted your bed, with the lights off and your music on.  You might as well have asked me to turn purple and start blowing bubbles out of my ears.  And since none of your requests were feasible at 36,000 feet in the air, you cried.  And cried.  And I prayed that God would reach down and touch you, my child whom I love so deeply, and knock you unconscious.  After we touched down, keenly aware that we would have to repeat that whole process in just five days, I suggested that perhaps we should give you your first Fed-Ex Overnight Shipping experience instead.

The rest of our trip after that first day was uneventful and quite enjoyable, with the exception of a repeat performance on the plane ride home. While we were in Florida we walked on the beach, explored our sprawling resort, inadvertently let you taste sand, fed the turtles, and watched you become friends with the sunshine.  It was a relaxing family vacation, James, one that will have to last in our memories for a long time.  Because once you’d finally and dramatically passed out on the airplane going home, your Dad and I looked at each other, relief etched across our faces, and simultaneously mouthed, ‘Never, ever again.’  

The other trip we made this month was by car (which you handled beautifully, by the way) to the campus of Cedarville University where your Dad and I met many years ago.  We went to see Uncle Brad’s senior music recital and driving back on campus felt like we’d never left.  We could have been those same two students who met, dated, and fell in love there, coming back from an afternoon together.  Except it’s been six years since we graduated, your Dad earned his medical license, and you, our darling baby boy, were strapped snuggly into the back seat babbling into your plastic cell phone.  Those two kids who drove away as college graduates six years ago had no idea how happy their marriage would be, how they would become your parents, how good it was going to get.

In other news, you’re growing taller by the day, so much so that I’ve packed away a whole new series of clothes you never fully filled out around the middle, and refilled your closet with 12-month sizes.  I think this growth has much to do with your increasing tolerance for solid foods; you’ve expanded your palate of non-gag-inducing particles past Dust and Air and are now edging toward Lint and Miniscule Vegetables.  As you’ve outgrown its height limit, we put your infant car seat away and your Dad spent the better part of an afternoon trying to install your Big Boy Car Seat which, according to the packaging, you’ll be able to use until you leave for your honeymoon.  I’m pretty sure he eventually gave up on adjusting the seat itself and did it the easy way; he molded the van around it

We’ve been thrilled to watch as you’re finally making real progress in your motor skills, walking all around the house while holding our hands or your push toy, and cruising along the furniture from one surface to another.  It took some trial and error, but we figured out your motivator. You weren’t interested in moving toward food, juice, or toys, but put my laptop on one end of the couch and you on the other and suddenly you found the skills to propel yourself.  I’m convinced we could start you in the back yard and you’d find a way to move from one object to the next in a straight line directly toward my keyboard. I guess you inherited your mother’s Google gene.

Once you started cruising it was just a matter of time before you could stand by yourself, a trick that requires intense concentration.  You list and lean, correct and overcompensate until eventually gravity wins and we catch you before you hit the carpet.  Two days ago at your grandparents’ house in Ohio, the house where your Dad grew up, you let go and took your first solo steps.  By the grace of God we were all watching at the time and got to witness your first independent movements.  I will admit that while I was thrilled to see you hit such a milestone, my heart squeezed just a little bit in recognition that this was the first big step toward your independence.  I want you to know James, that just because you can do things by yourself doesn’t mean you have to; no matter how old you get, if you need me, my hands will always be here for holding.

Love, Mama

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