A Painted House

Dear James: Month Four

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: August 16, 2008

Dear James,

Today you turn four months old. And boy, are you fun.  The past four weeks have loosed your personality from where it was hiding those early weeks of your life to the point that I swear it’s coming out of your ears.  You smile almost instantly when your dad or I engage you, you laugh and talk and wiggle incessantly.  You charm strangers and elicit smiles from even the most disinterested of passers-by.  I am beginning to wonder if you’re preparing for a vocation in politics.  Or reality television.  In which case I’ll pass along this motherly advice now:  if you’re chosen for Survivor 67: Urbana, IL  (they’ll have run out of pretty beaches long before you’re of qualifying age) please start wearing plain, clean underpants the second you get your acceptance letter.  They have a habit on that show of snatching contestants away from their lives at unexpected times and wearing impractical clothing, resulting in most of them wearing just their underpants for over a month on national TV.  And when it’s your turn, I don’t want the world taking note of your Three Stooges boxers and wondering who in the world your mother is and why she taught you to dress that way.

Speaking of television, I have a feeling in the future we will have to develop strong policies regarding how much you can watch.  You are a little TV addict, James, to the point that we have to turn it off in order to focus your attention on other activities like reading books, eating, or napping.  You don’t roll over yet but by golly if you can’t figure out how to wriggle yourself around to face the TV no matter how many times we turn you away from it.  If ever we needed evidence that you are my child, we have it in the look of rapt attention on your face during So You Think You Can Dance.  

As you learn to interact with the world, James, you’ve decided you’d much rather be with your dad and I than by yourself.  After all, we’re where the big action takes place and you don’t want to miss a thing.  We figured out pretty quickly why you were cranky during our mealtimes; you couldn’t see us, couldn’t partake in whatever fabulous activity kept us sitting at the table for so long and thus, not playing with you.  Once we put you in your high chair seat at the table you would have thought we just told you we figured out a way to make your current source of nourishment emit only chocolate milk.  You laughed, you cooed, you flirted shamelessly with me. We spent most of that first meal with you not eating; we were too busy watching your complete pleasure at taking in your world from this new angle.

When it is finally time for you to begin eating big people food with us at the table, I doubt we’ll have any problems making the transition. As it is, you’d fit the living room rug in your mouth if you could just figure out how to get your hands around it.  The second something touches your fingers you grab it and try to shove it as deep into the recesses of your mouth as possible.  We’re not sure if this is your way of exploring your world or just some ill-conceived attempt at storing your possessions until you need them later. Should it be the latter, I’ll be sure and explain the concept of pockets to you post haste lest I have to fish the remote control out of your trachea in the near future.  The item that spends the most time in your mouth is your blankie.  The blankie that I have washed and dried more often than any piece of fabric should have to endure, in an attempt to finally get it to stop giving off copious amounts of fuzz.  Because James, judging by the sheer number of blankie fibers you must have consumed in the past month, I’m afraid one of these days I’m going to open your diaper and find that you pooped a comforter.

The biggest milestone or lack-there-of that dominated this month of your life James, is sleep. To be honest, three days ago I was feeling really defeated as a mother.  You see, over the past month your nighttime sleep has deteriorated to the point that I was in tears in the wee hours of more than one morning, asking God to please just help you sleep so that we both could rest.  Prior to this month you only slept five hours in one stretch a small handful of times, but we seemed to be making a natural progression to a full night’s sleep.  However in the past three weeks you started waking more and more, until we were seeing each other at least once an hour from midnight on.  And the worst part?  Our sleepless nights were my fault; I allowed you to develop a bad habit of needing a pacifier in order to go to sleep and we were both paying for it.  And after weeks of hoping you’d grow out of it, start sleeping peacefully on your own, I finally admitted to myself that just as I had to teach you to eat, I now had to teach you to sleep. So a little over a week ago we started working on your sleep habits, eliminating the binky as much as possible, moving up your bedtime significantly, regulating your daytime naps, and giving you more opportunity to put yourself back to sleep at night.  Which is a nice way of saying I stood in the hallway at 2:00 a.m. and asked God to please comfort you as you cried, because your favorite source of soothing was no longer an option and seeing me only made you angrier.  James, it was harder than you can know to watch you want something so badly and not give it to you.  But for your own good I had to let you learn to live without it.  And two nights ago, monumentally and for the first time, you slept through the night.  Last night you did it again.  Both nights your only pre-breakfast squeak came at 4:00 a.m. and lasted just minutes before you were back to dreaming, all on your own.  That first night I lay awake for the hour after that brief waking, thanking God for each hour that you had slept uninhibited and that He had allowed us to course-correct relatively easily to what is best for you.  I know I will make many, many mistakes as your mother, James, but you have my promise that from now on I’ll operate with a higher awareness to how my choices and diligence will affect you.  Because if I never again have to hear you cry on my account, it will be too soon.

Love, Mama

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