A Painted House

Dear James: Month Thirteen

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: May 18, 2009

Dear James,

Over the weekend you turned 13 months old, making this the first letter of your second year of life.  Some months I have to stretch to find enough material to fill your letter because we’ve had a low-key schedule and even the most talented of scribes could only make so much of your new ability to locate your own ear wax.  Other months you’ve so grown and changed and entertained that your letters practically write themselves; this is one of those months. 

Your biggest accomplishment this month is mobility.  Yes, you can finally get around on your own.  We just gave up on waiting for you to learn to scoot or crawl or walk and bought you a unicycle. Everyone told me that once you learned to walk my life would become exponentially more difficult, trying to contain you and protect you and keep you from finding that one uncovered light socket and turning your insides into grilled cheese.  In many ways they were right.  You gained confidence on your own two feet and realized you could let go of the couch and move yourself toward anything that caught your attention; the power button on the TV, the toilet paper roll, my toothbrush in its bathroom drawer.  Incidentally, regarding my toothbrush, I found you alternately chewing on it and using it to scrub the top of the toilet.  Thanks for that.  For the most part, however, we’ve loved watching you achieve this milestone.  You’re so happy to be able to go where we go, do what we do, not be left behind, that as a result your Whining Output has dropped dramatically. For this we are, and will forever be, thankful.  It’s pure joy to call your name and see you round the corner on your tottery little legs, all smiles and eagerness.  And when you get super excited about going somewhere, like meeting your Dad at the back door when he gets home from work, you stamp your little feet as fast as you can and end up walking sideways like a baby crab because you’re far too excited to concentrate on trivial things like direction and aim.

Your new ability to propel yourself around on those little chicken legs hasn’t come without its share of bumps and bruises.  You’ve tripped over the rug, your own feet, toys, stray cheerios, and the occasional bulky air molecule.  And since you are adamantly determined not to crawl, you never learned to push or pull yourself up from the ground.  Thus, when you abruptly land on your toosh you do a great impression of an indignant, overturned turtle, stuck with all four appendages flailing wildly until someone comes to right you. 

We’ve taken some steps to ensure that you make it to your second birthday with all your digits intact and without an intimate knowledge as to the taste of toilet water.  Your Dad spent the better part of a day installing cabinet locks and drawer pulls, affixing toilet lid locks, setting up baby gates, and basically making it as inconvenient as possible for adults to navigate this house.  A dollar for every time I’ve yanked on a drawer only to have it yank back could buy us a set of Mommy and Me unicycles.

You’ve challenged me this month, James, with how quickly you gained independence.  The first time I thought you were right behind me and I turned to find you so quickly and quietly gone made my heart jump about six inches in my chest.  In a matter of 30 seconds you’d made your way down the hallway, through the bedroom, and were rounding the corner into our bathroom.  Thankfully it takes a Nobel-prize-winning intellect to figure out how to lift the toilet lids in this house, so for now anyway, I know you won’t end up with a self-imposed swirly.  It didn’t take long before I realized that the bathroom was just one of the stops on your circuit, like a rancher out checking fence posts, and once you were assured that the toilet paper was still there, still fascinating, then you’d move on.  Your route is littered with evidence that you’ve been there:  the tissues pulled off the night stand, my chap stick in the middle of the floor, the fan tipped on its side, your Dad’s shoes in a heap, your book baskets emptied, discarded socks, magnetic letters strewn across the kitchen, tupperware cabinet hanging open with lids scattered, the plinking of piano keys, and then I find you sitting at the back door with the spoils of your journey clutched tightly in your hands: your bulb syringe, thermometer, diaper rash cream, and a particularly delicious looking plastic lid.

Yes, life in our house has gotten a little busier this month.  You continue to challenge your Dad and I to think faster, stay one step ahead of you, and react in time to keep you from taking off the end of your tongue with each of those nine teeth you’re sporting.  We appreciate this exercise in reflexology as we near the ripe old age of 30, James, it keeps us spry.  It’s been such a joy to watch you explore, to see the face-splitting grin you wear when you take off after your Dad down the hallway.  I know it’s going to sound sappy, James, but I’ve been waiting for that moment of motherhood when I’m standing in the kitchen preparing dinner and I feel two little hands grab me from behind, a little head burrowing into the back of my knees, and hear a giggle at your own cleverness at successfully surprising Mommy.  That moment alone is worth every time you’ve so wanted to be next to me that even though I wasn’t quite finished, you were a teensy bit overeager to help and flushed the potty anyway.

Love, Mama

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