A Painted House

Dear James: Month Three

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: July 16, 2008

Dear James,

Today you turn three months old.  This last month has been a busy one for us, full of travel and company.  In three days your Uncle Josh and Aunt Allison are getting married and that will mark the third wedding you’ve attended in your short lifespan.  Lest you start to think that your dad and I are living out The Great Gatsby one fancy party at a time, I assure you our social calendar is only temporarily this full. We are generally homebodies who love nothing more than to stay in and spend time together on the couch.  Turns out this is your favorite way to pass the time too; each time we come home from an extended trip you’re thrilled to be back just the three of us, in the quiet. You practically melt into your own bed and try with everything in you to propel yourself close enough to the ceiling fan to give it a hug. (Side note:  I’m wondering if the time you spend with the fan while I take a shower each morning is the motivation behind all the frantic kicking and waving and general body flailing you’ve been doing lately.  Perhaps it’s not that you’re preparing to crawl, you’re just imitating the fan?  We all have our heroes in life.  And I much prefer that over Richard Simmons.)

This month you and I have taken a couple of trips together, without your dad.  Last weekend we drove to Michigan for a wedding in which I was a bridesmaid.  I was a little nervous about how this was going to go, being the only one on James Duty and needing to participate in so many wedding-related events at specific times.  Times when you might, say, decide you are hungry RIGHT NOW and no pacifier will do, or direly in need of  a nap when no quiet, comfortable place is available.  However my fears were unfounded.  You handled it beautifully, wonky or nonexistant naptimes, off-the-cuff feedings, unfamiliar faces and all.  The first night we were away went a lot longer than you are used to, causing you to have to fall uncomfortably asleep in your carseat at almost midnight, many hours after your regular bedtime.  And then when the air conditioning went out at the place we’d planned to sleep, there were a few uncertain moments as we scrambled to find a place to stay that wouldn’t leave you overheated.  Your only complaints were a few pathetic squeaks that seemed to say, ‘Please, Mama, can I go to bed now?  I’m so tired.’  It broke my heart to hear, I wanted nothing more than to provide what you needed, even as my hands were tied until we found a new location to stay.  It’s my job to provide what you need, whether it be food or warmth or comfort, quiet, sleep, or even protection.  And the hour that you were in need and I couldn’t do anything about it, though you handled it well, tore me up inside.

All that to say, I was so proud of you and how you smiled your way through three busy days away from home, away from Dad, away from the familiar.  When we finally arrived home very late Saturday night your dad met us in the driveway.  I got a very quick kiss hello and then he began steadily emptying the back seat of the car, trying to get to you.  He finally extracted your seat and carried you into the house, while I followed with two armloads of pillows, diaper bags, dress clothes, and overnight cases.  I guess he missed you. 

Your dad has been keenly interested in encouraging you to talk to him.  He sits with you and makes any number of sounds we know you’re capable of producing, trying to get you to mimic one back to him.  When he tells me how he can’t wait for you to talk I remind him whose DNA you’re sporting and that once you start, you’re not likely to stop.  After all, you came from me, who spoke my first word at six months and him, the man who could expound for an hour on any topic remotely related to medicine, the Bible, or Ohio hunting law. Just ask anyone who has attended a Sunday School class he’s taught.  Or a church small group of which we’ve been a part.  Or sat around a dinner table with us. When he comes home your dad will often tell you all about his day at the hospital and you’ll respond back with a series of very serious ‘Oooh-Ahhhh’s at just the right times. I bet you’re telling him that when you grow up, you want to be a ceiling fan.

I’ve noticed, James, that having you around makes me brave.  Driving to other cities, navigating unfamiliar roads, traveling alone late at night, with you these things don’t bother me, where prior to your existence I would have been nervous about them for a week before.  It’s hard to be intimidated by new and unfamiliar things with you around, because having you was the ultimate new and unfamiliar thing.  And I tell myself that if I had a baby then I can do just about anything.  After all, the process of finding an unfamiliar hotel in another city isn’t going to clamp down on my insides like a vice grip and end with my business displayed to a room full of strangers, so how bad can it be?

No other example of my new bravery is perhaps as telling as my new reaction to an archenemy of mine; spiders.  I loathe spiders. And before your arrival I was known to keep an eye on any such creature that invaded our home for hours, hours, until your dad came home to dispose of it.  But now that you’re here, I can’t do that.  I can’t risk that foul thing getting anywhere near my baby in the minutes I take my eyes off of it to fix a hot dog.  Remember, it’s my job to protect you.  So rather than leave them for your dad to handle, I’ve had to take on them on, James.  Nothing but a paper towel or a flimsy tissue between me and all that is disgusting about the world.  Let this be a testament to you, my son; a true indication of just how much I love you. For you and you alone, James, I kill spiders.

Love, Mama

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