A Painted House

Dear James: Month Fourteen

Posted on: January 6, 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: June 16, 2009

Dear James,

Today you turn fourteen months old.  Last week I took you to the doctor for a scheduled weight check and we discovered that at 19 pounds and 4 ounces, you still haven’t quite reached that twenty pound benchmark that most kids achieve by their first birthday.  You’d think that bathing you in butter and bacon fat twice a week would have worked, wouldn’t you?  Oh well, at least you smell delicious.  Maybe now I will finally agree to let your Grandma feed you chocolate cake for breakfast.

You do continue to dominate the charts for height, out-distancing a good eighty percent of your peers.  This particular setup of tall and skinny seems to indicate that you’ll be suited to play basketball or take up swimming; in which case I apologize now for any portion of your sports-related genetic makeup which I may have contributed.  Your mother is not an athlete, James, and as a child I did my fair share of dragging down the team average in a number of competitive sports.  I guess that means we’ll have to lean on your Dad’s athletic abilities, though at six-foot-two and 98 pounds he was no superstar at high school sports either.  Should you decide to pursue competitive sports, James, however ill-advised it may be in light of your parentage, I promise to sit on the sidelines and cheer wildly even if standing at center court, you look less like a conditioned athlete and more like one of those combination clothes hangers that displays both the pants and the shirt for easy coordination.  And I also promise to learn to swim well enough to fish you out of the pool when the force of the waves created by the other swimmers is too much for your spindly little self.

Contrary to most prior months of your life, this month has been more about stopping things than starting.  You’ve embraced independence with gusto and as you explore we’ve had to quickly decide what to allow and what to stop you from doing. You’re allowed to empty the Tupperware cabinet at will, bang on the piano keys as often as you like, pull out as many toys as catch your interest, and unroll the toilet paper until it touches the floor.  You can even lick the glass on the front of the china cabinet if you want, mostly because you look funny when you do it.  But we have decided that you may not touch the TV buttons or the stove knobs, play with our laptops or the one which most upsets you, play outside by yourself.  You sooooo love being outside that we often find you standing at the door on your tippy toes, fingers stretched toward the handle, face pressed into the screen, trying with all your might to spaghetti-strain yourself through those little holes and out onto the driveway.  And now that you’ve finally decided that you won’t die after all if you move one single muscle while standing on grass, there’s no stopping you.  Or maybe you still consider yourself in mortal peril but it’s worth the risk of such bodily harm to chase down the birds on the birdfeeder, pull laundry off of the line, and shake the shepherd’s crook until petals rain down on you. 

Back to stopping things; a little over a week ago you stopped nursing for good.  I know, I know, you’re groaning and saying, “Moooooommmm, WHY did you have to bring that up AGAIN? It’s so embarrassing.”  And yes, to you the very idea that you were nourished in such a way for the first year-ish of your life will be embarrassing for a very long time.  Maybe even forever.  But to me, it’s one of my proudest accomplishments and fondest memories of your babyhood.  I learned over the course of the last 14 months that nursing a baby is one of the most sacrificial, demanding, rewarding, satisfying experiences a mama can have.  And not every mother is able to do so, so I’m profoundly grateful to have been allowed the privilege with you.  I’m also thrilled that we were able to continue that relationship until you were ready to move on, and that one day without pomp or circumstance or weeping and gnashing of teeth (especially without gnashing of teeth), you quietly decided you were done. The first night that your Daddy rocked you and sang songs and cuddled you and blankie close, and I wasn’t there, was emotional for me, my James.  Bedtime had always been ours, ending your days in the quiet, just the two of us.  And now that those days of nursing my firstborn baby are over, I know I will miss them.  But I am thrilled that your Dad gets to experience that part of your life now too, quietly settling you into your bed for the night.  And to be honest, I am enjoying the freedom that comes with this mark of your growing up.  I just wish that maybe you could have grown up into the big boy that you are just a little slower.

Love, Mama

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