I'm a mama who needs to revel in her daughter's magic.
I'm at the point where I will absolutely not be able to sleep tonight unless I plop down in the middle of a hearty session of impressed reflection.
If this kind of thing turns you off as a reader, allow me to have warned you in advance and recommend that you skip on to something else.
Myself, I have some waxing to do.
My daughter is 10.5 months old and she is not at all the same baby I reported on a little over a month ago. Her developments are pronounced and bold-faced as I witness her in a state of awe. I can't help but to wonder how much I could accomplish—perkily— if I approached my endeavors with the same sense of trust and open-hearted abandon as my daughter does. There is no worry. There is no expectation. And there is no self-judgement. It's a little like watching a hummingbird dance its wildly animated, edgeless shimmy—it doesn't know or care that you are watching. It does what it does for the sheer glory of doing it.
Better begin or we'll be here all night.
To My Dear Opal:
The most obvious place to start is with the fact that you had your first crawl just a few days after your nine-month birthday, which consisted of a few four-legged steps toward Grammy while I was out getting a hair cut. Grammy was so excited that she called to tell me, even though I was driving home and minutes from being there in person. The next few days you were shy about it, and a handful of days passed before your daddy got to see your handywork (I actually think he saw it first on a video that I took and showed him), but within the week, you were confident and moving through the space like a wild animal.
After a few weeks passed, you figured out how to pull yourself up to standing, tasting for the first time the view from a fully vertical, bi-pedal position. The splendor! Now you use crawling to get from point A to point B, but once you get to your destination, you pretty much prefer to be standing. You cruise unsteadily while holding on to the couch, our fingers, or your little toy-walker (the 'lawn mower' as cousin Stella called it when she saw it on a Skype call). You haven't yet grasped the concept of movement-while-erect. But I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that tentativeness is a thing of the far-off past come your first birthday.
The crawling is surely the marquee-headline, but there are so so many other bits to report on.
Sleeping: After having gone through a lengthy phase of challenges with getting to sleep—you'd often pull yourself up to sitting and pace the length of the crib in spite of facing total exhaustion, and then collapse into a rousing melt-down—you seem to be back in the saddle. We shifted your naptimes to one in the morning (9:30 to 10:30 or so) and one in the afternoon 1:30-3pm or so) in order to get you used to the routine they will have in day-care (more on that later!) and you have taken to that like blue on sky. Ahhh, much to our delight.
Speaking: You said MAMA for the first time right around your 9-month birthday, while driving up to Estes Park with Ama and Papa! So we had many appreciative witnesses for the occasion. DADA is still your favorite catch-all word for everything, but Mama does make consistent cameo appearances. Beeeeeee Beeeeeeee is such a funny sound and often can get you started into fits of giggles. Your current vocabulary is extensive, in my opinion: mama, dada, doggie (in variations), hi, bye bye, banana (nana) and apple (ap). You are also impressive at mimicry. I say "cheese" and you reply with your apt version "zeeez". It is a daily occurrence that you repeat something we say with a voice and word that is close enough for us to know exactly what you were attempting to say.
Eating: HUGE STRIDES. About a month ago, you started to feed yourself with the tiny wooden spoon (easier to hold than the springy plastic ones) and you are getting quite adept at it. I load the spoon with food and hand it to you and you take it from there. Your aim is excellent, for the most part, though it's not uncommon for food to end up in your eyebrows, up your nose, in your hair and on the adjacent walls. Also, since you've started to practice feeding yourself, mealtimes have doubled in length-of-time, often taking upwards of an hour each.
Just recently, you have really begun to excel in the art of feeding yourself with finger-foods. Catalyzed by my home-made banana bread, your skills totally bloomed. Since then, you have enjoyed such finger foods as provolone cheese, tempeh, pita, steamed yams and other veggies.
It's wonderful to be able to feed you what we are also eating, cut up into tiny tiny bits. This morning, for example, I fashioned an all-yolk omelet for you with spinach and Parmesan that I cut into minuscule bits (as opposed to pureeing) with a knife and fork, and fed to you from a spoon. You loved it. I loved it, too. Makes life so much easier.
You can also do the sign language sign for "more" now, though you don't quite understand placement. You continue, however, to be a pro at the sign for "all done."
A few weeks ago, you started with the ET finger, and enjoyed being the instigator of making connections with daddy and grammy and I by touching pointers together, laughing with glee at the fact that we knew what you were asking for. Now the pointer is less about connecting with others and more about information gathering. You point at something when you want to know what it is, when you want to hold it, taste it or touch it. You point at food as a way of saying "more." You point at the crib when you are sleepy. The pointer has taken on a life of it's own and, I must say, it gets the point across with power and precision.
Another favorite game is the give-away-get-back game in which you hand an object to someone and they are to say THANK YOU and promptly hand it right back to you in kind. If someone is not keen on the second half of this ritual, you are immediate to set them straight with a holler. You even tried to play the game with Ama and Papa while we Skyped a few weeks ago, dropping a tube of sunblock onto the laptop keyboard and peering at it and their sweet, 2-D faces, as if waiting for them to understand, pick up the object and hand it back to you.
You Love Books. Period. Especially Touch-and-Feel Books. You love to read books to yourself and your stuffed animals. It's a sure-fire way to buy me 5 or 10 minutes to clean up the kitchen after a meal to set you in the highchair with a book and an animal to read it to. Your favorite thing to do while in the carseat is to read a book out loud. There is nothing more precious than to gaze back at you in the rear-view mirror to find you with a book held high like a newspaper in front of your face chatting aloud without reservation. That's my girl.
You love walks. They are back to being part of our daily routine, I am pleased to report. The weather is cooling off and we go out first thing in the morning. You hold the green dog leash and exude a sense of self-satisfaction that is almost aromatic. The green leash renders a pavlovian response of glee from both you and the dog now.
You still love music and dance whenever you hear anything with a beat. One of your favorite toys is the drum your Ama bought for you and lately I've been strumming some guitar chords for you and you come right up and strum the chords yourself.
You've been able to clap audibly for over a month now and do it often to show pride or excitement about something.
You nestle up against daddy and I, climb up our legs and backs, wrap your arms around our necks. Are you growing into a cuddler? Joy.
Last night, we shared an amazing moment after I nursed you and read you your book as usual. You turned around to face me with the distinct purpose of giving me a hug. You thoughtfully wrapped your arms around my neck, nuzzled me and began to softly giggle. I nearly died. The sweetness of this action had the power to cast a spell of amnesia over any and every challenging mama-moment that has happened and that will happen for years to come.
And it was done purely by your own initiative, that's what got me. You are no longer a passive little almost-person. You have your own thoughts, ideas, actions and motivations. I have a feeling it will take me a long while to get used to this.
During a recent play-date with one of your best girl-friends, Eva, who is two days your junior, Eva's mama commented on how engaging you are. She called you an 'entertainer' and was impressed with your awareness of the people in your sphere.
This is an aspect of your personality receives frequent comments. Your ability to and love of engaging. You will start two half-days of daycare this week (tomorrow!) and I know you will flourish because of this fact. (Mama is going back to work part-time giving massage to elders.) Your little mind thrives on new and stimulating environments to find adventures to get into, new kids to play with. I will expand on this subject in more detail after we've both had a week or so of it under our belts. Frankly, at the moment, I am feeling a little nervous about how I will miss you so.
What I've been thinking of lately is is this: For so long, you have been a baby who's been so intent and focused on her body and the physicalities of it all: how to sit up without falling, how to roll over, how to get on all-fours, how to crawl, how to cruise. These things have been very consuming for you. And though you have many major physical milestones yet to hit, I can't help but to notice that the level of comfort in your little body seems to really be improving, opening you up to other things, allowing your personality to peek and snicker, allowing you to see the world outside of your flesh and bones even a little more clearly.
And here we are, your Mama and Dada, standing nearby in that very world with open arms and jaws resting comfortably on the floor.