The other day I turned around and you were one year old. You’ve developed a personality, can say words you hear a lot like “dad” and “stinky”, and are nearly walking. You’ve grown from a lump of obligation to a speedy blur.
Seriously, I had no idea how fast you were going to be. For the longest time you stayed where I put you. One day I put you down, looked away, and when I looked back all I saw was your leg as you vanished down the hall, headed for the bathroom so you could pull up on the toilet and lick it.
Crawling is so fast and so fun that I’m surprised you’ve started walking. You take hesitant, stiff-legged steps like a tiny pink Frankenstein’s monster. A lot of times you find it easier to take sideways steps, which makes me think there was a crab somewhere on your mom’s side of the family.
You’ve got a gift for mimicking people that’s only gotten stronger in the last few months. When we got back to town after visiting everyone for Christmas we went out to eat. At one point you lifted your hands over your head, so I did it too. Then you did it again. I did it again. We were trapped in a loop of imitating each other. You don’t really care who you imitate. Two weeks ago, our neighbor was walking Saber, her German Shepherd, and stopped by. Saber sat, tongue lolling out and panting. You looked down at her, cocked your head, and panted “hah hah hah” in sympathy.
Your ability to mimic has helped you learn sign language. You have some twelve signs you regularly use. You’re also working on spoken words, though only your mom and I can understand them. “Bap tah” is bath time; “tayn ooo” is thank you. “Stinky” is by far your best word. You wrinkle your nose and say it forcefully, then giggle.
Of course, you’re always ready to fall back on your old standby of screeching. You have very strong opinions, and waving your arms and saying “bop bop!” sometimes isn’t enough. Your screech means anything from “I’m tired” to “you won’t let me eat that poisonous plant” to “I see that yogurt! Put it in my mouth right now!” Your cries shatter glass and make steel girders melt and run.
Your two favorite things right now are being outside and listening to music. The next time there’s an outdoor music festival here, we’ll drop you off and come back to get you when it’s all over. Surely drunken festival-goers will take care of you. Until the next Big Spring Jam can introduce you to the latest incarnation of Foreigner, we make do with CDs and with the swing out back. We strap you into your string and push you higher and higher as you giggle and throw your hat to the ground. Whenever you hear music you dance and sway. If you’re standing, you stop your feet and lean as far to each side as you can. Right now your favorite songs are the top-40 songs “Liza has a silly hat” and “Tractor, Tractor, Harvesting the Wheat”. The best part of “Tractor, Tractor” is that we can change it to match whatever is going on, like “Liza, Liza, spitting up on me.”
After dealing with your brother, who has trouble breathing if no one is watching him do so, I didn’t expect you to be so independent. In the mornings, all we have to do is dump a pile of books near you and you’re happily entertained until it’s time to sneak off and lick toilets or eat plants.
Even though you’re independent, you’re still enough of a ham to want other people to watch you. Whenever we’re out, you choose some strangers who aren’t paying you any attention. You stare at them, willing them to notice you. As soon as they do, you duck your head and smile before looking back to make sure they’re still watching. Clearly you have your mom’s performer personality.
It’s not all fun and poisonous plants. Since Thanksgiving you’ve fought sleep, and in turn we’ve fought you fighting sleep. You had a serious of colds and ear infections that disrupted your schedule. It doesn’t help that you’re very sensitive to changes in your routine. If we swapped your sheets for ones with a lower thread count, you’d probably be awake all night. It got to the point that we were all so short of sleep that our main entertainment was sitting around being angry at each other. We did eventually find a solution. Right before we went to bed, we’d sneak into your bedroom and shake you until you were nearly awake. Then you’d settle back down and sleep well. Honestly, when your aunt Joy suggested it, it sounded to me like fixing someone’s stomachache by punching them in the gut, but it worked for you.
I tell you about your sleep issues, which took around eight years to get better, to make sure you have enough guilt. Goodness knows, parenting has so much guilt built in that I need to spread it around a little.
I’m always worried that I don’t spend enough time with you, and that’s made even worse because I need to spend time with Eli, too. I do better these days — I’ve realized that this isn’t a zero-sum game, and that I really can spend time with you both without robbing either of you.
I’m always having to leave you to go to work, or to give you to your mom for bedtime. You soon learned to say “bye bye” to me in this chirrupy voice, opening and closing your hand to wave at me. I always pick you up and give you a hug and a kiss. Recently you’ve started hugging back. The first time you turned your head and pressed your face against my neck, I wanted time to stop.