On your first birthday

Dear Z,

I just can’t believe that you are a year old. It seems I can’t remember life before you and yet the thought that a year has already gone by is incomprehensible to me. The days are truly long and the years are truly short.

You are becoming your own person more and more each day. Several times a day your dad and I shake our heads in disbelief at how big you are and how your personality is coming through more and more and “oh my god where did our baby go?”.

What I know about you so far: you love books and straws and ceiling fans and grapes. You are very attached to your Dad and me but you are pretty friendly and open to relatives and strangers alike. You smile coyly at everyone in the grocery store. You hate hats and barrettes and pretty much anything to do with grooming. You have tiny feet. You love to be outside. You tolerate the high chair, carseat and changing pad (to be revoked at any moment, I’m sure). You used to fear the helicopters that routinely hover over our house but now you are mesmerized by them. When you are sitting by yourself and something exciting happens, you squeal, look down at your feet and kick your legs up and down, as if willing them to run. You rub your eyes, stroke your hair and bat at your ears when you are tired. Sometimes when nursing, you look up at me, put your hand to my face and grin.

You adore Sweet Dog, your partner-in-crime, the object of your affection, and your favorite punching bag. She walks into the room and your eyes follow her every move. She is as often a recipient of your most incandescent smiles and pealing squeals as either your Dad or me. Before you were born, we used to secretly worry that we might not love you as much as we love Sweet Dog. Now we worry that you love her more than you love us.

You were slow to do all things gross motor: roll over, sit up, crawl, and walk. Now it seems you are making up for lost time. You just started taking a few stumbling steps on your own (with our waiting hands close by); and, with our hands guiding you, you love to run around the backyard with Sadie, fetch her balls and “throw” them for her.

I know that the coming years will bring so much more of YOU into the picture. I hope that I will have the strength to guide, love and support your true self. It’s easy to imagine my success when the fantasy includes your eventual passion for soccer or music or math. I have to turn away from news stories about the war, teens in gangs, autism, meth addicts, murder victims and close-minded, judgmental, angry misanthropes (that’s right Bill O’Reilly, I’m looking at YOU). The thought of you turning down one of those roads is so impossibly scary to me that I shudder and look away before the reality of a world full of people in pain sinks in.

I now deeply understand the fervent plea of mothers everywhere: please, please, please let my child out-live me.

Every day I wrestle with fear. Fear of my own inadequacy. Fear of the world around us and the people in it so damaged that they harm others with nary a thought. Fear of my mistakes already made, and to be made, and their inevitable, catastrophic consequences. (You know, like how the fact that I didn’t get you physical therapy sooner to address your neck tilt will mean that one day you will need help catching your saliva as you wheel around a home somewhere). Fear of the consequences of my dumbstruck passivity in the face of your more challenging behavior. Fear of the day that I will lose perspective- my sense of humor- when you look right at me and say something like “I hate you, Mom.”

I hope that as I grow into this motherhood gig both you and I will be forgiving of my missteps and anxiety and cluelessness. I hope to develop more fully into my very best self, for both our sakes.

I hope that your second year of life is full of growth and fun for us both. I learn so much by being your mother. It is a privilege to stay home with you; and though I expect the coming year will bring more work for me and therefore more separation for us, I feel so blessed to have had this time with you.

I hope, more than anything, for your safety, happiness and health.

I love you so very much, babygirl. Happy Birthday.

love, Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


The truth about haircuts

Dear Z,

Haircuts can be a bit traumatic (please see: any and all pictures of me from the 80s and early 90s). Personally, I have a love/hate/I-expect-the-world-to-change-to-a-place-where-my-hair-is-perfect-all-the-time-and-am-therefore-deeply-dissappointed-when-reality-hits kind of relationship with haircuts. So with that in mind, your first haircut yesterday wasn’t that bad. True, the off-kilter, accidentally asymmetrical bangs and super short hack job across the back (done by a joyless woman at a kids salon who really might want to consider a career change) makes you look a little like a farm boy whose mama can’t wield the hedge clippers with any precision. It’s not exactly the cute, sassy pixie cut I had in mind. You were wary and a bit confused; every time she would bring the scissors close to your head, you would turn and reach toward them with a perplexed expression on your face as if to say “what are these and WHAT are you doing with them?!?!?”

But there is a silver lining. It’s a simple one, really. YOU CAN SEE. Gone are the stray wisps that I loved so much for their concrete representation of babyhood but hated for their propensity to poke directly into your eyeballs. So even though you look like a miniature Dorothy Hammill, I am happy to report that It will be at least a month before I have to swipe my saliva tinged fingers across your forehead to create a baby version of Donald Trump’s comb-over. And for that I am grateful.


Almost one, or "I love conflict"

Dear Z,

You have discovered so much this past month. Pulling up. Pointing. Clapping. Signing “fan” and “light” and “eat”. Gleefully feeding Sweet Dog from your highchair. Scooting around like a monkey. Standing for endless, wavering seconds before plopping onto the safety of your butt. Walking, stumbling really, like a drunken sailor, with your tiny hands grasping my fingers. We make endless loops around the house visiting your favorite haunts: the guest room’s full-length mirror, the ceiling fans, the washing machine, the bookshelf and always, always ending up at the back door, banging to go out. You love being outside: picking apart flowers, pulling lemons off the tree, looking up at the trees, birds and helicopters. You are curious and inventive and so quick to smile and laugh. It is inspiring and thrilling to see.

But you have also discovered frustration and proto-tantrums which have been.... less than thrilling to see. Most days, I find myself hating that we are in this transition from infancy to toddlerhood. In your infancy I could just love you and hold you whenever I felt like it. My job was to give you everything you needed and wanted. Now I have to set boundaries and say no (or “that’s enough” or “please redirect your attention to this perfectly planned alternative” or whatever) and, you know, be a PARENT. Since when am I the grownup in any scenario??

When you threw a fit the other day because I wouldn’t let you eat dirt, I just froze. I had no idea what to do. Explain “dirt isn’t food so we don’t eat dirt”? Let you eat it and find out for yourself just why we don’t eat dirt? Point you in another direction? I just stared at her as you thrashed on the ground and then I picked you up and took you inside. Game over.

Our friend G is so confident and clear with her four-year old daughter, R. Every time I’m around them I feel like I should take notes. As R was climbing on my massage table, she said to her “Did you ask her if it is okay to climb on her table?”. When R dutifully asked me if it was okay, I again froze. This was a test and I was sure to fail. “Um, I guess it’s okay if your mom holds it still so it won’t fall, or you won’t fall and get a concussion.....”. Thankfully, G stepped right in to redirect her with: “Why don’t you show us your somersaults instead?” which R happily accepted as an equally fun activity. Will I ever be able to redirect you as naturally as that?

I keep telling myself that this will be good for me. I am coming to the realization that raising a child is like immersion therapy for the conflict averse. The books all tell me that your job is to learn about the world around you by pushing and exploring and experimenting. In order to be a good mother to you as you do all that, I MUST set boundaries, redirect your energy and help you make good choices; all of which will inevitably set us up for conflict. I will try really, really hard not to hate that.

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