1. You ate a dust bunny last week. I probably could have stopped you and fished it out of your mouth, but I didn’t.
2. In my defense, I had fished the following things out of your mouth that very day: A water bottle cap, a feather from a pillow, seven pine needles, and the stuffed baby Jesus from the stuffed nativity scene your godmother gave you for Christmas. I was done fishing things out of your mouth. After you tried to eat Jesus I decided the next thing you ate would be your responsibility.
3. I laughed really hard when you decided to eat Jesus. He’s small, and pink, and just before Christmas you had your first taste of ham. I can see why you were confused.
4. When they handed you to me in the hospital, I was so relieved you didn’t appear to have anything of me in you. I was so relieved you didn’t have my long face, my coarse hair, my hard jaw, that you appeared tiny and round like your father when he was a baby. Now, though, I see myself in you day by day: The stubbornness, the single-minded pursuit of a goal, the raging frustration when you cannot accomplish a simple task.
When you were 4 months old you howled because you couldn’t crawl.
At 11 months you howled because you couldn’t walk.
Right now you want to walk and talk so badly, and the world won’t listen to what you’re saying. You can see where you should be going, but you can’t get there on your own and it pisses you off. It’s going to be so hard to live in a stupid, frustrating world with that kind of anger at your back. You’re not ever going to have peace.
You will have accomplishment, though, and I tell myself often that that is better.
5. I have addressed you by the names of both pets on at least one occasion. If it makes you feel better, I call them Kick on the regular.
6. I leave you with a caring, qualified, trustworthy person who plays with you, each day, and I go to a job elsewheres. I don’t have political opinions about this, and I’m not telling you this is what you have to do. It’s just what works best for me. I hope it works best for you, but I don’t know. Your vocabulary these days is somewhat limited. See #8.
7. I am trying very hard not to make you neurotic about any of the things I was always neurotic about, and so I am trying not to yell at other drivers and make you nervous in the car with me. I say this because the other day coming home from storytime, a fellow was a little slow turning in front of me and I leaned on the horn and called him a shitbird.
8. Astonishingly, your first word was not “shitbird.” Your first word was “uh oh.” See #4.
9. You are growing up in a city. There is constant traffic noise, snow plows, ambulances, and trucks squealing their brakes during your naps. The FedEx driver rings the bell whenever I just put you down to sleep. Big and little dogs bark, day and night. There’s a nearby park instead of a yard, and your “playroom,” which children’s product catalogs tell me should be a serene, white-carpeted space with only US-made wooden toys in it, is the living room, where often Mom and Dad work and/or watch TV that is probably inappropriate for you.
10. Like cooking shows. I don’t want to give you the impression every meal is going to be a feast of white truffles and/or that Sandra Lee is any kind of role model. Mostly you get fed baby food and whatever you’re longingly staring at on our plates.
11. But you are growing up in a city, which means you get visits from dogs big and little when their owners stop by, you’ve experienced two dinner parties and a Major League Baseball game and you’ve been to four street festivals. You’ve been to a concert and a zoo and an aquarium, and hopefully those things will make up for the lack of (relative- and parenting magazine-prescribed) wide open spaces and encounters with wildlife.
12. You’ve been subjected to the following musical entertainments: Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, a metric ton of EDM, lots of Neil Young (that’s your grandfather) and everything ever played on the 1940s station in the car. But your favorite song at this point is probably Led Zeppelin’s “That’s the Way.” I blame your dad, but I didn’t stop him from playing it over and over at top volume until you went to sleep in the car, so some of the responsibility is mine.
13. When you were eight months old you were enamored with the other baby in the hallway mirror. You talked to that baby, sang that baby songs, and showed that baby all your toys. One day while standing up to touch that baby, the baby head-butted you and you bit through your lip with one of your four teeth. You wouldn’t go near that other baby for weeks after that. I should have used that moment to teach you that sometimes other people are just total assholes.
14. From your father, you get your relentless curiosity, your thirst for new experiences, your sleeping habits (and occasional lack thereof), your smile, and a severely disturbing stuffed hedgehog toy with little Hobbit-y clothes on. Your father loves you with a mad extravagance that knows no restraint, which is why he bought you that. You apparently giggled at it while on a shopping trip for something we did actually need, and next thing I know, we owned Mr. Hedgie.
15. This year was a short one, but some of the days were very long. I hope you don’t remember which ones. I hope you don’t remember the acid reflux and the croup and the teething and the time you learned how to make noises like a parakeet and did it for THREE HOURS starting at 4:30 a.m., or the nights I was begging you to sleep just because I needed to sleep, or the times I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
There have been a lot of those times. I read lots of these woe-is-mom columns about the first year of a child’s life, and how hard it is for the parents, but God, it’s the hardest for you, isn’t it? You’re surrounded by idiots. You keep telling us, at increasing levels of volume, what you want or need, and we keep doing other stuff. I’m hungry, you say, and we try to change your diaper. I’m tired, you say, and we wave a rattle at you. No wonder babies are so vocal. You have to tell us what you’re after over and over, until we finally get it right.
I hope we are getting it right, more often than not. I have no idea what I’m doing. No one does. I hope you don’t remember that.
I hope instead you remember the mornings when, after 12 solid hours of sleep, you woke up talking silly rhymes to your favorite stuffed pig Bacon and, when I went into your room and turned on the light and said “Good morning, Kick baby!” you stuck your tongue out at me and blew the loudest raspberry anyone has ever heard.