Fox, you are nine months old and I…HOW? How did this happen? I still haven’t sent out a big stack of your birth announcements (I shall hie me hence to Etsy and order an envelope-sized stamp that says “BELATED” and that shall make it all right, right?) and yet somehow that valiant act of procrastination didn’t keep you in the squirmy wormy newborn stage any longer than was your due, and certainly not long enough for me to get used to it. Would it be too much to have my babies stay babies long enough that I’d eventually achieve a state of equilibrium such that I’d be able to respond to the coos of strangers with nonchalance, all, “Oh. Yes. This old thing? We’ve had this baby forever. We’re quite used to him. No biggie.”
Instead, you’re suddenly nine months old and lolloping around the house (or more often your caged area because YOU MUST BE CONTAINED), slap-sliding across the floor on four fat limbs, mowing over baby stuff like dumb rattles and stupid crinkle books in pursuit of enthusiastically wedging yourself between the toy bin and the side table because that’s where the Hot Wheels are. The Hot Wheels with their tiny, delectable chokeable parts and delicious radioactive metal-alloy fillings. This week you’ve also spent a fair amount of time sitting in a bin full of wooden train tracks while you use a maraca handle as a tongue depresser and a miniature steel drum as a jaunty beret, and I hardly know what to say about that. Baby, you are drunk.
Other preferred toys at nine months: remote controls (but not the old one with no batteries, the NERVE!), car keys (but only when I need them to drive), Wombat’s artwork left within two feet of the ground, a plastic bear head (named Bear Head), Duplos (best if built into something already), and anything in the t.v. console, because that’s not where you’re supposed to be, young man.
(Yes, that’s him saying his first word. Although he’s since used it in similar contexts several times–”No, NO climbing on the fireplace grate”; “Yes!”–it’s not what I’d call consistent, which, honestly, is FINE considering he’s using it to sass. Nevertheless, what is consistent is the attitude. Here is a child who knows what he wants and when he wants it and quite literally won’t take no for an answer. I’m…scared.)
Fox, you are a challenge. Discipline is a challenge, sleeping is a challenge, eating is a challenge when it’s anything other than boob or ingredients pureed into the silky-smoothest slime. (Seriously with the gag-barfing on mashed banana?) As second-time parents, we’re newly learning to walk the tightrope between, on the one end, enforcing our family structure (we obey our parents! we eat food! we sleep at night! all night! try it, you’ll like it!) and, on the other end, working within our newest member’s preferred methodology (e.g., my home office is the front seat of the car, because you’ll only nap in the back seat and I need to get some work done, some time, somehow). Life these days is…interesting. I’m…learning. I’m figuring out how to reframe the way I think about working, about not working, about parenting, about not parenting, about so many things I didn’t think I’d have to think about, or at least not yet. Yes, you’re nine months old (enormous! ancient! big enough to stand straight up in the middle of a room and clap your hands in self-congratulations!), but you’re also only nine months old. You want your mommy. You want your milks. You’re an itty-bitty baby, for crying out loud. (So sit down and stay put, why dontcha?)
According to the official officials, you are 18 pounds and 28 inches, making you short and skinny for your age, of all unexpected things. Your cheeks lie. Your thighs lie. To my eyes, you are a roly-poly classic baby, a wind-up caricature of what all babies are, with peaches-and-cream skin and sapphires for eyes, and I kind of want you to stay this way forever. Would you mind?
At nine months old you like to play peekaboo under blankets, get tossed in the air, and stroll outside (as long as you’re facing forward and not back at the cruel woman who won’t pick you up right now now now). You like when Dad brushes your four whole teeth with the squishy blue shark toothbrush, and you like turning the pages in your board books during bedtime stories. You like your brother so, so much. (Just wait until you get to know him even better. He astounds.) You like the cats too, although sometimes more than they would like you to like them. You bite when you nurse (HOLY HOLY), but I’m still so glad it’s something we can do. I’m proud of it even, just like I’m proud to strap you into the carrier and show you off at the grocery store, and like I’m proud to post too many photos and videos of you online, and like I’m proud that you can do all the wonderful, amazing, perfectly normal baby things that, in your doing them, feel to my heart like the first time any baby has done them ever.
More than proud, though, I feel lucky. You are cute beyond measure, strong[-willed] beyond reason, and funny in a way I never could have expected you to be. Your face is a small round filigree handmirror of how happy we all are to have you with us, and your smile reflects the beam of our love so bright that it lights up the hemisphere.
I am exponentially more busy now than I have ever been in my entire life, and that’s why although we spend all day together, I always feel like I’m running after you with a butterfly net, my feet tangling in the overgrown grass and the sun blinding my eyes as I try to capture your fleet-winged babyhood, so exquisite and unique that I can’t help but want to pin it down under glass and keep it on my nightstand. Will I ever catch up? I’m chasing you, I’m chasing deadlines, I’m chasing tea with tablespoons of straight-up sugar and sometimes wishing it were something a little bit stronger (don’t do drugs, kids!), and it’s exhausting and humiliating and not what I signed up for and also thrilling and invigorating and just exactly what I never knew I wanted. My heart quickens just thinking about it.
Now listen close because here’s the kicker: I don’t think I’m particularly good at being your mom (yet), but oh, I’m having the best time. This, coming from a girl who rejects pretty much everything she’s not naturally good at, is quite out of character. In fact, I hardly recognize myself anymore some days. In a way, I’m getting to know the both of us at the same time, which I guess is what you’re doing too. Together, we’re figuring out each other and ourselves and the world, one snuggle, one glee-shriek, one naughty “yes” at a time.
You are as big on the inside as you are little on the outside, as vast as the universe, as tiny as the twinkle of a faraway star. You are one part mischief, one part mystery, one part eyebrows, and one part little blonde Superman curl right in the middle of your forehead. That’s the recipe for you, the Big Bang that brought into being life as we now know it.
What’s next, my boy? What’s next? Not even the sky is your limit.