Recently we were laying in my bed, reading together. Well, you, the Jedi Academy books; me, A Man Called Ove. At some point I looked up from my pages and thought – huh. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.
An eight-year-old boy who is journeying through his own diverse world as it comes… making assumptions, listening to alternatives, asking questions, filling in the blanks.
An eight-year-old boy who can appreciate a Donald Trump joke.
An eight-year-old boy who begs for tablet time but also knows how to navigate outside. Throw something; see how it lands. Climb something; see further away. Explore a construction site. Imagine what will fill the space.
An eight-year-old boy with an appreciation for what came before him, and wonders what will be. Why is there only one wall left? Will the people who died ever come back?
It’s going to be a memorable year; we have some plans for you. We’re thankful you have awesome friends, a fine schooling experience, good relationships with your sisters. Whatever comes up, you have or are developing the tools to handle it.
And no, no matter what you’re wishing for over those candles… it’s not an iPhone.
Don’t we know it, Zooey. It’s not easy snagging attention around here. I guess you have a hometown advantage of being the easiest to carry on my back. Just a bunch of koalas after all.
It’s not hard to believe a year has gone by – it’s been such a packed year, what with me stretching maternity leave with you as long as I could… you got a better deal than your siblings that way, too. I did the best I could and went back to work and now I’m trying to snag what I can get. It goes both ways.
Also – you have a thing for balloons. Can you guess why? Here’s a hint: Boobs.
So yeah, it’s been a wild year. We were attached for a lot of that. Even if the balancing act got so much more challenging with an extra kiddie in the house. It’s like you were in the womb, feeling the stress and thinking – when I get out of here, this won’t end. And you figured it out strategically – no pacifiers. No substitutes. Your refusal to ever take a bottle, sip from any variety of sippie cups, or drink from, you know what, any kind of cup at all – well, yeah. We have been attached for a lot of it.
I guess you’re getting away with a lot more than even Nettles did… younger siblings rights… But a whole bag of Bamba is a new low for me.
You’re taking what you can get. It’s a dog eat dog world, Zooey. Pat on the back for you.
This is the year, Bebe. The year I start to feel the weight of what it is to raise a daughter.
There’s something about this year – kindergarten, the oldest of the gan years, first grade prep, heightened self awareness, heightened emotional intelligence, deeper self expression.
Taking more responsibility. Finding love in different places.
Volunteering to try new things. Speaking up.
Finding a sense of style. Preferences for patterns of your own design.
Giving of yourself. Thinking of others.
This is the year Bebe. You’re getting to be a bigger, bolder kid. You’re thinking things through. For better or worse, you’re aware of what’s going on around you – the good, the bad, the scary. The uncomfortable. You’ve figured out privacy. You’ve figured out whats makes a kid ‘in’ or ‘out’. You want to fit in. You want to be appreciated.
Just keep nurturing your ability to speak up. To speak against injustice. Learn when to step in. Learn when to step up. I will help you. It’s hard for me too. But this is the year, Bebe. So much learning and growing. You teach me every day, too.
There are three things I know to be true:
- There are types of self confidence that cannot be bought or therapy’d into you.
- A kid who is comfortable being choosy about cake is going places.
- This is going to be one hell of a year.
So here we go.
The hills are alive… with the giggles of Nettles…
And where dresses are worn, all the time – to gan, to bed. The dress phase. I know you.
We’ve really gotten to know Nettles, the younger sister. The younger sister who looks up to her older sister as her dear leader, her mentor, her worldview.
We’ve also come to know Nettles, the older sister. The mistress of torture, the distributor of aggressive hugs, the doting cartoon character who squeezes her beloved puppy too hard.
And for a while we’ve been very familiar with Nettles, the tag-along. The one who wants her fair share but then destroys it because really, none of this matters anyway, amirite guys? Guys??
The Nettles who gets ‘er done. The Nettles who doesn’t cry over spilled milk. Nettles doesn’t even see the spilled milk. Nettles pushes forth and gets what she wants. Which is disgustingly limp cornflakes.
Oh hey, Ima, look – milk!
One hell of a year, Nettles. Keep on moving.
(See? I told you I’d be up in your face making you crazy-laugh again…)
The sun and warmth and faint smell of spring have started to creep up around us and so your winter sniffles and spotty sleep schedule have started to melt away. Literally, right now, we’re on the floor together, you’re up on your knees, grabbing me by the collar, getting in my face and smile-saying “Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!” as if something hilarious is on my forehead.
This month you’ve really woken up from a wintry infant slumber. You’re finding things funny but also making things funny. You’re paying attention and grabbing attention. You’re speaking non-stop (did you actually tell me ‘toda’ yesterday after I gave you something?).
There’s a cautious curiosity about you, but you’re not stopped by fear. You also know what you want (and most of the time, it’s to get out of whoever the hell thinks they’re cuddling you and back into my arms). You’re clear, you’re focused, you’ll make yourself heard.
Meanwhile, the calaniyot are not safe around you (and neither are the crumbs on the floor from being consumed, my skin from being lovingly pinched, anything your siblings own from being destroyed).
As befitting a bilingual baby, you’re reaching a little higher than you need to. A little more to figure out in the world.
And of course, curiosity has fully set in; not like I’m at all surprised.
There are months when I take a million and a half pictures of you, where I’m up in your face covering you in kisses, where I tickle torture you until you snort. Zooey this was not one of those months because there’s so much going on. But I’ve missed you during late nights at work and the good thing is I’ve done this enough to know it’ll end and the month will go on and you’ll be snorting in laughter because of me soon again.
On the one hand, you make your opinions known.
My baby ate my homework.
On the other hand, you have to constantly watch your back.
And that’s a lesson in how to survive in your family of six.
I had an unexpected emotional trigger when, as I walked toward the office fridge to grab my pumped milk at 18:45, I saw the fridge door already open, with its glistening empty shelves, and the cleaner standing in front, putting new garbage bags in the trash cans.
The office manager had emailed earlier that everything in the company fridges would get chucked today at the end of the day… I frantically asked the bewildered cleaner if it was really all gone, ‘no, I don’t need milk, it was my pumped milk, mother’s milk, that was in there, in a special bottle,’ and he did feel sorry for me… and had been just doing his job…
I left and stood by my car watching the other cleaner toss the day’s garbage bags into the parking lot dumpster. I debated looking through them. I debated crying. I debated going home.
It wasn’t a lot of milk and I have more bottles. But finding 30 minutes during the day to put my baby first is hard. Every. Day. And finding time to give her special attention is hard. She doesn’t even drink it… she eats it sometimes, as a meal. She never accepted bottle feeding.
She’s nearly nine months and I’m sad to come to terms with moving on from pumping. Because it’s just another little chapter to close up in our lives together.
[UPDATE January 16 2017: Is now a good time to mention my frozen stock just fell to the floor and cracked and broke?]