dear sweet love:
I’m writing to you fresh from the epicenter of a sleep regression, which some people will tell you is not a thing.
I AM HERE TO TELL YOU
IT IS INGODDAMNDEED A THING
I mean, to preface, this is totally not your fault.
It’s literally like there’s a tiny vocabulary party going on inside that brilliant little brain of yours, and every day, someone new shows up—
so instead of sleeping, you need to wake up and practice words so you don’t forget anyone.
How this manifests is that you pop up at middle-of-the-night o’clock, cheerily informing me, “Mama, up!” or “Mama, down!” and implying that, oh, hi, hello, you are awake and you’d like to exit the bed to go explore things.
The other night, you apparently woke up daddy with a casual, “Hi, da-da,“, like it was totally normal that we’d all just be up and hanging out together.
Last week, you woke us both of us up around 4 a.m. because really, what better time to practice counting? The sun and the environment and maybe even those annoying-ass birds across the street weren’t even up yet, but you were, because it was of the utmost importance that you be awake & counting.
Though, tbh, there are certainly much worse things to wake up to than a tow-headed little toddler, snuggled in next to you and carefully enunciating, “One… twoooo… treee… fo’.”
This summer included your very first Shark Week.
You are ABOUT Shark Week.
We discovered this one afternoon when we had the TV on in the background, and a herd of home-sharks swam their way on to the TV. You immediately, breathlessly narrated, “Shark. Shark fish.”
Then, when one of said shark-fish proceeded to give birth (which, having had approximately just enough experience in this area to matter…. WHOA. BABY SHARKS COME OUT AND JUST START SHARKING IMMEDIATELY, WTF IS THAT SORCERY)–
anyway, I narrated, “Look, buddy! The shark had babies!” and you immediately replied, “Shark! Shark babies!”
You then proceeded to SIT STILL, which is not a Thing, and proudly pointed out every “feesh” and “shark” and “shark baby” that made its way on to the screen thereafter.
I’m basically more excited than anything to take you to the aquarium.
We live in a cute little neighborhood comprised of 90% nosy old people—
but sweet nosy, in the way that they passively-aggressively note things like if our lawnmower maybe needs fixed because they haven’t seen it in a while.
As sweet as they are, I have no doubt that they assume we’re trying to end your life on the regular over here because, sometimes, the soundtrack to your feelings is real screamy.
Trust, buddy:We fully have your back, because learning how to human is hard.
Especially right now; you’ve got all these Nixon-sized WILLS and IDEAS, but not the full emotional, verbal, or physical capacity to complete all of them.
I can’t even imagine how frustrating that must feel, to know exactly what you want, or where you want to go, or that you have a desperate distaste for wearing pants today, but you’re missing a crucial component in being able to communicate those messages successfully.
Thus, sometimes, you decide that fully losing your tiny shit is the best way to express your feelings.
These feelings are screamy;
screamy, but valid.
Ever since you were itty-small, I’ve subscribed to the idea that you’ve got every right to feel every single one of your feels.
Sure, I need to help you learn how to direct your energy into a form that’s less kicky-screamy, but it’s not on me to sit here & get in your face about calming down if you just need a short minute to melt.
Here’s the cool thing about mamahood:
I get to learn it as I go.
I get to learn you as I go.
It’s up to you to figure out what it looks like to sort through your experiences and feelings;
it’s on me to support you, love you up, and help you become a rad, well-adjusted little human along the way.
We’ve got you, buddy.
Remember when you were snuggly-new?
I think back to when you were still that little-bitty, versus tall-and-sprawly, like now.
Your whole entire existence fit in the space that spanned from the snuggle-spot under my collarbone to the crook of my arm underneath.
Every so often, you’ll tuck back up in that perfect snuggle space with your knees to your chest, and it reminds me to breathe you in a little extra;
to savor this season some more before you out-tall that space entirely.
You and I were playing outside, for no real particular reason.
Just you, me, and some last-minute, late-summer twilight,
sending crispy-light leaves and pinkie-sized sticks on rides down the slide in your little red car.
Ready to move on to the next thing, you reach your hand toward mine, and you say, “Come, mama. Pease.”
Melt my freaking heart, man.
Every time you extend that little hand, you invite me to be part of your adventure.
You want me to watch you go down the slide;
to sit across from you at the table so you can roll me a car;
to count “one, two, tee” along with you while we walk down the front steps.
In those moments, you reach out, and you wait for my hand to clasp yours so we can go on to the next thing—
Count me forever “in” for each and all of your adventures, buddy.
I freaking love you.
At just over a year old, the longest stretch you’ve ever slept at one time, in your whole entire life, is four hours.
This incredible event happened in the car on the way back from Nebraska, coming home from the 4th of July.
We were fairly certain you’d expired.
I used to feel like we were doing something “wrong” because you didn’t sleep like other babies WHO I HAD READ ABOUT ON THE INTERNET.
But hey, also judging from the Internet, the amber necklace you wear is a completely useless, albeit trendy, choking hazard, but it will magically help with your teething pain and drooling.
Co-sleeping is going to end with you being ruthlessly smothered, and probably sleeping with us until you’re like 15, but you also might wind up less anxious and more independent—
you know, if you survive.
Because you’re vaccinated, we don’t have to worry about you catching any of the fun illnesses best known from their roles in The Oregon Trail (ASHLEY HAS DIED OF DYSENTERY), but we do have to worry about what’s actually IN these vaccines, as well as how that manifests into horrible, disfiguring things that might make your legs fall off someday.
All that said, it took me almost this whole past year to have the realization that you sleep like you do because THAT IS HOW YOU SLEEP.
Likewise, daddy and I parent you and make the choices we’re making because that’s how we parent.
You are safe, loved and taken care of.
You eat everything.
You like books, sharing food with the dog, and waving to the water as the tub drains.
In the grand scheme of things, regardless of what the internet has to say about it, you’re turning out okay.
Because it’s winter, and also because we don’t have a cool slide or a neat mushy-bouncy floor, daddy and I have been taking you to the play place inside of the mall that has both of these things.
I have cursed myself approx. 700 times for not bringing wipes along with us to clean your hands afterward, and yet not once have I remembered to actually bring them.
I find comfort in the fact that probably it’s like immune system training.
One thing we’ve noticed in our recent goings is that Parents of the Play Place generally seem to favor referring to their kids’ ages by month. We’re either lazy or just not as into math as everyone else is, so while I think it’s rad when a mom can remember that her child is approximately 29 months old, we’re pretty firmly in the “oh, he’s one” camp if & when people ask.
You’ll upgrade to “almost 2” sometime this summer, dude.
Mama ain’t got time to math.
We also, contrary to the posted signage, smuggle in snacks for ourselves.
PLEASE NO ONE OUT US TO THE PLAY PLACE POLICE, just come sit with us and we’ll totally share.
In milestone news, this past month we ordered you your very own meal for the first time.
Up to this point, you could hang pretty well with the random slices-and-dices from whatever daddy & I ordered—
but lately, this practice has turned into you basically eating all of our food, and me sitting there like, WTF where did my sandwich go and why I am so hungry this is terrible.
It must be said: Chick-Fil-A is legit.
As a company, they have really shitty moral standards, but damned if they don’t also have clean high chairs, and really friendly employees with exceptional manners, and aren’t just wonderful as can be for offering GOOD fruit and grilled nuggets so I can feed you nice things.
Now that you’re fully mobile, you love helping clean up and put stuff away. Even at baby work, you’ll casually grab books off the floor and go put them back on the shelf like ain’t no thang.
It greatly distresses you that we won’t let you use the vacuum by yourself, which tells me that I’m more OCD about cleaning up than even I imagined.
Even at night, when you’re like OVER IT, LET’S SLEEP, you’ll still reach out and close the copy of Goodnight Moon in my hands, gently take it from me, and attempt to return it to its spot on my nightstand.
Also, a moment for how “goodnight nobody” just comes out of nowhere in that book and throws a nice, depressing wrench in things.
Here we are like, GOODNIGHT CARPET AND CROWN MOLDING AND MITTENS AND HAIR ACCESSORIES AND MUSH AND NOBODY.
What the hell, Margaret Wise Brown.
What were you even going through.
The other night at Target, you were pretty solid on the fact that you could carry our basket.
So we let you.
And for the 4 very exciting inches that you were able to travel with it, you were the proudest little boy to have ever existed at a Target, ever.
I love watching you do life, little dude of mine.
Things you’re really into this month:
– “Reading” in the car (which amounts to a lot of squeaks and various babble inflections as you turn the pages)
– Using the Nixon-sized broom grandma bought you to “sweep” the floor
– Mostly successfully feeding yourself with Nixon-sized silverware
– Successfully drinking from a straw, sometimes followed by a dramatic exhale wherein all the water you just drank runs down your chin like a waterfall
– Absconding with washcloths/napkins and using them to dust chairs… the cat tower… the cats… yourself
– Screaming, usually for no reason beyond it’s a skill you possess and would like to share with others
– Realizing that you can be chased, and joyously drunk-running away from us every time you remember that’s an option
– Bringing your snacks with you to sit directly in front of the vent every time the heat comes on
We got the raddest compliment the other day.
At a favorite local dive with the best breakfast burritos in town, the guy behind the counter commented on how much he enjoyed watching your daddy and I just playing and hanging out with you while we were there.
There is no greater compliment than one about how you’re NOT messing up your tiny human, man.
I’ve always made a point to high five (literally or verbally; usually both) other parents on their awesome human-raising skills, but hearing that, and the way I felt afterward, basically sealed the deal on wanting to keep it up forever.
I’mma be 90, blindly high-fiving my way through a crowd to be like, I JUST THINK IT’S WONDERFUL HOW YOUR DAUGHTER USES HER MANNERS WHAT A GREAT LITTLE SOUL
You make me endlessly proud to be yours, babycakes.
Well, would you look at that, my sweet little light.
You are a whole year old.
365 days’ worth of goodness & drool & fancy little man-pants.
I look back at pictures of you from a year ago—
the first time we met;
you being all glorious in the sunshine on your very first morning;
you in fuzzy dinosaur jammies on our first official day of maternity leave;
you, in your glorious brand-new-ness, all milk-drunk and snuggled up against my chest—
and I marvel at how you’ve spent the last year becoming this super-cool little being who can drink with a straw & eat pizza with us.
I am so, so overdue with this letter to you, ‘Cakes, because life.
In November, I started a new (amazing, incredible, “oh-my-god-is-this-real-life-and-I-get-paid-to-do-this?”) job, daddy started a new job, then it was your birthday, and like five seconds later, it was Christmas.
Any space in between, I was either
(a) placing tempting snacks above the sink to lure myself to wash bottles & pump parts,
(b) preemptively losing my shit about all the Things we needed to do/buy/wrap/experience guilt about in relation to Christmas and your first birthday, or
(c) actually losing my shit about all the Things we needed to do/buy/wrap/experience guilt about in relation to Christmas and your first birthday.
THERE WAS JUST A LOT GOING ON.
However, as tends to be the case with most things I barely hold it together about, everything worked out beautifully & we all survived.
I credit this mostly to the fact that your daddy is really, really good at balancing out my panic with this totally zen, “babe we got this don’t even worry” attitude.
Also to snacks.
Really, for your birthday, the only thing I was adamant about was that you have a giant balloon for the occasion, because there are so very few events in life that call for celebratory helium.
Done annnnnd done.
Initially, daddy and I were like, “We’ll just invite family over to do pizza and cake at our house, and it’ll be super chill and laid back.“
And then we remembered that we have a thousandy immediate family members, realized it would basically be the worst idea we’ve ever had to fit that many humans into the space where we live, and quickly came up with an alternate plan where we moved the party to somewhere at Not Our House.
At your party, you got your very own smash cake of the very same flavor and design that grandma Bridget had made for your Daddy to decimate on his first birthday.
Ever the appreciator of food, you deigned to actually smash your cake and opted to joyously pet the frosting around with a fork.
The highlight of your day, however, was climbing atop the four-wheeler you’d been gifted and realizing that SWEET MOTHER OF GOD IT MOVES
This is the actual moment of that discovery, and your face basically says it all.
Daddy & I were all ultra-cautious as you climbed on for your first ride, very parent-ly hovering alongside in case gravity decided to clothesline you—
but you were just like, NAH BRAHS, I’VE GOT THIS, IT’S COOL, and casually took off like you’d been driving for years.
On your real-actual birthday, we celebrated by having evening breakfast with grandma Sharry, grandpa Mike and a pancake shaped like a “1”—
a festive treat of which you were suspicious and maybe kind of judgmental.
WE WERE ALSO ABLE TO HAT YOU
WHICH WAS AN AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENT FOR THE GLORIOUS 3 SECONDS IT LASTED.
I’mma be honest with you when I say that your daddy and I didn’t buy you anything for Christmas this year.
Probably because we are jerks.
Mostly because I was already flipping out over how much Stuff you already own, how much Stuff you’d just accumulated for your birthday, and how much Stuff was still coming from two families’ worth of Christmas.
So, I mean, I guess if you look at it that way, what we actually gave you for Christmas was mama’s sanity.
Despite the fact that you’re currently growing in four of your upper-level mouth swords, you were so, so good and wonderful for all the holiday festivities. Snugglier than usual, but generally awesome.
You frosted (and by “frosted,” I mean “wildly flailed while holding a paintbrush loaded with frosting and some of it touched the cookie”) your very first sugar cookie;
you met Santa, an event during which you were FAR more concerned by the giant Chick-Fil-A cow wearing clothes that was standing nearby (which, fair);
you were thrilled that people were kind enough to give you bags and crinkly tissue paper, but weren’t entirely sure why anything else was included because HELLO WHAT MORE COULD YOU EVEN WANT THAN NOISES;
and you joined me for our very first Solstice celebration, where we set beautiful intentions for the new year & you were quite distressed that the flaming Yule wreath in the middle of the room did not wave back at you.
You’ve graduated from using “all done” strictly for food-related statements and now use it in ANY situation where you’ve decided you’re over it, thanks, make this be done.
You went from turbo-crawls, to tentative furniture-surfing, to OMFG HE RUNS NOW? over the space of about a month, and now, for the most part, you only walk like you’re 45% drunk.
You hug deliberately now, and the hugs know no bounds.
You hug the (very patient) Faces and Clementine.
You hug Ms. Lisa at baby work, and your friends at baby work, and sometimes the curtains at baby work, too.
YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT IT AND EVERY TIME YOU DO IT I JUST MELT SO HARD.
Before we leave the house, you take epic delight in being the one to bring Clementine her “going into the kennel” treat. You get SO pissed off at us if we dare take this honor away from you & will make very displeased sounds at us to make sure we know.
You’re convinced you not only know how to put on your own shoes (you don’t), but also that you can put them on me. (Also, nope.)
You just, like within the last week, have figured out how to blow kisses.
This is basically accomplished by you smashing your palm against your face, sometimes while growling, and it’s amazing.
To my endless delight, you have favorite books, which you’ll either point to and announce, “buh,” or pick up, bring over to me or daddy, place in either of our laps and clap to signal, hi, I have brought you these words and it is time to read them at me.
MY HEART, BABY.
MY ENTIRE ACTUAL HEART.
You’re currently obsessed with this book you got for Christmas that has a panel of sound-playing buttons down one side, and you VERY SPECIFICALLY love the button that plays Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
This song is legit 45 seconds long, and if we dare cheat you of its full glory by canceling it out with another button—
say, the one that makes a two-second magic sound—
you will purposefully take the book back, push the Rudolph button, and then make the book dance to it with you.
This past year, I wore exhaustion like a badge of honor.
I’d never felt my heart break as wide open as it did the day I went back to work.
I fought long and hard to be able to nurse you, and I will forever count that victory among one of the greatest and most trying battles I’ve ever won.
I was really, really thankful for Amazon Prime.
I reveled in the way it felt like liquid sunshine every time I made you laugh.
I got to watch your daddy settle so very effortlessly into being your daddy, and I love him all the more for it.
I learned that humans can actually, for-real survive on nothing more than Ghiradelli chocolates, random muffins and a lot of water for weeks at a time.
Really, the only thing I knew for absolute sure this entire time was that I loved you, with every single fiber of my being, and somehow, that single certainty was enough to build an entire first year of motherhood around.
There have been a lot of really rad years in my life, but this one—
the one where I got to bring your bright light into this world—
This year, I learned how to be your mama.
We made it, little dude.
You are here, you are awesome, and you are one.
I love you so stupid much.