Today you turned five months old. The older you get, the more I see that, in may ways, I’m living with a tiny version of myself. I am finally going to find out what your father has endured all these years, that poor, poor man.
You are so eager for independence that I fear you will start hunting for your own apartment soon. You do not want to sit in my lap. You will stand, thank you very much. We gave you your first solid food a few days ago, although rice cereal really only counts as solid food for babies and 100-year-olds with no teeth. You refused to close your mouth as we spooned it in, so most of it dribbled onto your bib. You were much more interested in grabbing the cup and spoon from us. The next night, we gave you your own spoon to hold, and you shoved that in your mouth so that we couldn’t get the cereal in. Pretty smart, kid.
Maybe part of the reason food has no allure for you is that you have a thumb. A left thumb, to be specific. You suck on it as though it secretes chocolate sauce and whipped cream. We often have to pry it from your mouth to feed you. Of course we want to make sure you don’t starve, but we also want to make sure your thumb doesn’t shrivel up and fall off.
When you take your thumb out of your mouth, you’re always looking for something to gnaw on. Sometimes it’s my face or Dad’s face. Sometimes it’s the coffee table or the desk. And you’re not happy to suck on a corner of these things. No, no, you must have the entire coffee table in your mouth. Your brow furrows as you try to figure out how you’re going to cram it in. You open your mouth wider and wider and push your pudgy little body into whatever object it is you’ve decided to ingest. I usually let this go as long as you’re not hurting yourself because I think it’s a learning experience.
I know you’re still very small, but can I ask a favor of you? Would you please laugh more? Your dad and I love to hear you laugh. We love it more than chocolate and puppies and Christmas combined! We do ridiculous dances and sing in falsetto voices and make fools of ourselves to get a laugh from you. But you’re wise to our act. You give a sympathetic smile and then go back to gnawing on the furniture. But then Abe comes over and sits down next to you, and that’s all it takes for you to burst into giggles. You are enamoured with him. And with Winston, too. Your jaw literally drops when one of them walks past you. I guess that makes up a little for all the years we’ve spent cleaning up hairballs.
These past five months have gone so quickly. It seems like just a few weeks ago I was still pregnant and sitting at a table with all your grandparents listening to them tell baby horror stories. This is a sort of hazing that expectant parents have to go through. People tell you how once you have a baby you will never sleep again, never read another book or eat at another restaurant. And you’ll go broke from buying diapers and have no time for yourself. Your life will never be the same, they say with an air of doom.
Our lives aren’t the same, of course. But why all the doom and gloom? Eleanor, before you were born, I spent much of my life wishing for time to pass. I was always waiting for the next day off, the next vacation, the next holiday. After your birth, I realized that to wish my life away was also to wish your life away. And every day of your life seems precious because you change dramatically during the course of just a few weeks. I don’t want to wish away this moment of you wrapping your tiny hand around my finger, or this moment of you snuggling into my chest to eat, or even this moment of me trying to wrestle the dirty onesie over your head without getting poop everywhere. All of this will be over soon. Too soon. You haven’t taken away my life at all. You have given days upon days back to me by teaching me to appreciate life’s small graces.