Merry Christmas! And happy eleven-month-birthday, son. It's getting harder and harder for me and your dad to remember a time when you weren't a part of our lives, home and family, especially now that you're such a vocal and mischievous contributor.
Your smile has always been a bright spot for us, but lately you've taken it to new levels. You don't just smile anymore as much as you dare us NOT to laugh at you. To call you a happy baby would be a major understatement -- you're just blessed with an outgoing and naturally upbeat personality, for which we are thankful.
This last month has brought lots of changes. You're pointing at things and people now that have captured your attention, and while it's a perfectly normal developmental milestone, your method of pointing is anything but run-of-the-mill. I have yet to capture a picture of it, but you fold your thumb down against your palm and point with your other four fingers in the general vicinity of what you want to indicate, and your dad and I can't get enough of it. When we ask you what you're looking at, and you pop out that four-fingered salute, we never know quite what to rest our eyes upon, but it hasn't been too much of a problem so far. I kind of hope you never figure out how to point any differently, because I love your way of doing it now.
You've also fallen in love with your board books, and I cannot be any happier. Hooray!! Another reader in the house! Storytime before bed never fails to captivate you, and you play with your books now all on your own, even frequently choosing them over the noisier, battery-operated toys at your disposal, a choice I heartily appreciate on many levels. Not only have you learned to employ your tiny thumb to turn the pages of your board books, you've also figured out how to rifle through magazines faster than I would have thought possible. So far your periodic reading has been limited to "American Baby" and "Parenting" magazines, but we're thinking of getting you your own subscription to "The Economist" and "Business Week."
Now that your upstairs playroom is functionally complete (meaning it's baby-safe and filled with toys, not that I've repainted it or hung up anything cute on the walls -- there just aren't enough hours in the day!), you spend lots of time there with me on any given day. When you want a respite from your toys, you always know how to take a break -- you crawl to the window, pull yourself up and peer over the sill to stare down at the neighbors as they come and go. You are more interested in the lives of our neighbors than I would have thought possible for a child under the age of one, and your intent face makes me laugh. Sometimes your dad and I try to figure out just what you're keeping tabs on, and we wonder if you're noting who's pulling up in a new sedan, who's got a new bike, and who's accepting yet another FedEx package. If the neighborhood watch ever needs another member, I'm signing you up.
Not all new developments are easy and breezy -- I'll admit that sometimes your determination and sheer force of will are hard to handle. You are a remarkably happy baby, as I mentioned, but I've been amazed by how committed you can be to doing things on your terms. If I'm helping you move a large toy that you want to play with on your own, you'll grab my hand and push it aside. If I've walked into a room holding a snack that's not baby-friendly (like something with peanut butter on it), I'd better have something else to feed you or you'll let me know you're displeased. If you want to feed yourself Cheerios and I try to hand you one, I can expect to be sweeping up the floor, since you'll pitch them overboard faster than I can say "multi-grain." And if I want you to take just one more bite of pear-pineapple but you're done, then BY GOD, YOU'RE DONE AND NO ONE'S GONNA MAKE YOU EAT ANYMORE. You definitely know your own mind, and it's going to serve you well in your adult life, but I swear, kid -- it can make parenting a challenge, to say the least. Still, I would not have you be any other way. I have the feeling you came by that fierce independence honestly enough, and I know that both your daddy and I value that about our own personalities.
Speaking of feeding yourself, you're doing so with more regularity and more success. It's so much fun for us to watch the physics of how you manage getting one tiny piece of cereal to your mouth, a short distance but one apparently fraught with insecurity and danger. Lately you've gotten much better at the pincer grip of picking a Cheerio up with just your thumb and first finger, but your earlier attempts were hilarious demonstrations of the meaning of the word "overkill." You'd grab one Cheerio in your palm, wrapping all your fingers securely around it as if you expected someone to spirit it away from you by magic. Then you'd cram that whole hammy fist into your mouth and try to open your fingers while they were lodged between your gums. More often than not, those moist Cheerios ended up in your lap or on the floor, but you've shown steady improvement, and are probably eating up to 75% of what we put on your high chair tray these days. And you always love to celebrate your success when the food's in your mouth, which is infectious. We do a lot of clapping and "yay!"-ing.
As I noted, you love storytime before bed. We always make sure we get in at least two books before bedtime (after your bath and prayers), and it's your daddy who reads them to you. This is for a couple of reasons -- after a long day at work, both you and he enjoy having some quiet time together, and also, when I try to read books to you at bedtime, you seem much more interested in moving on to the next phase of the going-to-sleep routine -- nursing. So I usually retreat to the hallway and watch you surreptitiously from the doorway as daddy reads you your books and sings your prayers with you. You never know I'm there -- I make sure you don't see me, since it tends to bring storytime to a grinding halt when you're crowing for sustenance -- but I watch you every night. I have the feeling that there will be a lot of times in your life like that, son -- you won't realize it, but I'll be there, watching over you and hoping and praying for you to be kept whole, happy and healthy.
This time next month, I'll probably be writing about how you're walking. You've come so close to taking your first steps -- you stand unsupported now with regularity, and you're starting to lurch toward things several steps away, a development that's both exciting and terrifying, since you're so much more prone to accidents now. And I have the feeling that everything will feel completely different once again when you're toddling around instead of crawling, like we'll be starting over with a new baby, one who doesn't explore the world at his feet, but one who runs through the world around him. How will we be parents to that new little guy? I don't know, but I trust that we'll figure it out together. You've shown us all along how to be the parents you need, and we'll just keep holding your hand when you need it. That's the easy part. The hard part is always the part where we have to let go.
I love you, son.