Even your pediatrician said it at your last check-up. "Has it been fifteen months already?" I am tremendously late in getting this letter written to you, so I'm sorry for the delay. The last month has been packed with excitement and activity, and I'm just now getting a chance to take a breath.
First of all, my boy, you've definitely decided that walking is for suckers. For the last few weeks, we've watched your running evolve from a simple somewhat-speedy waddle, to the current tuck-the-left-arm-swing-the-right-arm-and-make-a-mad-dash-for-it version. As I watched you fly by me today, I noticed that both your feet are actually off the ground at the same time, which makes it official -- you're a runner. This is occasionally disastrous when you're wearing your socks and zipping around on the ceramic tile floor, but it's also highly entertaining, and luckily it wears you out enough that your naps are getting to be sort of in the neighborhood of predictability. Meaning, you take at least one at SOME point almost every day.
Your dad took off a WHOLE WEEK from work this last month, and we took that precious family time to do some fun things together. You visited the zoo for the first time ever, and although we were certain you'd adore the animals, you were just as interested in the sign posts and food stands and trees and passersby. So this time around, the giraffes and elephants failed to impress, but we DID score big-time when we introduced you to the merry-go-round. Thank goodness something we did that day was a hit -- you really enjoyed it, although next time, I'm going to do the filming and daddy will hold you on the rotating device of torture. I was nauseous for an hour after we got off. Sadly, this is no exaggeration.
Later that same week, we took you to the Children's Museum for your first visit, and had an unqualified success there. You LOVED it! There's a section of the museum set aside just for little tykes like yourself, and you roamed around to your heart's content, ringing doorbells on scaled-down doors, flipping light switches, climbing up stairs, whooshing down slides (on your belly), and honking the horns of mini-cars. It was so much fun that I can't wait to take you back there, and I'm sure you'll grow to love that place more and more as you get older and we can check out the other exhibits.
One of the most remarkable things we've noticed about you over the last month is your broadening and deepening sense of independence. When we reach for your hand to help you over an obstacle, or guide you around something, you tuck your paw into your armpit, as if to say, "Step BACK -- I GOT this. SHEESH." Your desire to do things your own way leads to some funny sights from time to time, as you repurpose things from their original usage into a new and adapted function. Like your poor little yellow Bumbo chair.
I take it back. I guess you ARE still sitting in it, anyway.
Two things you still love -- two anchors in the ever-changing landscape of your growth and development -- are reading and short excursions. Here's a pic of you with a book ...
And here are a few shots of you exploring the campus where your mom when to college and grad school and where your dad earned his masters degree also. Someday if you decide to enroll at Rice, you'll have these shots to look back upon and smile at -- but if I'm being honest with myself, I'll admit that I didn't take these for you, but for me. There's something that both warms my heart and breaks it to see your tiny strides measured out along the stone passages where I spent so much time walking as an undergrad -- like two disparate parts of my life colliding together. I guess that's because I found so much of myself while I was at Rice, and now that you've become the central part of my life I've had to reinvent myself once more, and to see you in that place that changed and bettered and strengthened me -- well, it's special, to say the least.
And you look really good there, too. Like you belong. No pressure.
While I'm being honest with myself, son, I'll be honest with you, too. I started this letter to you blaming its tardiness on scheduling and the fullness of our days, but truthfully, I've been putting off writing this month's missive. I've delayed because when I started writing these notes to you, I did them to catalogue what you were learning and doing, as a way to record the days of your babyhood. And as these pictures clearly capture, those days are past. You had been on the cusp of toddler- and boyhood for some time, and I think you've finally crossed that threshold now, irrevocably and irreversibly. So for the last few days, I've been at a loss to know how to write this letter, how to address a baby whom I remember only fleetingly now. The little guy you are fills up my senses so much that I have to work hard to recall how your bouncy baby self fit in my arms, how your crawling self struggled to get around, how you had to work hard at sitting up. There are hours when I mourn the fact that I won't get to hold that baby again (even while I delight in the boy he's become).
I was contemplating all of this tonight as I nursed you to sleep. You'd only had one nap, so you went to bed earlier than usual, and your nursery was still infused with enough light coming through the blinds that I could see your sleeping face, long since asleep and done with your bedtime breastfeeding. Normally when you sleep, you do so with great abandon, your limbs thrown askew and your lips parted as you breathe evenly. Tonight, though, as I cuddled you close, I looked down and saw a glimpse of the baby I'd thought never to see again. Your lips, soft and pink, were still puckered as if you were nursing, and moved rhythmically as you nursed in your sleep. It was such a "baby" thing to see that I felt grounded again, relieved to see evidence that you are indeed the same little guy who used to go through five burp cloths a day early on, the same baby who came home from the hospital weighing only six pounds, the same tiny angel who used to fit into the t-shirts that look like doll clothes to me now.
And I guess that's the secret truth of it. No matter how you grow and change, how big you are, how old, I will not ever lose the baby you were. That's because even when you have to lean down to hug me, long after we've exchanged your car seat for a booster and then eventually when you start driving me around, even then -- you'll be my boy. My heart, my son, my baby.