About a Girl

25 05 2012

In a couple of weeks, my daughter will be nine months old.  And that is, like, a really big deal.  That doubles the amount of time she’s existed in any form (other than in my overactive and wildly inaccurate imagination).  It means that she’s been a person all on her own for almost as long as she was a person-within-a-person.

For me, in that first nine months she didn’t change much.  Oh, I read the books with the creepy pictures of a zygote and an embryo and a fetus.  On some level, I realize that she resembled a sea monkey more than, say, her mother or her second cousin.  But to me, she was a teeny, tiny baby as soon as I took that first pregnancy test.  And, low and behold, out she came, nine months later: a teeny, tiny baby.  Which proves to me that I was correct in my initial analysis of the situation.  There was a baby in there.

This second (almost) nine months, though?  I’ve SEEN her change.  She’s gone from a teeny tiny baby to… well, to a big baby. Or maybe a really diminutive person.  And while I’ve been there for nearly every minute of it, I still can’t believe how much she has learned and grown.

She does stuff now.  Not by accident, but with purpose.  She grabs the toy box because – get this – she knows there are toys in there.  I understand that this is not the stuff of Nobel winners, but, come on: a few months ago, she didn’t know toys, she didn’t know box, and she had no concept of in there.  Now, she’s so nonchalant about the whole thing: “Oh, what should I do now?  Maybe I should watch my mom freak out with happiness when I tip over this box and grab the ring.  That never gets old.”

Of course, she’s still a baby.  So once she has tired of repeating camera-worthy antics, into her mouth goes the ring.  And then she tries to eat the toy box.  And then she tastes the piece of lint that floated out of the toy box.  And then she is tired of the whole thing and demands milk.  Repeat those steps 500 times and you have an idea of how we spend our time at home.

She has developed her sense of object permanence, which is a challenge.  Before, it was simple to fool her.  “Oh, you want to chew on mommy’s cell phone?  Too bad, because it disappeared, and now you have no idea it ever existed [insert evil laugh].” These days, it is a whole circus to distract her from the unsavory bit of cat hair or dad’s steak knife that has caught her attention.  “That will make you sick.  Here, play with this expensive, noisy, flashing-light baby toy!  No?  A stuffed animal?  A book?  A spoon?  Please, will anything besides playing with your own soiled diaper make you happy?”  Still, it makes me choke up with love and pride to watch her peer around a corner to see if I am there, or follow the trajectory of the toy she has dropped onto the floor.

I am in this temporary state of parental grace right now, as she can solidly sit by herself  but cannot yet crawl.  I find endless uses for this unfortunately brief stage.  As long as she is in a decent mood, when I need two hands, I simply set her on the floor.  This is new and wonderful for me.  She’s really into it, as she had never before been on the floor of our bedroom or kitchen, so the novelty simply overwhelms her.  I can practically hear her thoughts as she is placed on the tile in the kitchen: “So THIS is how it feels.  I’ve been staring at this place from 4 feet away for 8 MONTHS now.  AMAZING.”  I, meanwhile, am thinking something along the lines of “I wonder how many dishes I can put away before she realizes that I’m not paying attention to her…”  It’s too bad that it is developmentally unsound for babies to linger in this sitting-but-not-moving stage for very long.

We have two very special stuffed animals for her.  One is a little blue bear, passed down from her cousins.  The other is a dog that her grandma bought her because I was convinced that it was the cutest stuffed animal ever.  One goes to bed with her each night (not trusting my ability to keep a baby AND a stuffed animal safe for the next ten years, I decided she better have at least two comfort items).  However, I am learning that you can’t decide what is important to someone else, even your baby.  What’s important to my daughter is the dryer ball.  Because my husband insists on having his clothes fluffed by the same ball fairly regularly, we found a bath toy that is a little smaller and bright orange instead of pale blue but is apparently an acceptable substitute for the dryer ball.  It’s like a spiny neon blowfish.

In the evening, as she nurses before bed, she pats my chest with the spiny neon blowfish.  She sets the spiny neon blowfish on my breast and lets it roll down to her chin.  She waves the spiny neon blowfish in her peripheral vision as she gets sleepy.  If she accidentally drops the spiny neon blowfish, she looks around frantically until I retrieve it for her, then she has to alternate between a nipple in her mouth and the spiny neon blowfish in her mouth a few times, just to make sure it’s the right spiny neon blowfish.  This morning, I woke up with a spiny neon blowfish lodged under the sheets and beneath my right kidney.

It’s weird that my kid loves this cheap bath toy above all other toys, yes.  But it’s weirder to me that my kid is now old enough to have an opinion about a toy at all.

I still haven’t convinced her that bed time isn’t THE END OF THE WORLD.  I understand that it’s hard to let go of a great day – or even a mediocre day (maybe especially a mediocre day, you just need to stay awake long enough to redeem it), but after four or five hours, you know what?  It’s actually THE NEXT DAY, and it’s not going to be a good one if neither of us have gotten any sleep.

Yesterday, she woke up from her nap with me and laughed and laughed.  Life is THAT GOOD sometimes.

If I have done nothing else of value in my life, I have given my daughter a day on which she woke up so happy she laughed.  And that is worth all the rest of my days, no matter how hard they may have been and may be.

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