Who Is This Kid?

31 08 2012

A year ago, so much of what I was preparing for my almost-here baby seemed ridiculous: sippy cups, 18-month-sized clothes, toys bigger than a loaf of bread… It would be EONS before she could use any of that stuff.

Right?

Wrong.  A few months ago, our impressive collection of pint glasses was moved aside to make room for neon-colored, spill-proof cups.  My daughter is happily sleeping in pjs that aren’t exactly big on her, size 18 months.  Those toys, whose purpose I could not fathom as my infant daughter barely looked at them, are now spread throughout the house by an enthusiastic master of play time.  And while I worried for months about our large cat jumping on her and hurting her, now I fear for our cat’s well-being as our Godzilla of an almost-one-year-old spies him and leaps onto him from two feet away, shrieking like fire alarm the whole time.

And I have to ask…

Where the hell did my baby go?

I vaguely remember a time when I had a baby.  I think she was cute.  But someone came into our house and took away that squalling mess of vomit and poop and milky sweetness and left this intense, opinionated, intelligent, gorgeous toddler in her place.  A toddler who can buzz like a bee, moo like a cow, and EAT WITH A FORK (not effectively, but still – a fork?  She’ll probably be taking her SATs next week).

Already, I’ve had to adjust from a milk-and-baby-food regimen to  three healthy meals a day.  Mind you, I still get a rush of amazement each morning as I scramble eggs and broccoli and ham for the tyrant’s first meal of the day.  “Look at me!” I think.  “I’m acting like a mother!  Ha, ha, cooking breakfast, good joke.”  By dinner time, it’s more of a rush of panic: “She needs to eat AGAIN?  I haven’t had a minute to wash the breakfast and lunch dishes, and now she’s expecting ANOTHER MEAL?  I wonder if frozen peas and string cheese count as dinner?”

But she gives me big, open-mouth kisses on demand.  And so I knead pizza dough while she makes a playdough-and-Kleenex concoction and sneaks little tastes of it when she thinks I’m not looking, and I provide yet another meal for the insatiable little human who has taken the place of my little baby doll.

She’s learned to help me get her dressed, automatically moving her toy from one hand to the other as I put her shirt on (unless she’s in a mood, in which case she goes entirely rigid, grips her toy with both hands, and screams like her life is ending).  When the car stops, she eagerly looks around to see where we’ve turned up (the grocery store!  Target! the grocery store again!).  She knows about a million words (not including the treasures that begin with f and sh).  “Do you want anymore, or are we feeding this to Charlie?” I ask, and she looks pointedly at the dog dish.

I have to hide when I eat anything I don’t want to share, or when I don’t want to drink my water with a healthy dose of toddler backwash.

Her board books are all missing chunks where she’s managed to gum them to pieces.  But now, at bedtime, she spends ten or fifteen minutes flipping through the pages of “Happy Hippo, Angry Duck” and “The Bed Time Book,” as serious as a secretary doing her filing, while I sneak a few pages of my own book.

Every day since she was born, I have looked at her and thought, “I am going to miss the little person she is, right now, at this moment.”

And yet, the next day, I inevitably think, “THIS person she is today makes it worth losing the person she was just yesterday.”

So, I will never forget the baby I used to have, even as the memories of long nights and hazy days fade, leaving behind just the memories of a tiny, sweet, suckling angel.  But I am way too excited about the toddler I have now to miss that baby much.

And also too busy.  Because I have to go cook that toddler another meal.

New baby

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