Friday, March 15, 2013

Where did my baby go?

A year and a half ago, I had this:

He was tiny and helpless. He still slept all the time. He ate all the rest of the time. I could swaddle him, thoroughly, in tiny receiving blankets. He howled like a baby wolf in his sleep.

A year ago, I had this:

He couldn't crawl or even scoot. He had to sit in the boppy. I still carried him constantly. He was still up every two hours (every two freaking hours) all night long, ravenously hungry each time. He could still barely tolerate being in the stroller because it didn't move fast enough. If I was very lucky, he might not scream bloody murder for the entire duration of every single car ride.

But this is the one that gets me.

Six months ago--six short, short months ago--I had this:

This was a baby. I still fed him every meal. He couldn't walk at all, and he had barely learned to crawl properly. He had a pretty vast vocabulary, but in all other ways, he was an infant. He functioned like an infant. He thought like an infant.

And now? Now I have this.

Suddenly, I find myself in possession of a little boy. Not an infant, a full-on child.

I was talking with my neighbor today, the whole they-grow-up-so-fast conversation. So very cliche, and so very true. But I told her, I thought this last six months seemed somehow faster than anything else. This startling, lightning-fast transition from my baby to little unique individual person who has less and less to do with me.

I don't feed him at all anymore. I cut up his food, and that's about it.

No more screaming in the car. No more cramps in my shoulder from holding his pacifier in his mouth or feeding him a bottle in the back seat. Now he faces the same way as I do, and we have honest-to-goodness conversations in the car. Granted, most of them are about buses on the road (or the disturbing lack of buses on the road), but still, we're talking together. My baby and me. Two-way conversations that include his original ideas.

He talks up a storm now, putting words together, throwing his thoughts and observations (some mind-bogglingly accurate, some hilariously not accurate) out into the world. If he wants something, he asks for it. No more crying and guessing (well, at least most of the time). He talks about everything. And I talk to him. And he understands, and gives me feedback.

He notices when the world doesn't go his way. And reacts to it in typical toddler fashion, throwing himself dramatically on the floor and wailing. And half the time, his tantrums are there to prove a point. To make us notice him. No more innocent instinctive baby-reactions, easily distracted.

He's developed an intensely aggressive streak, which is no surprise. He always had it, I think. He's just figured out he can use it. And he has so much energy. So much. Intense, passionate, little-boy energy that I don't think I ever had, even as a toddler myself. He slams into things, throws things, runs everywhere. Probably everything in my house will be broken by the time he's 10. And can I say, I am so grateful he has a father to play with him. I can read, I can snuggle, I can go on walks, I can play trucks and slides and basketball. But wrestling? Not my forte. My attempts at full-body contact just don't cut it for him. Daddy's wrestling is much, much more satisfying.

He's starting to get imaginary play, especially related to babies. He adores babies, which bodes well for the future, at least I hope. And while he's not particularly snuggly or gentle, he is incredibly unselfish and generous when it comes to taking care of little ones. He is always offering my belly a pacifier, a drink of his beloved "boodey," a story, a truck, a blanket. The other day, my neighbor was watching him, along with her 11-month-old. She left them alone together, playing independently, and came back to find a large collection of toys in her little one's lap, all lovingly collected by Peregrine. Any time he hears a baby crying, he starts worriedly suggesting all the things the baby might need--pacifier, bottle, nursing, a nap. And if it's in his power to fix, he will try. With great dedication and great joy.

It's so amazing, watching him grow up and grow into himself. I just can't believe how fast it's happened. Seriously. A few short months ago I called him Baby Mop because he scooted everywhere on his belly and picked up dirt like a mop. And now? He's not a mop anymore, and he's not a baby anymore either.
Except for the ubiquitous pacifier.

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