I would die for my Lola. My gorgeous, feisty baby girl. But loving her right now is treacherous. At any given moment when I pick her up, there is as much a chance as not that she’ll spit up all over me. She doesn’t like to snuggle and so holding her is akin to wrestling a wild animal. She squirms, she pushes away, she kicks, she keeps you at arms length. And she doesn’t like to sleep, and so we are constantly at war with her to get her to just shut her eyes (and her mouth) for an hour or two. Please. Have mercy.
I know this will change. She will grow, and learn how to love us back, and eventually sleep. I see it in her gorgeous smiles, when they are granted. But I know this because of Noah. This type of wisdom – that this too shall pass – only comes after the first.
But that’s what makes the first so exciting, so drama filled. It’s a life or death kind of love. My love for Lola is a laid back kind of love. I give her time, and she’s warming up to the idea of this family, of this mother. Her personality will start to show; her interactions will become more satisfying, more reciprocal.
Noah is my obsession. Mt first, my fire. I can’t get enough of him. He’s big enough now that he can wrap his legs around my body when I hold him; his clasps his arms around my head and pulls my cheek tightly to his. “Mama,” he says so lovingly, and then gives me a kiss with a vocal “MWAH!”
His kisses are truly the best. Not long ago he used to attack with an open, drooling mouth, and douse slobber all over the reluctant receiver. Even then though, we still heard the “WAH!”
Now they’re better. Close-lipped, the only risk is that he’ll do a “linger” – he slides his lips back and forth from my ear to ear in one long kiss and then do a big, emphatic “MWAH!” at the end.
We also have the stair kiss. This is a fun one, whereby Daddy is bringing him up to bed and as he walks up the stairs he pauses between every second step or so and sticks his lips between the rails for a kiss. I can get two in, but then he reaches halfway where the rail ends and I just. can’t. reach. So then he blows a kiss from there. “Bye Bye Mama!”
“Bye bye” is his new thing right now. Well, he has a lot of new things. What makes this all such an exciting time, I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next. The other day in the bathroom with me, I flushed the toilet. “Bye Bye pee pee.” And in the car, a song was on that had lots of grunts – Ungghh! – that he was singing. I turned the car off and he said “Bye bye Ungghh!”
Going up to night night he says “Bye bye” to everything he can think of. Each step. “Bye bye Coco. Bye Bye Lola. Bye bye Ka ka. Bye bye googa (car). Bye Bye boo buy (school bus.) Bye bye choo choo (obvious.) Bye bye Ipah (iPad. What’re you gonna do.)
When my friend Elisabeth’s daughter Hollan was 18 months or so and Noah was just a baby, she was learning to say thank you. “Dee Dow!” she’d say after she received something. I remember thinking at the time, how does a kid turn ‘thank you’ into ‘dee dow?’ That’s not even close. And Elisabeth was so impressed with ‘dee dow!’
Well, now I know. Any mumbly mixed up funky attempt from your child to copy what you say is a score. It means they are trying. It also, by the way, means that they will start copying everything you say, and you must stop saying “shit.”
At a birthday party the other day Noah kept wanting bites of cake. “He’s such a cake whore!” my husband states eloquently. “Cake ho!!” Noah repeats. Close enough that “whore” should be removed from our repertoire for now.
Noah is learning how to count – he can get up to 3! And learning his alphabet. The alphabet was the shocker to me. Here I’ve been playing this video – one left over from Katya – called the Talking Letter Factory. Super annoying, with super annoying songs, I put it on for him so I can leave the room and get stuff done.
Well, lo and behold, Wendy arrives with a big foam letter puzzle and little Mr. Know-it-all start pointing at the letters and saying them and their sounds! Whaa? I didn’t teach him that! And then I put on the video again and there he is saying all the letters as they blink on the screen. I didn’t even have to do a damn thing!
Here I was worried that I have forever altered his malleable little brain by forcing TV on him so I can have peace for 30 minutes. Everything I’ve read says I’m a really bad mom for doing this. And what do you know he’s learned his flippin’ alphabet.
But that’s just it. Kids learn things so easily. No big news flash here, but when you experience it in action it can be shocking. One thing that kills me is how he knows he’s being a goofball. He’s known this since about 10 months when he started making funny faces on purpose. Is this innate? This goofball-ness? With Mat as his dad, probably.
From the time he could walk he’s been cracking us up. He puts his thin muslin blanket over his head like a ghost and walks around bumping into things and laughing. For that matter he puts anything over his head – small trash cans, grocery bags (the reusable ones, I’m not that bad of a mother!) cardboard boxes. Anything so he can’t see, and then walks around bumping into walls, tables, us.
He does circles in the middle of the floor, over and over and then tries to walk and falls down laughing. He puts things on the cats – trucks, books, legos, and laughs. He puts things in our cups – “No googa in wine!!” we’ve yelled on more than one occasion.
All the while he’s learning new words, new tricks, new ways of being, he’s also growing out of certain ways. I’m heartbroken that just in the last week he doesn’t want to snuggle any more before bedtime. We have a ritual, where we read a few books in the rocking chair, and then turn the light off. I say “snuggle with Mommy” and he turns over and wraps his arms and legs around me and puts his head on my shoulder and we rock for a few minutes. He likes me to put his blanket over him just so once he’s turned over, and now that he’s talking he says “night night” to all the people and things he knows, stopping every other one to lift his head up and give me a kiss.
We’ve been doing this ritual pretty much since he was born. And one day last week he just decided he didn’t want to anymore. He whined when I tried to get him to turn over, slid off my lap, and walked to his crib and said “bed!” No matter how hard I try to wrestle him onto my shoulder each night since then, it’s to no avail. He’d rather go to bed than snuggle with me.
I should be glad he loves his bed so much. I should be thankful he is quite literally is putting himself to sleep; that he wants to lay down. Looking back at my letter to Noah on his 1st birthday, I told him that my job is to teach him how to live, so that one day I can let him go. And here is that lesson, looking me in the face. Oh, how it hurts though. Oh how much hubris I had back then, thinking that I could so easily handle Noah growing up.
This letting go is so much more difficult than my naive self believed one year ago. That was still when he needed me for everything – sustenance; to move from one place to another. I couldn’t truly imagine how it would feel to have time put just out of reach his soft head on my shoulder and wiry legs wrapped around me at nighttime.
Now he walks. Now he can ask for what he wants, or get it himself off of the kitchen table. His calls for me are transitioning to “Mommy;” not Mama so much anymore. That’s a recent development too. He’s grown out of his goofy picture-taking smiles and now is too distracted grabbing at the game-wielding magic iPhone I wave in front of his face to realize it’s a photo I want. He also has stopped eating every stray penny or Lego he sees on the floor and waking three times a night. We must take it all, I suppose, good with the sad.
This year, however, from one to two, for the most part has been so much fun for me. Every day I look at him in awe, every day I gush. I can’t get enough of him. I truly believe he is the most magnificent creature to ever walk this earth. Ayelet Waldman wrote of her young son in her motherhood memoir Bad Mother – “holding his fleshy, silky body was the most satisfying tactile experience I’ve ever had in my life.” I couldn’t have described it better.
Holding Noah’s little body on my lap; smelling his freshly washed hair, his slightly stale morning baby breath; rubbing my nose up and down his cheeks; running my fingers through his gorgeous sun-whitened locks; staring into his blue eyes; tickling his soft warm, pale back. There is a reason babies often supplant husbands during the first few years of life. Holding them is pure, innocently sensual bliss. There are no expectations, lingering resentments, martyrdom. All they need from you is love, and all you want to do is give it.
And this is a love unlike anything I’ve ever known. I long to relive the moments, but I grasp at my memories, and they are not so old yet. Time is on fast forward, especially now that I’m caring for three young children. Though two years ago I didn’t even know him, he’s managed to grow from a helpless bump to a talking, walking real person. It’s beyond comprehension sometimes how this human animal can accomplish so much. Yet I want to go back in my mind, so badly, to those minutes where his new little body slept so peacefully and heavy in my arms. But I can’t.
I can’t feel his weight anymore, or remember how he smelled, or even really what his tiny baby face looked like. You can’t go back.
Because of this, I must build upon my first birthday promise.
M y promise to you, Noah, my love, is this – I will live more mindfully with you. I will be in each moment, and savor it as it happens. I will touch you even more often. When I look into your eyes, I will stop thinking about the grocery list, and I will concentrate. I will let the dishes stay in the sink, and I will take that walk even though I’m so tired, and I will notice the texture of your skin when your hand is in mine.
And as you learn even more independence, and your frustration flows into tears, I will strive to have patience. In these not-so-good moments, I will work to understand you, to be there with you, to help you through so you can one day not need me to.
I will feel you with all five of my senses, and relish the moment, because you are my tea; these collective moments are the axis on which my world revolves. I will know that as time passes I will only be left with unreliable memories, but I won’t have a heavy heart. I will be consoled believing that I lived each of my moments with you as deeply and richly as I could.
“Forever is composed of nows,” wrote Emily Dickenson. Let’s together, not rush through now. So, so soon your nows will be spent somewhere else. Until then, I want to feel each of the ones, now, that you have granted me.