Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29, 2010

Dear Oliver,
Oh my Ollie boy. What a week - or two - it has been. You have tested my patience and I confess that I have not always passed. For months I have felt that each day I've become a better mother than I was the day before, but not this week. Oh no. I've slipped and slided, sometimes into a mama I don't recognize, one I don't want to get to know.

You've been teething 4 molars for what seems like an eternity now. Teething so badly that one morning I strapped you into your car seat and dragged you to the doctor, honestly hoping that you had an ear infection to blame the moaning and whining on. But no, just teeth. Big, mean, pointy teeth forcing their way through your tender gums. I felt terrible for you and thankful that I couldn't remember my own teething pain, certain that I wouldn't be able to bear watching you experience this if I truly knew what you were feeling. Two of those teeth are in now, but two keep pressing, keep pushing, keep making you miserable (though you always find a smile and a cock of your head to bestow upon charmed strangers). Through all your pain I remained patient and devoted and kind. How could I not?

But then, in the midst of the teething, we climbed aboard an airplane and headed north. I'd booked an early morning flight (will you be old enough when you read this to hear me say "fuck all o'clock"? Because that was the official departure time.) in the hopes that you would sleep. But you didn't. From 3:30am when we roused you (with smiling success) through 2pm when we reached your grandpa's house, you were awake. Awake and happy, but awake. So awake.

Those first few nights at grandpa's house - the house that found us sleeping in the same room as you, The Lightest Sleeper in the History of Sleep - when you were up every hour and a half, sometimes for an hour and a half; when you woke for the day at 5am; when you were lucky to net a total of 6 hours of choppy sleep - I think I kept it together fairly well. I wasn't as gentle as I might've liked, not quite as bright as you deserve, but it was ok.

But as the days mounted, things went south.

You'd think I'd be used to sleep deprivation by now, considering how terribly you've slept this past year. But this week was like being thrust back into your newborn days and before long I couldn't cope. There were moments in the night when I held you in front of my face, legs dangling, begging you angrily to sleep. Moments when I could see the confusion on your face - wondering where your kind mommy had gone and why I was shouting at you. There were moments in the day when you stood at my knees, whining and moaning and I wanted nothing more than to turn and walk away from you. To let someone else deal with it all, the waking, the not eating, the whining the whining the whining. But instead I'd pick you up half-heartedly, sling you on my hip and hope you'd be quiet, if not happy, for just 5 minutes.

If we'd been at home I think it would've been ok. We could've lazed around the house during the day or we could've gone to Gymboree to distract us both from the exhaustion. But this was meant to be vacation - this was meant to be restful and fun, I was meant to smile and chat and reconnect with family and friends, we were meant to be happy - but all I wanted to do was sleep. And I think I resented you a bit. For the first time in your life I resented you. Nothing dramatic happened - I didn't hit you or shake you or abandon you in your bed. But I was angry with you, against my better judgement, regardless of knowing that you were all out of sorts and couldn't help your behavior, not really. I tried to find moments of joy with you, but I couldn't deny the veil of resentment that hung between us.

So I pushed your daddy's buttons, wanting to take my frustrations at you out on somebody, anybody else. And we argued and we lay in bed at night sweating (grandpa's never been a fan of a/c). We tried to make small talk, but sometimes we failed. We didn't go to the places I'd wanted to go to. We didn't do the things I'd wanted to do. We didn't see so many of the people I'd wanted to see. It was the anti-vacation.

We've been home a few days now and while I'd hoped to sink back into our routine it's been upset instead by illness. I think you and I both were so worn down from our trip that the first nasty little bug we encountered dove straight for our broken immune systems and hit hard. So you're still not sleeping. And I'm still not sleeping. And I'm wondering if either of us will ever, please god, sleep again.

I hope someday soon I can look back on this trip with half a smile. I hope I'll reflect and rejoice in the fact that you bonded so triumphantly with your grandpa, and beam as I recall how you charmed everyone, even through your exhaustion. But for now, today, I mostly look back with shame.

But know that I love you, Ollie Robin. I love you more than anything in this world, more than anything in any world. Even when it seems like I don't.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 13, 2010

Dear Oliver,

You and your grandma came with me to the optometrist a few weeks ago - an errand which I knew was risky considering your persistent sneaky grabs at my glasses, but you did so well. You sat patiently and played with grandma while I tried on frame after frame, even giving one pair a decided thumbs down when you refused to even look in my direction so long as I was wearing them. And while I went back to get my eyes tested you went to the waiting room and waited. I'd spotted a big latch board on the way in and knew it'd be right up your alley. All those shiny brass fixtures to twiddle with your fancy twiddling finger. (You perfected your twiddling at a very early age while you nursed...but if you're old enough to read you probably don't want to know anything about that). Pupils dilated, prescription in hand, ready to go, I asked grandma what you thought about the latch board. "Oh, he really liked it. But what really surprised me was that he liked the MagnaDoodle!"

Be still my beating heart.

Could it be? Could we have reached the age of coloring already?

We sprinted to Target the next afternoon and got our hands on a MagnaDoodle of our own, wanting to see if grandma had once again exaggerated her grandchildren's abilities. As soon as we got home I opened it up and sat you in front of it. And you picked up the pen. Passed it back and forth from hand to hand - lefty? righty? lefty? righty? - and finally put it down on the screen. And away you went. Scribbles, of course, but scribbles with a purpose. Scribbles, I really believe, that attempt to fill in big open shapes I draw. A good day is measured by a screen full of jaggedy lines, an even better day sees the pad cleared over and over while you color (although I confess, blushing a bit, that I cringe every time I erase your masterpieces, wishing I could tack the whole board to the fridge).

With magnetic coloring a success, I brought out the big guns and moved on to toddler markers - cute little round animals with felt tip heads. I was shocked by how much ink they spread - making them almost more suitable for finger painting than coloring - and disappointed to find that Crayola's inventors clearly didn't have toddlers. Because if they did they would realize the shape guides little hands to hold on to the ink, not the base, and that the tips are so flat they have to be held perfectly upright to work. Clearly a tall task for even the most passionate of budding 13 month old Van Goghs - a skill beyond your scope at the moment. And crayons? Well, after you saw the vibrancy of the markers the dull, broken crayon colors far from thrilled you.

But after your dad called one evening to say he'd be late from work after a hard, hard day (and going in over the weekend as well) I knew he needed a pick-me-up. So I grabbed a plastic bucket by the handle, popped you on my hip and out we went to the driveway. For sidewalk chalk. We drew your daddy a giant sign to welcome him home: "We love you, Daddy! xo, Ollie & Mama". You aren't so good at your letters yet (although your eyes light so bright every time you hear the alphabet song) so you helped add character to our masterpiece. Your cheeks and knees covered in chalk dust, your lips a little pinker after a gentle taste of the red, you looked like an artist. You wanted the whole bucket within your reach - not because you were greedy but because you wanted every color in your arsenal. A little blue scribble, a big swirl of purple, slashes of orange and yellow and pink, you were in heaven with your concrete canvas. And as your dad pulled up and saw our creation I could actually see the fatigue of the day wash off him and when he got out of the car he danced.

You've pointed at the chalk every time we've entered the garage since - you've got the coloring bug for sure. And soon (maybe tonight?) we'll head back outside and get ourselves messy. This is the life I've always wanted. These are the moments I was waiting for. And it seems they're the moments you were waiting for, too.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

July 8, 2010

Dear Oliver,
You're doing it again. And you gotta stop this. You're changing, losing parts of your essential you-ness. I'm sure that you'll be doing new, new things any day now and that they'll be irresistible and adorable, but they'll never be the habits I've grown to love of yours that day by day I'm losing.

For a long time your dad would get you into your jammies then leave the room as I put you to bed. (By the way, have I told you I have a real thing for babies in jammies? I love nothing more than to see you, freshly bathed, crawling around happy and sleepy in your footie pajamas. And when you start toddling around in your pjs? Good lord, I get giddy just thinking about it.) But one night after getting you ready for bed, for some reason, your dad sat down in the chair in your nursery, I sat on the floor, you crawled between us and we talked about our day while watching you wind down. It fast became my favorite part of the day - a chance to reconnect with my husband in a quiet room lit by a dimly glowing lamp, all while you played happily between us. So even though it took your bedtime from an already-late-8:30pm to an insane-for-a-one-year-old-9pm, we kept it up. The crowning glory of our evening ritual, the cutest part of the night, would come when we decided it was finally time to put you to bed. Daddy would get up and stand just outside the room and announce "night night, Ollie". I'd make a production about saying "night night to daddy, I love you daddy" and you'd giggle maniacally as you frantically crawled to the door to shut it. But being that you're a clumsy little munchkin with a big ol' head, closing doors can be a difficult process and it would often take a few tries before you'd succeed in shutting daddy out. Each attempt cuter than the last as you tried to maneuver your body (tangled feet, a stray shoulder) out of the way of the door. And sometimes you'd get distracted when you rediscovered the mirror hanging on the back of the door. It wasn't a quick process, and for your daddy it might've even seemed slightly cruel (slamming the door in someone's face isn't usually considered a delightful practice) but it was adorable. And memorable. And I thought it would last forever.

And then there was the fascination with the kitty door, or more specifically, poking things out it. It started small: a marker here, a block there, but before long you were testing much bigger objects. You'd push a full size top through the flap on a regular basis, often using the long metal handle to pull it back in (usually for a second go). And I often found your ring stacker - the base and all the rings - in a pile on the patio. I always thought it was cute, your fascination with seeing things slip from inside to out, but it didn't strike me as anything special. Until you stopped. I didn't really realize it had been awhile since you'd shown an interest in the cat door until a few days ago when I spotted a small pile of your trinkets in a heap outside. And suddenly I realized what had been missing - I realized it had been days (weeks?) since I last collected your toys from the patio and that this thing you'd been so delighted by, this thing that seemed so very very YOU, was slipping away.

Some people can't believe I still wear you in a sling, being that you're 25 pounds and 30-some inches, but it's something we've both always loved. I couldn't wait to first wear you - before you were out of my body I wanted to strapped to it. I have a photo of us getting ready to leave the house for our first babywearing adventure - you just a week old, nestled happily in the sling I wore you in for every nap, every grocery trip, every everything for ages. You hated strollers, couldn't stand shopping carts and generally didn't want to be anywhere but pressed against my chest, back or hip for nearly a year. But recently something clicked and you decided, like most boys do, that riding on wheels is good fun. Suddenly you're whining to get into the cart as soon as you see one (that sweet, pudgy finger point point pointing at the rows of them as we walk up to the store entrance), and today you asked, as much as a barely verbal baby can, to stroll around the house in a stroller that until recently never held you unless you were screaming to get out. You're still mostly happy in the sling when there aren't other options and when you're tired there's nowhere you'd rather be than strapped to your mama, but you are most definitely spreading your wings and taking baby steps towards independence. (Next thing you know I'll be handing you the car keys.) I already miss wearing you in stores. Having you slung on my hip made shopping feel more like bonding time and less like an errand. But you deserve to be (relatively) free if that's what you want to be. And besides, the smile and giddy kick of the legs you give me as I buckle you in to the cart - well, that's a fine reward for letting go, even if not quite an equal exchange. (Oh and your coy "I'm so shy" face you make when you're flirting with strangers? Well, it worked so well when you could bury your head in my shoulders, twinkling eyes peeking out just enough to bat eyelashes. But in a cart you have nowhere to pretend hide. But it's so damn cute to watch you try.)

Keep growing, keep getting bigger and smarter and stronger. (The alternative is just too terrible to comprehend.) But please don't give up all your babyness just yet. Don't give up those tiny things that make you, you. Even as each day you become someone new.