Thursday, October 22, 2009

14 Months Young

To my Jude on his 14-month birthday!

Good morning, my boy. The morning after your birth, the light fell into our hospital room and across your sleeping face. We couldn’t believe you were so tiny and perfect. On that awesome and bewildering morning, you were just a little ball of life. You could sleep, and nurse, and open your eyes – but that was about it. You’ve come a long way in 14 months!

I want to write this for you, so that someday you can read it and laugh to yourself. You change so fast, and we won’t remember, every detail or every stage of your development.

So here it goes. Every night, your mother and I get into bed together and laugh about all the things you did that day. You are a marvel!

First, you are a great walker. Everyone comments about how stable you are for your age and your size. Sure, you still fall down a lot, but you never give up. Walking is your main mode of transportation now, except when you are running! You love to play around all the corners of our house, and sometimes even crawling behind the couches or into the cabinets. You often carry something with you, in your hands, but then abandon it when you find something new. Your attention span is short, but intense. This week we got a new toy that blows air and spins balls. You are fascinated, and love pushing the buttons to watch it go. You love to handle the tennis racquets. You “read” books, sometimes all by yourself in your crib. You can walk up and down the stairs into the garage without any trouble, just a little encouragement from dad. You are fearless, and will climb on anything. You see stairs, couches, and even people as new challenges, and you attack them with bravery and persistence.

The fake crying pirate look

At school, you are learning to take turns with other children. You are new to using the markers, and the often end up on your face, in your mouth, or on your clothes. The cars, the balls, the babies, and the slide still take up most of your time. Just last week your started clapping when you hear music (I think you saw Brady do it!) Also, you have started laying down on the floor whenever we sing “Bicycle on the Ceiling” and you make little finger signs when you hear “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” All of these things are accomplished with a huge smile on your face!

You love games, like Where’s Jude? And I’m Gonna Get You. I admit, these are not terribly creative games on my part, but you still love them. You play with puzzles, and you love to stack things and put the lids on. You insist on pushing the button for the garage door, and you prefer to be the one who closes the door of the refrigerator.

This is the part I most want to describe to you: communication. I used the word “insist” in the last paragraph, and that is exactly what you do. You don’t say many words, but you are a fantastic communicator. Let’s just run down the list of words that you currently use. UH-OH, is heard often throughout the house whenever something is dropped or lost or out of reach. You say DA-DA, and AAAHT for hot, and DOH for dog. But mostly, you just point and say UH UH UH until we figure out what you want. We know you pretty well, so this isn’t usually very hard. You’ve been carrying an antique wooden pig around the house, and of course you love to help me with the Matroshka dolls, also known in our house as “The Grandmas.” You cry when you are tired, or hungry, or whatever. Sometimes if you want something, you make this cute little face that is supposed to be a cry but we just laugh and call it your fake cry. You squint your eyes and push your mouth off to one side, so you kind of look like a pirate. A fake crying pirate. It’s priceless.

The most amazing thing that happened in the last month was not your attempts at communication, but your ability to understand us. We crossed a major bridge, and I think everyone in our little family in feeling more comfortable now. I can say, “Jude, please bring me that book.” And you do it. I can say “Where’s your nose?” and you show me. I can say “Do you want a bottle?” and you immediately run to the kitchen and point at the refrigerator where we keep the milk. You also do a great job of expressing preference.

You can go to the door and point and say “UH-UH.” And I know that you want to go outside. It’s not a perfect system. I still won’t let you swim in the toilet or throw your toys in the garbage, but at least we have achieved level of mutual understanding, and (I think) mutual respect.

You still go near the fireplace, and I say “Careful, it’s HOT.” And you step back. But I let you get close enough to feel what hot means. I also work very hard to make sure this house is safe for you. Let’s just say, if we catch you guzzling the tile cleaner, it’s not going to happen on my watch. But this is what I mean about mutual respect – I am working hard to remove my ego from our dealings. As you become more of a toddler, you will undoubtedly have yearnings for more independence. I am trying to let you have the things you want, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone. This is a good lesson for your life, too. You are an independent being, and you are allowed to make choices. Right now I am just limiting those choices to keep you safe and happy. I am trying not to make rules for the sake of rules, and I hope it helps you to grow up feeling free to be yourself!

This is one of the joys of being a parent – watching your child express choice. There are things you love in this house. The funny part is, these are also the things that we love. We love them all the more because our beautiful boy loves them. There are things that will stay a part of our family history for decades, collecting dust on shelves just because you love them. The Clifford is on the Farm book. The antique pig. The Belmont magnets. The backstratcher. The lamp with the little dog. And, of course, the Grandmas.

So here’s to those things. May they live long lives and help us remember what it was like when you were 14 months young.

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