Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Walk This Way

If you read my last post you'll know that up until last week Bella has been more than happy to stay as close to the ground as possible and less than happy to be pressured into getting up on her chubby little gams and walking about unassisted.

Well you can imagine my surprise then when last Thursday evening I'm standing in our kitchen (and by kitchen, I mean the 10 square feet in my town house that we refer to lovingly as "the kitchen") preparing her dinner when I heard some hysterical baby giggles and glanced down just in time to witness this:

Only I was so shocked to see her cruising by on her own two feet, even stopping and making a leisurely turn when she ran out of floor space, that it took me a while to snap out of my shock long enough to grab the camera! I only captured those last few fleeting seconds, and despite my desperate begging and negotiating and bribing and coaxing she would not get up and do it again.

I'm telling you, the girl has got to do things her way.

Sadly, I really think that she was right on the cusp of walking on her own, but she got very ill the day after this happened. The illness has been a serious one and rendered her literally immobile for three full days. While most of her symptoms have dissipated by now (a full week later) she still seems to have considerable pain in her right leg or hip and she still can't get up on her own to a sitting position, crawl or stand.

Set back.

I'm hopeful that somehow during the worst of her virus she injured her leg and that it's nothing more sinister or long-term than a sore or sprained muscle. We have an appointment to check it out with her pediatrician on Friday morning.

Until then I'm hanging onto my memory of this funny, fabulous first - seeing my little girl come walking by as if she'd been doing it all her life. Way to go Bella - I knew that you could and would and will get up and go when you are good and ready.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 16 Months Old

Dear Anabella,

I missed the boat on your 16 month post (it was over a week ago now) and now I'm playing catch-up. I feel like this is the perfect reflection of how, suddenly, our lives are barreling on full speed ahead and no amount of pumping the brakes is working to slow things down. It feels like I'm seat-belted into a fast car racing down the open road and all I can see are blurred landmarks and street signs spinning past the side view. No matter how hard I try to stop and focus on just one, squinting hard to try and make out what it is or what it says, I just can't. We're going too fast.

I always hoped that your infanthood would be more like a leisurely road trip. A journey that our family would take together, stopping often along the way to take in the view and enjoy the surrounding landscape. I never wanted to ever, ever look back and realize that I couldn't remember all the lovely places that we'd been. Thankfully, this journal, and my obsessive compulsive picture and video taking habit, will always remain a valuable road map of these most amazing times. But still, it's not the same. It's not the same as being able to enjoy the moment when the moment is happening. And for some reason, that has been hard for me this past month.

At 16 months old I am literally watching you shed your baby skin and blossom into a toddler (though still, no toddling, more on that later). At the end of a long day at work there is nothing more fabulous than seeing your face and waiting expectantly to hear the new word you learned, the new trick, the new gesture or song. I look forward to reading your daily reports and imagining you at the park with your friends, laughing in the sunlight, trying new foods, taking in all the sights and sounds in that special way that you do, so intensely that one can look into your eyes and almost see your brain absorbing every last detail, filing them away, learning.

At the same time, I'm saddened. I'm saddened that I'm missing so much. It sometimes catches me off guard when I hear you say something I've never heard before, "Apple," "More," "Meow!" and instead of feeling joy at what you can do, I feel tears hot and stinging at the backs of my eyes.

"When did you learn to do that? What did you just say? How did I not know that you knew?"

Somehow I raced right on by those discoveries, they passed by in a blur, and it's too late to turn around, slow down and catch them on the way back. Those first moments now belong to somebody else.

I know I've said so before, but the women who look after you during week at your daycare are fantastic. They are so good with you, so loving and kind. They are genuinely excited by all your discoveries and so although I get a little heartsick at missing out, I'm thrilled that they are encouraging and celebrating your developments each day.

If there was one thing that I would change about our daycare experience it would be for them to to simply allow you to slow down and do things on your own time. I find that they want you to grow up so fast. Their job is to encourage your development, I know, but it feels like no sooner have you accomplished something wonderful then they are pushing for the next and the next.

Cut out the bottles, sit in the chair to eat, no more soother, sleep on the cot not in the crib, give up the morning nap. It's not that I don't want you to do those things, of course I do, but I also don't want to pressure you. I want to relish in some of those baby things until you are ready to give them up on your own time, in your own way. Sometimes I feel like you are being rushed before you are ready and, because I'm your mother, I can sense you pushing back.

The biggest example of this is with your walking. Right now there is a lot of pressure on you - and on me - to get you to walk. I know that you are a little "late" on this "milestone," but I also know that you are developing normally and that when you are ready you will walk. You have made great strides (pardon the obvious pun) in the last few weeks.Climbing the stairs on your own, cruising the furniture like a pro, even taking the odd step holding only one of my hands. But for now, this is as far as you are ready to go. And I want you to feel proud of your accomplishments this month - and to know how proud I am of you.

Daycare would like you to move to the toddler room for July 1. In order for this to happen you need to be walking on your own. It's my feeling that you are not going to be ready to make that move by that assigned date. And I hate that there is this pressure on both of us to get you there. One of my goals as your mother is to always let you do things at your own speed, in your own way, on your own time. Anabella, you are incredibly smart, remarkably funny and spectacularly beautiful. I hope that you will always know these things about yourself.

So with my letter to you this month I'm pledging to do all that I can to simply slow things down. The summer is coming and I want us to enjoy the season together, slowly. Last summer was the best of my life. I can't give you that again this year, as sad as it makes me, but I can do my best to give you whatever time that I have and to be present and observant and devoted to seeing every landmark that lies along this winding road we're traveling together.

I love you.