Princess

Edith does not prefer to help herself. My understanding is that this is unusual for a kid her age — they generally are trying to do things for themselves wherever possible. But Edith seems very comfortable with being served. She makes no attempt whatsoever at holding her own bottle or cup. She can. She has demonstrated the ability. But she isn’t motivated to. Usually she drinks in a reclining position, arms thrown out listlessly to either side, with me holding the bottle or spout in her mouth. When she wants a break, she swats it impatiently across the room. She knows how to drink from a cup, but she uses this ability to grab our hands, which are on the cup, pull them and the cup to her mouth, and then throw her hands down immediately so that we are forced to hold it up for her. She can feed herself also, but she vastly prefers to have the food placed directly into her mouth by her staff (which is everyone).

Incidentally, Edith and her nanny have finally come to an understanding about naps: Edith now will stay asleep only atop her nanny who now must lie prone on the nursery floor serving as a living mattress for up to two hours each afternoon.

I’m getting a little tired of all this, but I am at a loss for how to get things pointed back in a more appropriate direction. I manage people at work, but none of the tools I have learned there work with Edith. Whenever I try to assert some small bit of dominance, I end up capitulating yet further. If I’m not paying sufficient attention to her, she picks up the largest toy she can find and beans me in the head with it. I’m a little afraid to cross her.

Marathon

Edith seems to have entered an especially exhausting age. I realized this at about 10 am today when I wondered how long until swimming (which is at 1:45) and when I looked at the clock, seriously pondered shutting her into the closet for an hour. She’s just everywhere all the time, and her needs are constant and demanding but she won’t let me fulfill them. She needs to eat ALL DAY and she’s supposed to be mostly eating food now, but she has no coordination at all and she also doesn’t want it, so she’s starving and I’m always having to think of something to give her and then she won’t eat it, and then she cries because she’s hungry and then she makes a simply unbelievable mess with whatever food and liquid she (constantly) has access to and while I am cleaning that up, she is pulling the one remaining lamp in the house off the table, and while I am cleaning that up, she is falling off the rocking chair and screaming, and then she has pooped, and then she is starving again, and then she needs to nap but will not, and then she is in the laundry room somehow, and then she has found an apple and is throwing it down the hall and then while I am cleaning that up, she has fallen off another chair as well as having pooped again, and I just…don’t know if I’m up for this level of caretaking at my age.

It’s not even like I can take her to the park and just let her go, because she still wants to eat acorns and play with used tissues, so the park requires constant vigilance. What I need, really, is a giant padded room with play equipment in it, which is basically what baby gym is, but I need access to it all weekend long, not just for 45 minutes on Saturday morning.

Anyway, at swimming Edith graduated to Swimboree finally and then when we got home, she passed out for two hours.

(Still no armadillo. I do not think we are going to catch this armadillo.)

This

I’m pretty sure Edith said her first word today, or at any rate her first English word. I was holding her stuffed bunny and she was pointing at various parts of its anatomy and I was naming them, and then she started saying “this” pointing at, say, his foot, and looking at me expectantly and we did that probably a dozen times. She baby talks at me a lot, but this was the first time I felt like she was really communicating verbally, saying the exact same thing each time and expecting a specific response.

Not the most fascinating word in the world. “This.” When she’s older and asks what her first word was, I’ll say it was “this!” and she’ll say, “what? This?” and I’ll say, “yes, this!” and she’ll say “finger?” and I’ll say, “no, this!” and we’ll have ourselves a right little routine.

(Still no armadillo, but my mother discovered another hole just to the side of the cage, and also the flower beds in the front yard were torn up today. We might have underestimated the armadillo.)

Clothes

I don’t want to overly gender Edith one way or the other, but it’s a tough balance to strike because focusing too much on not gendering her makes gender even more central and explicit than it otherwise would be.

I actually think my parents did a really great job with this when I was a baby and little kid. They just let me pick out my own clothes and toys and they related to me as an individual. I had tool benches and dolls, I loved ninja turtles and my little ponies. I never got into Barbies, but I wasn’t discouraged from doing so. I dressed like an insane person, but I never thought about being a girl and what that meant until fairly far along in school. After that, I was fucked — when I was growing up, we didn’t have options about what social role we filled, and it’s too late for me now, but I am happy that Edith looks likely to have a lot of different identities she can try on.

Edith is too little to dress herself for now, though, so I’m just picking out what I like for her. Much of her first year was taken care of for us, as many kind relatives sent her tons of cute things. When she needed more for winter, I gravitated toward more muted colors complimented with bright primaries, cozy-looking things with dinosaurs or stripes, so I dressed her pretty much fully in boys’ clothes. But for this summer, I am into bright fun prints, rainbows and fruits, and the baby girl summer clothes are just way more fun and cuter, so I got her all that stuff for the warm weather. I bought way too much of it, it’s so adorable!

I know it’s stupid to buy her cute stuff — she mostly goes naked in the house and outside, it gets immediately covered in dirt and food, plus she outgrows it in two months. But I indulged myself. She won’t be a baby long.

(P.S. – Still no armadillo.)

Language

Edith has her one-year well check tomorrow and so I got the paperwork inviting me to check off her benchmarks and share any concerns. She isn’t talking yet at all, and I don’t know how much she understands what we say verbally. But she is in a bilingual environment, so it’s difficult to say for sure. On her birthday, I watched as Edith’s nanny prompted her in Spanish to point to all the various facial features on a stuffed bunny and Edith did it readily! We have no equivalent English interaction. So maybe she she is just better at Spanish. Both her nanny and her grandmother insist that she understands everything and also that she is talking some.

I am extremely confident that she knows what she wants and how to get it, and to some extent understanding what I am saying to her does not necessarily serve her interests. So it is very difficult to say for certain what she does and doesn’t comprehend — she is smart enough to play it close to the vest.

Socializing

So far, Edith hasn’t really taken much notice of other children her age. She looks at them with this sort of confused and only slightly interested face, as if she is thinking, “Why are you?” Other kids don’t focus on her and do things for her like adults do, and so they don’t fit into her map of how the world works. But she’s just now starting to interact with them a tiny bit.

Yesterday at baby gym, Edith would periodically take notice of another child and crawl furiously to them with a mission in mind. I did not want to know what that mission was, so I usually intercepted her just when she got to them. But there’s a time toward the end of class where kids are supposed to play on their own without parental interference (I have yet to go along with this) and during this time, a little boy came over and snatched Edith’s toy away from her. She took this with equanimity, which I was a little surprised about. She just looked at him thoughtfully, and then at her hand where the toy had been.

Shortly thereafter, she went over to another little girl and snatched her toy away from her. Thus the cycle of social injustice is perpetuated. (I made her give the toy back.)

In Edith’s swimming class, there is a tiny infant, about six months old, the most adorable little button. I’m obsessed with her. At one point, this baby was shouting a bit, warming up to a cry, and Edith suddenly wrenched herself around in my arms, looked at the baby, and screamed. Like, this long sort of communicative howl directly at the baby. I don’t know what she meant to convey, but it was very funny and all of the adults laughed. The baby, though, burst into tears, and at that, Edith…snickered to herself. There’s no other way to describe it, she looked around at everyone with a satisfied expression and chuckled.

So. I guess she’s starting to socialize.

Planking

I was a teacher’s pet of the worst order. Not so much in school, exactly, but in artsy classes and so forth outside of school and as a young adult. That is, I was a teacher’s pet in anything I voluntarily participated in.

This morning at baby gym, all the parents were asked to hold our babies’ ankles up in an assisted plank, to help them develop their upper body strength. The entire time we had been doing “circle time” Edith had been insistently trying to crawl away from me to go see about something elsewhere she was suddenly single-mindedly focused on, and I had been dragging her back, and just as we were asked to plank our babies, I happened to be grabbing her ankles while she did her best to crawl away from me with her arms. This is something that we do quite often, and so Edith’s upper body strength is already highly developed. She has no problem with holding a plank for as long as her desire to do what she wants to do despite my opposition holds out, which is to say, forever.

To anyone who had not been paying attention to our ongoing private battle of wills, it looked as if we had immediately executed a flawless plank in response to the request, and the two teachers squealed in delight at being so readily attended to, and said, “Just like Edith! Everyone look at Edith! Great job, Edith!”

I’m embarrassed to admit this. Very, very embarrassed. But I momentarily preened.

Look, I can’t help it! It’s not a conscious thing on my part, it’s something deep within me, something small and hideous, and I can’t do anything about it except try to be aware of it. It comes from being fundamentally a loser and also a lazy and shallow one, and so snatching eagerly at easily won and ultimately meaningless praise from others in lieu of actual accomplishment. I have to hide this tendency in myself from Edith because I definitely don’t want her to feel like I’m invested in her as a proxy for my ego.

Anyway, she’s definitely the strongest, funniest, most creative and intelligent baby at play gym or probably anywhere, which is just an objective fact and not something we should feel boastful about.

Birthday!

My baby turned one today! Well, technically she turns one in about three hours. I can’t believe it, the year has flown. But on the other hand, it’s hard to remember that I existed before her at all. The forty years of whatever I was doing up until her birth just seem like a dim shadowy memory, a necessary prelude to her arrival on the scene.

This afternoon, we had a little party. My mother baked a cake and so Edith had her first sugary baked good, and she didn’t hate it. Her nanny joined us, so all of her favorite people were here to pay homage to her, and we presented her with a number of gifts. At first, she was a little overwhelmed by it all, but eventually, she rose to the occasion and had a real blast. In fact, she was having so much fun that she skipped her second nap entirely. Then we went out to dinner and she had her first french fry. So overall, a red letter day.

Meanwhile, I feel completely done in, and this is after a simple and brief gathering with an easily pleased one-year-old. How will I survive the birthdays of the future?

Duck

I continue to ponder language acquisition and how impossible it seems. Take, for example, the word “duck.” We say “duck” a lot around here, as Edith has many ducks in her life, but the ducks are so distinct as to really have nothing in common — she hears the word “duck” while looking at photos of actual ducks, black-and-white line drawings of ducks, cartoon ducks of all stripes — some wearing clothes, others working on a construction site or in a salon, rubber ducks of every conceivable size and color and sporting different garb. The other night, I was showing Edith her bathtime duck, which is blue and holds an Easter egg and paintbrush, and saying “duck” repeatedly, and it suddenly struck me how difficult we make it for babies to figure out what the fuck a duck even is. I mean, it would seem from Edith’s perspective like a duck could be basically anything.

And this is what we consider a very basic vocabulary word. How does anyone ever learn how to talk.

Newborns

A friend of mine had a baby a few weeks ago, and she has been sharing pictures of her newborn. This surprises people, but I’ve never been completely disinterested in babies. I’ve always thought they were cute and wanted to hold them. But before I had a baby, this was similar to my interest in puppies or kittens or other small, cute things. A desire to cuddle them, a “squee” response.

It’s different now that I have had a baby. When I look at my friend’s newborn, I see Edith as a newborn, and so I experience an overwhelming need to hold him. I want to hear all about him, I want to smell his tiny fuzzy head. Really, I want my own newborn back, but I want for her to exist simultaneously with my current determined, curious, talkative daughter (and ideally also along with my chubby teddy bear of a six-month-old). I’ve been having dreams about newborn babies lately.

This is all so purely biological that it feels reductive, like I am not me at all, but that being me the way I used to be was merely a prelude to turning into a big bosomy maternal urge, with no interest or purpose other than nurturing the next generation.

Not every woman is affected this way by childbirth and early parenthood — I know plenty of women who say they weren’t any more interested in other babies after they had their own baby than they were before, that they only ever cared about their own children. I always thought I would be that way, so I’m very surprised by my now overwhelming interest in all the world’s babies.

I hope it goes away.