Next week, you will be one year old. When I realized this, I burst into tears. If you knew why, you’d accuse me of being silly, just like I accuse you of raving silliness when you try to give me your pacifier. It makes no sense, does it? Big people don’t use pacifiers and babies grow up much too fast. I can say no to the thoughtfully-offered use of your favorite thing, but you cannot say no to growing up, out, and eventually, away.
Who is the silly one?
And that’s why I cried. This spiraling of time is beyond my control. Like your curls. You splash in the tub and they melt away. I rub the towel on your head and you laugh. Maybe all that joy exits via your follicles and out the ends of your fine hair, making each strand curve into a smile. Curls. Yes, that must be the cause! You have taught me so much, baby.
After next week, you won’t be an infant any more, at least according to those baby development books I used to read when your big brothers and sister were babies. You’ll be a toddler, with toddler tendencies and toddler tantrums. The stores want me to feed toddler dinners to you while wearing toddler-sized bibs—the hard plastic ones to catch piles of slippery spaghetti mixed with yogurt and banana coins. You’ll resist when I wash your face and hands. You’ll talk to me using words. When you point at a dog outside, you’ll back it up with noises you couldn’t make just six months ago.
You just got your first teeth. You aren’t walking yet. You don’t use a spoon for spooning food, but you bang out songs on your highchair tray with them. I think about the chunk of cake I’ll place in front of you next week. I’ll bake it with you solely in mind. I’ll shake it out of the pan and decorate it with love and care. And then, I’ll expect you to rip it apart. What I made, tear it up, please. That thing I mixed in a machine, squish it in your little fist. What began as flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla is now decorating your cheeks. Some of it might make it into your mouth.
While you’re unmaking your cake, please know you made me.
A year ago, I wrote that letter to our Ollie. I never published it because I thought it was too gushy. But over the last year, I’ve re-read it several times, thinking of the predictions I made along the way.
Ollie uses words. He can speak in sentences when his pacifier isn’t in his mouth. He not only walks, he runs. His mouth is packed with teeth. He uses a spoon and fork while sitting at the big table with the rest of the family. The high chair was dismissed months ago when he realized it set him apart from everyone else.
Over the past year, I’ve seen him striding and straining to be just like his eight big brothers and sisters. He’s their shadow, their mirror, their echo, their monkey, their source for unconditional brotherly love.
Tomorrow, he will be two. He still sleeps in a crib and drinks from a sippy cup. His sugar-spun curls are yielding to wavier, thicker hair. His baby fat is being replaced with muscle. Just last night, I held him in my lap and looked at his feet. They are the feet of a kid, with long toes and arches. Ollie strings together magnetic Thomas the Tank Engine cars and drives them on tracks he puts together himself. He scribbles on paper and claims the swirls are dogs.
I call him my baby and everyone is quick to correct my foolishness. He is not a baby!
But when he looks in the mirror, he says two things: Ollie. Baby. See, naysayers?
I have a prediction for the coming year. Baby is going to become Big Boy. I’m not going to lie. My heart breaks bit as we lay these days down.
On the brink of two