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Dear Zinger,

A certain fierceness accompanies motherhood that I have never really experienced before. When family members or friends feel threatened or bullied, I want to defend them. I want to stand up to whatever force is making them feel small. I want to say, “Back off. Now.” I want to write angry letters. I want them to feel how they’re making my loved ones feel.

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This tendency took a while to develop when I was a youngster, because whenever people teased my younger brother – your uncle – I let him take it. If I felt that he really was in danger I probably would have stepped up, but I knew his character enough, and I knew he could fend for himself.

What I feel for you is somewhat different, this maternal indignation. Like, “Get the [bleep] away from my daughter, you [bleep].” I want to rip open a hole in the earth and throw anyone in who gets in the way of you growing into the person you want to be. Who you should be. Who you have the potential of becoming.

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I’ll be the first to admit how protective I am of you. I try to resist watching you constantly. I mean, part of it is making sure I’m there in case you get hurt, but the other part is that you’re just so darn cute. I love how much you enjoy exploring the world around you; I’m already so very proud. You are so alert and observant. I understand why you want to fight naps and bedtime: there’s just so much world to see. So much to learn. So much to understand.

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Part of this vigilance is motherly, but it also comes from what happened to me when I was a little girl. No one should have to go through that experience. And yet it happens all the time to people all around us. It makes me so sad and angry. It took a couple of years in therapy and the atonement of Christ to overcome that part of my childhood. It took me relearning trust in certain relationship systems. It took a while, but I eventually arrived at a place in my life and my heart changed enough to where I could accept love from the man I’d marry and who is now your incredible father. And sometimes I can trust myself enough to give and show love to him, and especially to you.

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I hope you feel how much I love you. I hope you understand that I want to let you grow and learn at your own pace. You already impress me so much every day. I want to brag to everyone how smart you are, how contemplative. But I also don’t want you comparing yourself to others.

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Once in a while I’ll consult the internet to see what milestones I should be watching for, but I don’t ever want you to feel that you’re not measuring up. You already work hard and try new things. You possess a sweetness that’s inspiring.

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I hope I can teach you early on that everyone is different; people’s experiences are unique to them. I hope you can hang on to your innately heightened sensitivity and keep extending kindness to everyone, at least in the form of your soulful eyes and amazing smile. Your existence brings light into the world, and I don’t mind letting people hold you if only to spread your light around.

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Just know that the early tantrums and the persistent crying didn’t always come from you, They helped me learn what kind of mom I should be. They are helping to form the eyes in the back of my head that I’m sure you’ll come to hate. They helped form the closeness we have now.

You continue to be an example of the person I want to be. While five months hardly seems like any time at all, I’d relive the past five months in slow motion with you. With increasing fierceness. Every moment.

Love, Mom

Sheets cover the lower half of my body. The nearby freeway hums and rumbles in the background. Light from streetlamps sneaks through closed blinds and diffuse the darkness. Turned toward the center of the bed, I watch; I listen. I realize I’m not breathing, not because I’m consciously holding my breath, but because of the little one beside me.

She takes my breath away.

Little lungs inspiring as deeply as they can, relaxed eyelids, the muted and peaceful glow of her face siphon happiness from places within I never knew and fill my heart that I’m still getting to know. There’s tightness, discomfort from contentedness. It is solid ground and a highwire. I teeter along the cognitive dissonance where happiness and doubt coexist.

The first eight weeks cast an easily darker shadow on my perspective. I couldn’t ignore hormones and just smile. I couldn’t ignore harmless comments or even generous offers of help and instead took offense. I couldn’t ignore persistent, pulsing cries pleading for simple needs to be met. I couldn’t help myself.

Objectively, months later levels are more even. There’s more smiling, fewer eggshells. We use the bathroom. We eat. We sleep. Fulfilling these needs reveals the complexity of her personality, the obvious need to be nurtured, guided, taught. Is it Maslowesque. Is it even a pyramid.

What am I doing. Is it good enough. Will it ever be good enough.

I allow myself to inhale her overwhelming beauty, her skin aubergine, opalescent in the wee hours. I continue watching her as the bedroom slowly brightens. The air conditioner and refrigerator harmonize in my subconscious, but her breathing completes the chord and finally lulls me to sleep.

It’s good enough for now.

There are still shadows, though fainter. They do not come from her.

A friend of mine commented on an article about Fergie saying how French kissing her son is “so delicious.” The friend then described how her own infant son kisses her: wide-mouthed, tongue out as if trying to latch onto her lips. Babies do this all the time. It’s cute and fun and food for the soul; so I agree with my friend’s interpretation (and probably Fergie’s, too) that babies’ kisses are delicious. I also agree that calling it “French kissing” is weird, but right when I read the headline, I immediately thought open-mouthed kissing–because babies kiss with their mouths open–though I knew people would also associate it with sexual tongue kissing. To that I say, Fergie, please choose your words more carefully. Or at least acknowledge that to the baby, it’s merely kissing.

This whole thing reminded me of times my daughter latches onto my chin. And those times remind me of a certain scene in the comedy-horror-tongue-in-cheek movie “Drag Me to Hell.” If you know the movie, you know the scene. It’s hilarious, and when Zinger catches my chin this way, I pretend she’s attacking me the way the gypsy is attacking the young lady. But I’m having more fun than the lady here. Maybe.

Ways this image from the movie “Drag Me to Hell” is like how my child sometimes kisses me:

  • This kisser has a lot of hair
  • The kisser appears toothless
  • The kisser opens her mouth wide 
  • The kisser takes as much of the kissee’s chin in her mouth as possible
  • The kissee may be laughing and thoroughly enjoying the moment (it’s hard to tell)

Ways this image from the movie “Drag Me to Hell” is different from how my child kisses me:

  • My child has differently shaped ears
  • My child’s clothes do not get that grungy
  • My child is not an old scary gypsy woman
  • My child is always strapped into her car seat when we’re in the car
  • I am not a blonde caucasian

Chin!

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Dear Zinger,

How much longer is motherhood going to feel surreal? I can feel your breath on my cheek. I can hear your cries getting stronger and your giggles getting more high-pitched. I can see and smell the substance of your diapers. All these things are tangible, but this whole experience still feels like a dream.

Four months ago this world welcomed you, ushered you into my arms. Your father and I watched you carefully the first month. Your breathing, your bathroom behavior, your feeding schedule affected how we slept, when we used the bathroom, when we ate. By the second month you understood that nighttime is for sleeping, and as you sleep, you grow. There were several nights in the past month when you slept 9 or 10 hours straight, and we thought you would make a habit of these longer slumbers, but more than half the time you woke up between 1am and 2am for a snack and to keep me on my toes.

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I’m proud of you for sleeping, but every morning when I pick you up, your body seems bigger and you feel heavier. Sleep works that way for adults, too. Except when we sleep for 12 hours a day we just end up getting heavier without increasing our height. That’s not exactly healthy. But the sleep you’re getting now is essential to your growth. And are you ever growing. Really, just look at you.

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You may have noticed I cut my hair in the last week, and I do believe you think it’s cute. I appreciate that; I hadn’t cut my hair in nearly a year and a half, and you’re to the point of grabbing a handful of my hair and hanging on for dear life. I have never said “let go” so much as I have in the past month. And whenever I say that, the one song from the movie “Frozen” gets into my head, called “Let It Go.” I don’t think we’ll let you see that movie until you can read and then your father and I will give you our analysis and explain why a lot of the older Disney movies are better.

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You do everything fast and intensely, from the way you turn your head to your desire to get up and move around. We went to the rodeo a few weeks ago, and your eyes darted from side to side while your head shifted in quick, birdlike movements. You watched the horses and bulls and cowboys and cowgirls. You hung out for two hours, so well-behaved and kind, even though the toddler in front of us was trying to hit on you. He pointed at you and smiled while you acted oblivious to it all. I pointed at him and said that you couldn’t date until you turned 27.

Speaking of milestones, you have figured out how to roll over from your back to your stomach. You know how to hold on to your bottle. It’s amazing how you want to do more things by yourself.

You self-soothe by sucking on your fingers. Never have I seen so much saliva, and for a while I thought you might be teething. I check if little white teeth are pushing through your gums, but not yet. You watch me and Dadda eat during meals; you seriously study the way we chew, and you look interested in trying solid foods in the next few months, especially with how you explore textures by putting almost everything in your mouth. Dadda and I now have to keep a closer eye on you.

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Your father taught you how to blow raspberries, so that’s how we’ve been communicating lately. I imagine you like how your tongue vibrates in your mouth and how your silky slobber slides down your chin. It’s been a while since I’ve blown raspberries, but I’ve retrieved that skill so that we can play together, and I can understand why you think it’s so fun. I’ve yet to catch you doing this, so here’s a video of you talking up a storm instead.

That corner in the couch is where your dad could put you in “couch potato” position and you’d stay put. Now he places you there and five seconds later you try standing up. And then you tip over and land on your face. And then you try rolling over or just talk into the couch until I or Dadda picks you up.

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Tummy time continues to impress us as you try to crawl. Like, become mobile. You manage something like an inchworm army crawl; the legs move fast but you end up scooting about an inch every five seconds. All your feet have to do is find a little traction in the carpet and push, and we may have to childproof the apartment a little earlier than we expected.

I don’t know, Zinger. A lot happened in the last month, and I don’t quite know what to think. Maybe everything happening so quickly contributes to this dream state I’m in. So many people say their babies grow up so fast; is parenthood one continuous blur? I have a feeling the answer is yes. This is the best answer.

Yet, your easy smiles and hugs and the smell of your hair; your intent eyes; your unsteady standing at the bedroom window as we watch for Dadda to come home; your hand wrapped around my finger: these are not a dream.

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These past four months with you have taught me that the dream is life, and life could not be more real. The dream is you, an amazing, utterly lovable paradox.

Love, Mom

During your first birthday as a husband, we waited for Into the Woods to begin at Shakespeare in the Park at Central Park in New York City. We sat there while it poured rain until a couple behind us held their giant golf umbrella over us to provide a little relief. We sat for at least an hour and watched sheets of rain sparkle in the stage lights until they announced a rainout. We walked on Broadway in the 70-streets in our wet clothes until we found a place that served cake and hot chocolate. We ate cake and drank hot chocolate. We were two months into being married. You were helping me move my stuff out of storage to Utah. I was excited about sharing so many more birthdays with you.

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Today is your 3rd birthday as a husband, your first as a father.

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We began your birthday celebration last night at dinner. A little party, just the three of us. You and I talked while our daughter sat quietly and watched us until she started trying to stand, which turned into rolling over in her carrier. Then you held her while I ate. I watched you with her across the table from me and thought, man, how did I end up with this amazingness in my life?

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You have spent the last four months getting up in the middle of the night to rock our daughter. You’ve stayed home and fed her and changed diapers and sang to her and taught her to blow raspberries. I think she understands the time you spend with her more deeply than we know. You are totally killing it as a father, which not only inspires me but makes me ever so grateful that you’re my husband. And I know our daughter is grateful that you’re her dadda.

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Tonight, you have class, and that’s okay. I hope you have a wonderful and special day with lots of laughs and smiles and memories, and we look forward to more fun birthdays with you.

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That is all.

 

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Dear Zinger,

You love us. You really love us.

Three months today, baby girl! One fourth of one year on this earth. Can you believe it? With your alertness and activeness, you don’t take a single moment for granted. Your father and I love watching you grow. You get bigger and cuter every day. Your dad sometimes looks at you and asks me if I can imagine you at your current size in my stomach. I can’t, although there are some expecting moms out there who carry babies your weight.

You sleep more at night now, which is good for everyone. You probably average about eight hours every night, waking up only once to eat. This past Sunday night you slept from 9pm to 5:30am straight through. And when you woke up in the morning, you had this look on your face that showed you didn’t know where you were. I mean, more than usual. You often wake up pretty disoriented. Last night, you slept from 8pm to 1am, and then 1:30am to 5:40am. That’s nine hours! All that sleep helps you grow faster than we can keep up.

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You are developing separation anxiety, which, I must admit, feels extremely validating. Except that it makes you sad. Really sad. And often pretty angry. On Sunday a few people from church and a BYU friend tried holding you, and I think you were cussing at us. Angry cries. Red face. Little tears streaming down your cheeks. Sometimes though you give people a chance and remain calm when people hold you, like when some friends from New York passed through on their way to a new home. And when a former seminary student came to visit. I do appreciate being missed, and I love the way you look at your dad and me, with an increasing knowledge of who we are.

We love that you are ours.

Other than these crying spells, you are smiling a lot more. You take in your surroundings. You study everything, and you smile at people when they talk to you. You sometimes seem bashful as you smile and turn your head away. You even giggle, which has to be the purest, most glorious sound ever created.

You talk in little squeals and squawks and singsong sighs. We listen and agree and ask you to elaborate. We love listening to your philosophy on life.

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We sit you upright on the couch, and you do several things. You suck on your hands and then you look at your hands and watch yourself opening and closing your hands. You pick up a nearby rattle and look at how the whole system of your arm and hand can make things move. We sometimes catch you staring at your feet. You’re figuring things out, but you also watch television. Yeah, our family watches a lot of television.

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You took your first road trip last month. We went to St. George, and you behaved so well in the car the whole time. Your cousins thought you were awesome, and my friends from New York thought you were quite darling. Can anyone blame them?

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A couple weeks ago, you went on your first little hike to Bridal Veil Falls. You’re cute wherever you go.

Little girl, I returned to work this week, and I might have had a harder time with it than you did. Yesterday morning I walked around the apartment getting ready, and you watched me and knew something was up. You lay on your tummy time blanket on the living room floor, and while I kissed you goodbye I forced a smile and blinked back tears as my throat tightened. I closed the door behind me and when I walked to the car I wondered what the heck I was doing. Maybe I’m really the one with separation anxiety.

You’re progressing so quickly. The thought of missing any sort of milestone makes me sad, yet I don’t want to hold you back in any way. I would love to see all of your upcoming firsts: crawls, solid foods, steps, words, spelling bees, karate tournaments. I want to keep holding you with your fingers wrapped around my thumb, the three of us dancing, floating across the room. I know your dad feels the same way. But we will do what we can so that we’re there for you as much as possible, when it matters the most.

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We are obsessed, little one. Totally beside ourselves. Thank you for an incredible first three months.

We love you. We really, really love you.
Mom

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