I’ve been thinking about how monumental this first year is, this year of so many firsts. Everything is brand new and every new experience has the potential to be one that shapes the rest of Theo’s life. Am I being melodramatic? Maybe. But I have this compelling drive to make every ‘first’ the best one possible.
I’ve been reading about how these first years can shape our habits and personalities for the rest of our life and I feel an overwhelming responsibility to help Theo reach the full potential he has within him. I know he has a strong foundation. Theo has two parents who deeply love and respect each other, and he has never heard a cross word spoken between us. We have a stable, comfortable home and the time and resources to make sure he is always well-nourished. His extended family and friends love and dote on him. From morning to night, we snuggle and play and talk and laugh. He is fiercely and abundantly loved.
We are lucky. Elie and I have the time to support each other. It’s not hard to be patient, to be kind, because we’re not speeding off to a job. Every single day, I say a prayer in thankfulness of being able to be at home with Theo. It’s funny, because people always say that being a parent is the hardest job. And I remember always nodding my head, conceptually understanding that it must be. But you can’t really get it until you’re in it.
You can’t get it until you’ve been up eight times in the night to sooth your little one back to sleep and then get out of bed for good at 5:15 a.m., so tired your body hurts, with an energetic little boy who wants to practice walking and chase the cats around the house, and no, mama, I don’t want to sit and play in my jumper, I want you to carry me. And when he naps (thank goodness he finally naps!), you know you should nap, but the kitchen needs to be cleaned and those three baskets of laundry have been sitting in the bedroom waiting to be put away for two days and you’re so behind in thank you notes you don’t even know where to begin and you should prep for dinner now, because there won’t be time later. And in the blink of an eye, he’s awake again, and you kiss those delicious cheeks and tickle him until he giggles and squeals, and you don’t want to be doing anything other than what you’re doing. And by the time nap time comes again, you know you should nap, but you’ve got to straighten the guest bedroom for the guests coming this weekend and this messy closet is driving you crazy, so you finally start to tackle that project, and you sort through Theo’s newborn clothes to donate several outfits and tiny hats and socks (that you can’t believe he’s already outgrown, so quickly!) to a new mama who needs them. You write her a quick note to tell her you’re so excited for her and the unimaginable joy of her new life. And you leave out the part about being tired, so tired, because she’ll figure that out on her own. And every baby is different. But even in the middle of the night, when you’re up for the third time, and you breath in the smell of his head and you cuddle his once-again sleeping body against yours, and you place him against your shoulder and sit and rock and rock, because he’s too busy to rock with you anymore and you miss it. And you’d rather feel his breath against your cheek than go back to sleep. Because you know you will sleep eventually, but this, this small, sweet little person will grow up and you’ll never have this moment again.
And so now, when people ask me if Theo is sleeping through the night, because he’s nine months old and he must be sleeping through the night, I say, ‘No, but I don’t mind.” This smallness, these cuddles, are so fleeting.
I know I say this every month, but nine months is magical. Theo’s a little person, with his own distinct personality, a strong will and a mischievous sense of humor.
He’s still a little grouchy when he first wakes up, which makes me laugh. He needs to snuggle and nurse and wake up slowly, and then he usually grabs a book and wants to lay in my lap and read for a few minutes before standing and yelling for the kitties.
The kitties continue to be a great source of entertainment, and it appears that Kukla loves Theo as much as Theo loves Kukla. Even when Theo comes away with a fistful of fur, Kukla just lays beside him and calmly flips his tail and warily looks for the next advance. But he doesn’t run away, that sweet kitty.
And while he doesn’t really say any intelligible words, he makes a sound that we know means “kitty” which sounds like "the-the" and another that means “Daddy,” because he is still very much a Daddy’s boy. He can also say, “Hi” and has just started to wave bye-bye, which is one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen.
Theo still continues to refuse to crawl, and now I am resigned to the fact that he’s probably going straight to walking. The obsessive social science researcher in me says, “But that’s not good for your development!” But the loving mama in me cheers him on, because he’s so cute and so determined and so proud of himself. He can stand on his own for up to 10 seconds at a time, and he has taken three full steps on his own before toppling. He can pull himself up on furniture and cruise around, holding on hand-over-hand. It’s only a short matter of time before we’re chasing him around.
And eating! Oh boy, does this little one love to eat. This month, it got even better, because now he feeds himself, picking up tiny bites of food and popping them into his mouth, and it's really the only way he prefers to eat. Scrambled eggs with spinach, cheesy pasta with zucchini, smashed avocado with lemon and olive oil, pancakes with peanut butter...those are his favorites. Still no teeth, though! He does quite well without them.
We can start to see a glimpse of his personality and sense of humor. He is strong-willed, and definitely voices his opinion about what he wants to do and doesn’t want to do. It’s amazing how a little one can communicate so clearly without words, or even crying. With gestures, facial expressions, scooting around or pointing, he tells us what he wants. And he’s a mischievous little monkey! When he does something he knows I don’t want him to do, he looks at me with a little devilish smile and laughs and laughs. I can’t help but laugh right back.
Oh, his laugh is priceless. We lucked out with a giggly, good-humored baby who laughs easily at us and himself. His laugh is the best.
Needless to say, we are head over heels in love with this little boy. He has brought immeasurable richness and joy to our lives, and it just keeps getting better and better.
Theo's nine month photos by Matthew Land Studios.