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Not for Long, and Not Forever

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Dear Baby Girl,


You are my very last baby, and a few weeks ago, you turned one year old. Since you are still just crawling and standing, not yet brave enough to raise your foot and project forward into toddlerhood (thank goodness), I still get to call you a baby. FYI, I also get to call you “my baby,” if not “a baby,” forever. It’s written in my contract. But in actuality, you won’t be a baby much longer. Not for long, and not forever.

Baby Girl, you love your bath like nobody’s business. You’re such a menace, scaling the sides of the slippery tub in search of Objects You Are Not Supposed to Have and face-planting in the bubbles, popping your sweet, round head up with a “WTH?!” look on your wet face. You love playing with your sparkly purple plastic tea cup set in the tub with your 5-year-old brother, whose long legs take up too much of the tub, but his enthusiasm for playing with you more than makes up for them.

With my first or even my second babies, I would have been too nervous to let them crawl around so much in the tub. I would have been afraid of them tripping over each other’s legs. I would have dunked them in the bath, given them a good scrub, and whisked them out for bedtime. But with you, I’m more likely to revel a little in your chunky thighs, watch you play a little bit, and enjoy the fact that I have a baby in the tub. I spy the now-defunct baby bathtub sitting lonely in my closet, and I can’t believe we’ve already outgrown it. I won’t have a baby in the tub much longer — not for long, and not forever.

You only have two bottom teeth. Your brothers all had many by now. It makes me worry when I feed you table food — how much can those two tiny teeth do? You eat anything and everything with gusto, though. Truth be told, I’m in no hurry for your little mouth to fill up with teeth, to start the long and winding road of dentist visits and worries about cavities and the possibility that you might knock one of those teeth out or chip them on the patio. I love your gummy little smile. I won’t have an almost toothless baby much longer, and certainly not forever.

Your crawl is the funniest thing ever. You don’t like to rub your knees on the floor, so you crawl with two hands and two flat feet, your bum pushed way up in the air in a sort of hybrid walk-crawl. Your daddy and your brothers are absolutely dying for you to walk instead. They try to coax you by lifting you up to your feet and begging you to come fetch intriguing somethings at your eye level. But you very daintily plop to the ground and tear off on your hands and feet like a monkey. I’m treasuring what I fear are your last days of crawling and my last days of sanity — I dread worrying about where you might fall and what you might fall on — because once you walk, you’ll likely never crawl again. You won’t crawl much longer. You won’t crawl forever.

You have yet to say your first word, but you babble an awful lot. You will squeal indignantly if your brothers anger you or take your pacifier away. You will laugh and cackle when they please you. When you want them or me or Daddy, you will call for us in an indistinguishable yelp, but one that definitely sounds like you are calling someone. Your brothers had at least one word by now, yes. But you will get there. I’m sure that soon enough, you’ll be talking my head off like they do, and with that, you’ll have the ability to both make my heart burst and also to make my heart break with your words. I’m good with the babbling for right now, Baby Girl. I love communicating with you by touch, by eyes, by hugs and nuzzles. You won’t be wordless much longer. Not forever.

I spent your oldest brother’s first year in agony. I failed, you see, at baby sleep. Utterly, miserably failed. F-minus. By the time he and I finally made it work, I was broken and he was frustrated beyond belief. The majority of my anguish was not my lack of sleep, but my feelings of failure and inadequacy: I was certain I had failed him, certain he would never sleep properly, certain it was my fault. Other mothers told me so. “He’ll never sleep in his own bed if you let him sleep in yours!” they crowed. “You missed your window, and now he’s ruined!” they moaned.

They were wrong. Now, I don’t fear ruining you. I know better. You sleep in your own crib most of the time, and soon you will sleep there all the time. I will miss your little head under my chin. I will miss your feet kicking my thighs. I will miss you, because you will be in your crib for more than half of each 24-hour day between bedtime and naps. For now, I don’t worry about my spotty sleep. I don’t fret that I have failed you. I don’t wish it away. I’m afraid that too soon, you won’t want to snuggle. Too soon, you’ll thank me for the bedtime story and you’ll turn over in your bed, probably grumbling about your bedtime and cursing my name. Too soon, you’ll be asking about sleepovers and not long after that, curfews. It won’t be much longer. I’ve done this a few times now. I know exactly how fast it goes. I know.

So humor me, Baby Girl. Be my baby today. Let me hold your head against my chest and rock you in our chair. Let me share a cookie with you and watch your eyes light up with the new taste. Let me dress you in some impossibly impractical bubble that you won’t deign to consider in a few years’ time. Be my baby — not for long, and not forever, but for today — and I promise that for this moment, I will be present and enjoy every single second of it.

(I’ll cry a little bit too — but not for long, and not forever.)

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