Dear Lily June,
I went to bed last night crying because YOU fell asleep last night crying. I suppose this is one of the more bittersweet meanings of what it is to be a mother.
The rational part of me knows this pain you’re grappling with–from your first ear infection–won’t last forever. But when you wouldn’t eat last night, it brought me instantly back to those newborn days when you struggled to put on weight and I spent each week haunted by nightmares that it was my heart and not your body plopped down onto the pediatrician’s scale. I wanted to believe then, Lily, that if only love added ounces, you’d have been, as the doctor admonished we shouldn’t be aiming for, “the world’s fattest baby.” When you struggled to fatten up, I felt like a wilting failure.
And when you looked up into my eyes last night with a pleading grimace, an expression I didn’t know how to answer but to pull your little face closer into my chest and whisper, “It’ll be okay, Lily, I swear. This pain won’t last much longer,” I was secretly panicked that I was lying. I’m not a doctor. For all I know, you could have aching ears until you’re an octogenarian, and all because I didn’t give you enough Amoxycillin or didn’t get you to the doctor sooner or somehow dripped water into your ear canals during a bath OR OR OR…
Don’t you know, Lily, that your mother controls the universe?! That each of my tiny actions determines the course of your life absolutely and forever?! It’s no wonder Sir John Lubbock, 19th century polymath, scientist, politician, and banker, once said,
“A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.”
He must have, in another life, been a mother.
This morning, with the memories of the wailing and gnashing of teeth from last night still fresh, you were a surprising wonder. You smiled; giggled; looked as if you’d never experienced a care in the nine months of your life thus far. In other words, you made me look, to your dad who’d listened to and held me as I’d cried for your pain last night, like a liar. Thanks, Lily.
It is amazing to me, the speed and wholeheartedness of each morning’s recovery from your previous evenings’ struggles. Though I don’t speak the language of its subjects, you remind me of this video I keep on watching giddily called “The Sulker,” (which I found from blogger Bun Karyudo). In the short clip, all it takes are a pair of squeaky shoes to change the entire worldview of the adorable, pouting daughter who is able to abandon whatever caused her initial grudge and squeak off happily, holding hands with her (I presume) off-camera father.
Your emotional yin and yang is likely brought on by how the pain hits you differently over the course of the day. When you lay down at night, I imagine the pressure in your ear, for instance, hits you much harder. But it’s a reminder, Lily, too, that from moment to moment, our pains and our pleasures continue to change, and it’s up to us–through our physical positions and emotional perspectives–to work to let go of the former and dwell, as long and as hard as we can, on the latter. After all, it was the wise John Lubbock again who also said,
“Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin.”
In other words, my darling dear, I think it’s time to update your list with the things that, at over double the amount of life since we first took stock, make you most ecstatic. So with no further ado, I bring you,
The Top Ten Things that (Currently) Make You, Lily June (at Nine Months Old), Happiest:
1) Pulling yourself upright
It’s hard to exactly call you a “stander.” You fight gravity, my dear, with all the grace of a drunken, twerking hula hooper. But whether it’s on my pant legs or the walls of your crib or play yard, you keep pulling yourself upwards, trying and trying to more closely resemble the homo erectus of Zallinger’s “March of Progress.”
It’s a spectacle and a wonder, daughter, and it’s happening so darn quickly!
2) Hearing “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes”
You’ve ditched the harder riffs of Angus Young for the softer children’s songs of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and your “ABC’s” (and I felt totally cheated when I realized they had the exact same melody. Dear children’s music plagiarist, I’m onto you!). What’s completely amazing to me is the way your eyes now light up in recognition when it’s a tune you’ve heard before. It almost makes me want to sing them over and over ad naseum until my own ears ache and bleed. Almost.
And nothing cracks your grin wider open into Cheshire Cat-like glee than a rendition of “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” where I point out to you the body part as I’m singing. You look at me like I invented music, and I see no need to ever disabuse you of that notion.
3) Disappearing in a puff of smoke
Like a cartoon character who takes off, leaving nothing but a spinning hat and a cloud of kicked up dust behind when they shoot off running, you, too, enjoy crawling from one end of our apartment to the other at the speed of light. It’s makes changing the spinning diaper you leave behind really easy.
4) Waking in the morning
You still wake up like each day, the clouds part and the sunrise pours directly into your crib on a heavenly spotlight like this:
Unfortunately, every other day you also wake up having to bat away the suitcases under my eyes that sag over your face, obstructing your vision from the little birdies dressing you. I look like I’ve been taken out back and beaten with a few dozen tired sticks. You look like six AM is a gift you get to unwrap by living. If it weren’t for the next item on the list, I wouldn’t believe you weren’t switched at birth in the hospital.
5) Eating mac & cheese
It’s now your favorite food. Lily, my eyes are welling up with pride. The way you inhale it, even if it is in the form of a pureed yellow goop, assures me you were paying attention in the womb. I’m sure the only reason you haven’t asked for “pizza” yet is because you can’t pronounce its “z’s.” With how fast you’re developing, I believe that’s coming soon.
In the meantime, your mother would eat rusty nails if they were drizzled in enough melted cheese. I believe its similar pronunciation is how you got confused into thinking you loved “peas.” I forgive you.
6) Feeding yourself with a practice spoon
In a similar vein, you are tickled pink whenever you get the opportunity to dribble some of your own baby cuisine into your lap under the pretense that you need practice at eating. So far, you’ve nailed dropping it onto your chair, the floor, your hair, your fingers, your eyelashes. Surely, the next stop is in the mouth, right, Lily?
7) Perfecting your pincer grasp
I once had an ex, Eddie, who believed the entire world could be broken into two categories: Delicious and Inedible. You prove there’s a little redundancy in his theory. Nothing is too small, sharp, or dangerous for you to attempt to pinch it between your forefinger and thumb and bring it towards your open mouth. Though I get the offending item out of your hands quicker than a hummingbird can blink, I notice by the imagined trajectory that if I weren’t to intercede, you would never miss the target of mouth & thus your tummy. Why are you better with a popcorn kernel than a spoon when it comes to accuracy?
8) Chewing He-He
Sophie may be all the rage in gay old Pair-ee, but she’s old hat when it comes to the fabric dolly whose leg you can get three-quarters of the way down your throat. Somehow, you love her so much, you’re able to smile while you gag.
Of course, I can’t help but smile, too, when I think of her name. Your dad decided that your toys should be named by you, based on the first noise you make when you see them. Thus, she was dubbed “He-He.” That also explains how your stuffed owl came to be named “Ugg” (or “Ug” or “Ugh.” You haven’t spelled it for us yet.)
9) Giving high-fives
Okay, so maybe the one this makes happy isn’t so much you as me. After all, I taught it to you, and you went from a tentative tap in the middle of my palm to a full-on pitcher’s swing. I way overdo it, making you high-five me for such small accomplishments as blinking or breathing, but what can I say? I’m a proud mama. Now give me a high-five for being so good at high-fiving, Lily!
10) Giving kisses, sometimes with teeth
This is another trick I taught you, so again, it may be the happier one when you do it is me. But if I scoop you onto my lap and cover you in roughly 20,000 pecks on your cheek, you’ll eventually reciprocate with all the affectionate gusto of a shark kissing a bleeding scuba diver on the wounded ankle. Which is to say, sometimes you add a little nibble then smirk adorably at me. When it comes to the communication of love, Lily, I’ll take what I can get!
I hope today your pain has lessened. I hope you danced on your feet to your favorite songs when you weren’t crawling towards a breakfast of mac & cheese. I hope you swung your spoon around your mouth like a drum major with an edible baton, but didn’t, otherwise, eat anything you weren’t supposed to eat. I hope you held He-He, giving her practice high-fives and kissing her with your teeth.
In other words, Lily, I hope it was the perfect day, one in which you played the violin of your happiness so many times, there’s no way you’ll remember to be in pain tonight. What do I need to be happy, too? Just one day where I don’t have to worry at all about you. I’m pretty sure those days, for a mother, don’t exist. We’ll see, as you get older, what we can do.
- [Sunrise] By M. Garde – Self work (Original by: José-Manuel Benitos), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2165296