Tuesday, May 22, 2007


"Has she said her first word yet?" Uncle J asked on Saturday.

Yes: at eight months old, she looked her father square in the eye one morning, and with a good deal of love and intent, said, "Dada." She did this reliably for a whole morning. No: at nearly one year old, she often calls the cat, the ceiling fan, and her own feet "Dada." It's hard to tell. We know she understands many words, and she can say "cat" and "daycare" and "mamamamamama" and "d-d-d-d-DADA-da-da", but not consistently or with purpose. There will be a threshold moment where she makes sense more often than she does not, and her 'first word,' I thus imagine to be more like the one feather that broke the camel's back, more of a tipping point than a milestone.

Monday last week, she crawled: that was pretty clear. One day she wasn't locomoting, and the next she was. It was hesitant but incontrovertible. Monday. But sometime last week, too, she seems to have developed the capacity to wave hello and goodbye, apparently using her arm in a waving gesture purposely and socially where before her whole body just flailed with joy when she saw someone she knew appearing: Hello! And: she can clap when you ask her, all of a sudden. You don't need to clap, yourself--you just say 'clap' and she will. When did that happen? Last week. She can also play peekaboo, putting her hands more or less over her eyes when you ask "Where's the baby?"--she claps like mad when you shout "Peekaboo." Last week was a tipping point for gross motor skills, I guess.

Uncle J, over for dinner, and playing on the floor with Miss Baby as she showed him her crawling, sitting, flailing, and charming skills--she kissed him, even--might well note her attainment of milestones. He sees her every six weeks or so. Pynchon and I, too, though, seem to be caught unawares, wondering with a start when she was able, more often than not, to sit by herself. When she became more interested in our grownup food than her baby food, when she noticed that we were not all eating the same thing. When she started singing to herself as she thumbed her books. We are brought up short; we consider her anew as if she were a stranger. When did ... ? We constantly reinterpret her, rebuild in our ideas and our hearts just who 'our daughter' is, what she can do, what are her likes and dislikes. She is an object lesson in the inexorability of change.

I have been pondering the fuzziness of milestones, the elastic threshold of much that we would instead think of a binaries: does she talk or doesn't she? It's more like sprouting teeth, I think--a bump that approaches and recedes, a sharp little point that protrudes and then disappears, a tenuous achievement made certain only by its duration. If it's still here in two days, we'll believe it.

I pondered this as insomnia gripped me again for most of late last week, as I lay abed noting the moment when the fuzzy continuum between asleep, stirring, settling, stirring, conscious, and fully awake shifted irrevocably from my being able to imagine getting back to sleep, and to my knowing I might as well just get up.

Oh sleep. How I miss you. I last wrote about 'settling', about the calm that slowly drains the day from Miss Baby's little self, how peaceful she was on Thursday when I set her down, so peaceful, indeed, that I felt compelled to write about it.

You know where this is going, right? Yes, Thursday night she did in fact get up. At 10:30, and was settled back into bed three times between then and 12:30, when Pynchon came home from the movies and managed to get her down for good at 1am. Friday night my own damn brain woke me up and wouldn't let me sleep. And then Sunday night, Miss Baby arose in a pool of vomit at 10:10--ironically, just after I had taken two Gravols as a means of ensuring my own peaceful and uninterrupted night's sleep--and went through three sets of pyjamas, two sets of sheets, one doudou and and emergency doudou, two bathtowels, two baths, three soothers, and the endurance of both of her parents before dropping to burfless sleep at 1am.

We are fast nearing another threshold: in less than three weeks our Miss Baby will be a year old. 1! The first weeks seemed to last forever but the year has whizzed by. Our Miss Baby will soon be Miss Toddler--she can't, I think, keep her baby pseudonym, but Miss Toddler hardly has the same ring to it. So I'll put my thinking cap on. If you have any ideas, I would be happy to hear them.

Groggily yours, Mimi


Mad Hatter said...

I'll think about pseudonyms but, really, only you can name her. As for the creeping milestones, you are so right. There is very little that is cut and dried. I will say, though, that one day around month 13 Miss M changed from a baby who had maybe several words to a baby who said "fishy." For sure. For real. For never confuse 'em again and never look back.

Lovely post. That unsettling of our own sleep continues for quite some time yet, I'm sorry to say.

Omaha Mama said...

Then when you think the baby has a word, say 'mommy', he will use it and use it. Then he learns a new word and 'mommy' is gone for a while. Ah well. Such is life. And yes, milestones are sort of tricky. Just wait until you realize how much you've enjoyed the 2nd child's milestones and that you've noted not a single date/age. We may have to fudge in the baby book age. The ages will be a guess-timation.

As for the name. Doesn't have to change, if you don't want it to. Brenna will be 4 this summer and I still call her my baby girl. Even if she protests. I'm 29 and am my parents' baby. It's all relative.

slouching mom said...

i enjoyed this glimpse into the life of the eleven-month-old.

it's been a while.

and my memories are totally confused. i think i remember something, and then i am stymied by which of the two boys is the subject of the memory.

NotSoSage said...

Ah, the shedding of the baby skin. Mme L has been a toddler for some time now and mostly refers to herself as "a big girl" unless she's naked. In that state, she has remained a "naked baby" and likely will for a very, very long time.

It's funny how the sleep stuff takes bad turns now and then but it doesn't have the same level of franticness that it does in the first few months of trying to establish healthy sleep patterns. You're less worried that you're somehow screwing up. Still tired, but more confident that this child will sleep. Eventually.

I hope the recovery (for all) is going well.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about the sleep. It's like being insane, isn't it?

Your post is just lovely. You are exactly right about the slippery milestones, I hadn't thought of it that way.

Oh, The Joys said...

Wishing you SLEEP...and what is a doudou?

Mimi said...

Joys -- 'Doudou' is french for 'lovey' (I'm french, and the internet taught me the english word. Go figger.)

Sage -- that's so true about the sleep! I'm tired but not hopeless or frantic. She'll sleep eventually, right? Not like before, when every missed nap was a portend of long term doom, a cascade of sleeplessness for the whole family. Don't miss that too much!

Omaha Mama -- Pynchon wants her to stay "miss baby", too, for the reasons you note.

Jenifer said...

So lovely this window of time. The changes from baby to toddler can be rapid and I like the way you describe them as a kind of sliding scale.

I would keep Miss Baby for now, I think a more natural fitting name (besides Toddler) will emerge as she grows and changes.

Hope you get a nap!

Beck said...

It's very, very strange how slow those first few weeks are and then how suddenly the baby becomes this toddler, this child. I think we were in a bit of a rush to proclaim our first child a "big" girl - with The Baby, we're perfectly content to keep her in her baby-status. It prevents us from having another, you see.

ewe are here said...

Wow! Amazing how fast the first year goes, isnt' it?

Good luck on finding a new appropriate pseudonym....

nomotherearth said...

That's why I like blogs better than baby books. It's so hard to put a definite date on these milestones. Also, when (and if) you look at them in a book years later, the dates don't say much. These blog entries will be priceless in terms of what REALLY went on.

Bon said...

somehow, this lovely post went a long way to quelling my anxiety about the fact that, at just thirteen months, Oscar really doesn't speak. he says 'mama' and 'dada' and 'nana' and 'guh', sure, but indiscriminitely, though he appears to understand plenty of words...i'm glad to know that other little ones are pretty non-specific in their vocabulary, and will now shelve paranoia for another, erm, couple of weeks.

and yeh, after months of decent sleep, we're up at night again too. just seems to come and go.

i like Miss Baby...i think you can get away with it awhile longer. or Miss Insert-Initial-Here...whatever feels right to mama.

Mimi said...

bon -- maybe oscar and miss baby can get together and grunt at each other. although gurgling and squealing seem to be her main forms of communication right now.