Today you are 13 months old. I don't really want to dwell on the number too long, because I am a bit superstitious...
It seems like all of a sudden your world has exploded with communication. Of course, I know you have been quite effective at communicating your basic needs since the moment you filled your lungs with air. But this new communication seems different, more sophisticated and more precise, and more demanding. Your new skills present new challenges for us. But I'll get to that later.
You have several words: mama (which is sometimes mummum), mostly employed when you're upset or if you want to nurse; dada; bye bye, almost always accompanied by vigorous flapping of your right hand, and now you do it as soon as someone puts their coat, hat and/or boots on -- I'm interested to see what you do in the spring and summer when we don't need to put extra clothes on; book, usually employed as you're pulling them off the shelf or flipping through them; bus, as you play with your plastic yellow school bus (which you LOVE, especially opening one of the doors, putting something inside, closing the door, and turning to me and raising your palms up in a "Where'd the toy go?" sort of gesture; ball, as you put the little balls into the toy that makes a giggle when the ball falls through; aboo or pbfaboo, when you play peekaboo; woof when you see a dog at your daycare or in a book; you even once said something like thank you as you played a game of carefully passing us a toy, wrapping our hand around it, then taking it back; today I think you said elephant even. (Well ok, so it sounded like fffffa, the same as woof and sometimes thank you; and ok, all the b words sound pretty much the same to an uneducated ear, but it's all about context, and the satisfaction on your face when we repeat what we think you're saying correctly.)
Despite your verbal skills, your most comment noise is a wordless sort of demanding squawk, sometimes more of a squeal, sometimes more of a bellow. It's usually accompanied by your raised arm, with either all of your fingers or just your index outstretched in the direction of what you want. Your crazy granny alternates between calling it your Heil Hitler hand and your Amandla arm. If you're eating, this gesture usually indicates what you want to eat (the fridge for cheese or yogurt, the counter for grapes). If we're carrying you, it indicates where you want us to take you. Usually as soon as we get you to your desired destination, you promptly switch the direction of your arm, and squawk again (aaanhhh). When we get you to the new thing you wanted to investigate, you switch again, and we go back and forth until we get sick of it.
Now we come to the challenging bit. You don't take kindly to our attention span, and we don't really like going back and forth, endlessly. When we walk away from where you want to be, or stop feeding you yogurt (because a balanced diet depends on variety), you scream. And scream. Until you're red in the face. I really don't know where you got this from, this need to always have your way. Until now, we've seen no evidence of the redheaded temper, you've always been so easygoing, mostly, but we're wondering if perhaps it is making itself known now. Again, I don't know where you got that from.
Crying because you just discovered the chair deliberately place to thwart your swift climbing of the stairs. We've now installed a gate.
You also shake your head no if we present you with a food you don't like, and will often indicate more emphatically what exactly it is that you want. You seem to be a lot more aware of what we're eating, and whether you're eating the same thing. The other morning I was eating a bowl of shreddies, and you refused your usual breakfast of infant cereal, pointing at my bowl from quite a distance. So you had shreddies that day. On the one hand, it's really nice to know exactly what you want, but on the other, it's hard to deal with your histrionics if we don't give it to you. I suspect this will be a challenge for the next 20 years.
When you saw me eating an apple, you insisted on eating it too. And just getting bite-sized pieces was not enough. No you had to hold the apple and bite it like I did. You're growing up so fast!
Your sense of humour remains a source of intense pleasure for us. It seems like you have discovered that laughter can also be a social cue, and now if you hear someone laughing on the tv or in real life, you will laugh too, although it's more a Beavis and Butthead laugh than your earlier belly laugh. Seeing your dad and I kiss or hug usually makes you giggle, and you still get a kick out of us saying certain words.
Apparently you have a taste for socks.
The other part of the explosion is that I can see that you understand A LOT. You pull your socks off and I can say ask you where they go and you'll grab your foot. This morning at the early years centre, you were watching the bubble machine thing with the plastic fish and when I asked you where the fish were, you pointed to a fish. Twice. If we say head, you smack your head, or if we say plop, like in The Snowy Day when Peter knocks the snow off the tree with a stick and it lands on his head - Plop!
I can't tell you how amazing these moments are. I have no doubt that you've understood more than we knew for a long time, but it's just so exciting to have a real conversation (of sorts) with you.
We've tried to implement a bedtime routine, and we now give you a bath every night, which you love. It's such a change from those early days when you screamed the whole way through a bath. Back then, we sometimes went like two weeks between baths, but now it's a nice time for all three of us. The routine worked like a charm for about a week, but in the week since then it's been more miss than hit. Most of your naps you either take in the stroller or the bed or, recently, (gasp!) the crib for the first time since August, and you sleep for way longer at a stretch than you ever did in August. Back then, I pretty much had to re-put you down about every 10-15 minutes, if I was lucky.
Incontrovertible, but blurry because I was too scared to fire the flash, proof.
The sling has been virtually retired for naps, though I still use it a lot for running errands, and I really like having you tucked against me. Not for too long though. You're 25 pounds now and 30+ inches tall, which is in the 75th percentile for both categories. I've noticed when I'm walking you to sleep (yes, we still do that, but not for much longer) my elbows cramp up and my forearms start to burn. (I have resisted the urge to crow to the competimommy in our mums' group who is constantly asking how much you weigh and who weighs more, you or her boy? At your doctor's appointment on Friday, I discovered that you do, but it really doesn't matter, so I haven't said anything.)
While new challenges keep tripping us up over time, and can sometimes seem more frustrating, it seems like our days get more and more fun as time passes. You give the best hugs ever, wrapping your arms tightly around my neck, and often when you're tired you rest your head on my chest now, with your ear to my heart. You mostly fall asleep in this position, and I feel so good thinking about my heartbeat lulling you to sleep, about you choosing to listen to my heartbeat while you fall asleep, all these months after your time on the inside.
We're entering a new phase in our life as a family, with me working and you in daycare for three days a week. Above all, I am grateful that I still get to spend the majority of the week with you, discovering your new words and wondering how long you've been saying them before I finally clued in.
Oh - and I think we're both ready to be done with winter and the half-hour ritual of putting all kinds of extra clothes and boots on both of us, then discovering the car needs to be scraped - again - then discovering we can't get out of the driveway and need a push. You have been remarkably patient through all this, but I still think you're ready for spring. Here's hoping.