On Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 13 months and one week old, Swee'pea took his first steps. Sugar Daddy was out picking up our takeout dinner when Swee'pea turned to the closed kitchen door, threw up his arms in a Hail Mary sort of way, and took three small steps before landing on the door. I cheered, and he looked immensely pleased with himself.
When I was pregnant, someone gave us a baby calendar to follow the baby's first year. There were stickers with each month on them, so you could customize it according to the baby's birthday, and stickers for various milestones.
I hadn't thought that far ahead at all. I was still focused on trying to decide between home and hospital birth, and whether to do the gestational diabetes screening, and whether to get IV antibiotics in labour given that I was strep B positive. I agonized over and researched all of these things until I was dreaming of endless words streaming across my eyes in books and on computer screens. I hadn't once thought about getting a baby book.
Which was surprising, because I am the third of three children, and my mom did get me a baby book. I remember discovering it several years ago. I excitedly opened the first page, where my name, birthday and birth weight were recorded with some importance. As I flipped through the rest of the pages, though, my excitement turned to dismay. You see, my baby book is blank. I guess that's what happens with more than one kid. But I've always been a bit sad about that blank baby book (not that I blame my mom... it's just one of those things. And I got some great perks being the baby. I'm the first to admit I got an easier ride than my siblings in many ways).
Of course, now that I've got this calendar, I've tried to be quite diligent in recording Swee'pea's milestones. I recorded his first smile, his first tooth, his first solids. But I've been struck with guilt on a few occasions, when I've discovered that there are stickers for milestones that I haven't recorded; stickers I didn't notice until whatever the milestone was was already a regular part of his repertoire, like Grasped an Object, First Bath, Lifted your Head, Found your Hands. And there's a sticker that I can't wait until I can stick it -- somewhere, I don't know where yet, because the calendar is only for a year, and he's already finished his first year -- Slept Through the Night. But this post isn't about his sleep, for once. And there are other stickers that don't seem to me worth sticking like Wore Shoes and Drank from a Cup.
For some reason, I have become quite compulsive about recording some milestones. Like his teeth. There are stickers for each of the first four teeth. The first tooth was easy. I pretty much know the hour it came in, because I was watching so closely. But it got hard after that, because I couldn't always be sure if I was looking at a nearby tooth, or a new one. He's got eight now, and for at least six of them, I think, I noticed them suddenly, and wondered if they'd been there for long before I noticed them. I just noticed the eighth this past Tuesday, and every time, I stress about whether to record them on the day I saw them, or maybe the day before. In the end, I just record them on the day I saw them, and pretend they hadn't come through before.
Before Wednesday, I wasn't sure whether to record his first steps. For at least a month, he has occasionally thrown himself towards me if I'm sitting on the couch, in a way that could count as a step, and I wasn't sure whether that counted as a step. When we first started hanging out at Swee'pea's daycare, getting him used to her and her space and the other kids, she asked if he was walking yet. When I said no, she said, "Well, if he takes his first steps here, do you want me to tell you? Or do you not want to know?"
This set me back for a moment.
My first impulse was of course tell us. We have to know when he walks. Then I realized that I might actually miss something while I'm at work... that he wouldn't just slip back into the cocoon he came from; he would keep living and doing new things while I was at work. Do I really want to have it rubbed in if I missed it?
And then I got to a when-a-tree-falls-in-a-forest-does-anyone-hear-it kind of moment. If he walked at daycare, and she didn't tell us at our request, did he still do it? Does the milestone exist outside the parent's awareness of it?
The whole point of a milestone is that they reach it; it doesn't really matter when (within reason of course). Does it?
I have discovered that I seem to take a lot of time to clue into these things. I did manage to notice and record Swee'pea's very first point, because he used his index finger and raised his arm and finger so deliberately and slowly. But ever since, he's been using his whole hand. Who knows how long he was raising his arm, impotently, trying to direct my attention somewhere, and I wasn't noticing.
I remember at Swee'pea's four-month checkup, the doctor asked if he'd rolled over. He had, about a few weeks before, but he hadn't done it since then, and he hadn't done it deliberately. We'd been in bed, and I think the little indent in the mattress from my weight helped. But the doctor said it didn't matter, he'd reached the milestone.
It definitely seemed like a bigger deal to about a month later when he figured out how to roll over on purpose, in both directions and all the way over. It seemed more important that he could look at something dangling from his little jungle gym thing, decide he wanted to reach it, and contort his body into rolling over to do so.
When I started this motherhood gig, I just assumed the firsts would be obvious. Some have been. His first smile and rollover were clear. But the first word? Not so much. I mentioned in my last letter to Swee'pea that he has something like 7 words, and those are just the ones I've clued into. The best I can come up with for his first word was back when he was not quite 8 months old and said dada for the first time, while looking and and touching Sugar Daddy.
Maybe it sounds like a stretch, all these words that kind of sound the same, but I think that if I treat him like he's talking but I can't quite understand, it will make him feel good and interested in trying again. He's also started to make a few signs, among them, the sign for eat, and he only makes it when he wants to eat. Even if I try to prompt him, if he's not hungry he won't do it. He also makes a slightly modified sign for bath, sort of pulling at his clothes. Last night we had dinner earlier than usual, and he kept going to the bottom of the stairs and making the sign for bath like, "C'mon folks... we've had dinner, it's time for my bath now."
Some of his firsts are way more exciting than I could ever have imagined. His first smile sent my heart all aflutter, and I wondered if I'd imagined that magical moment when his eyes met mine and his mouth curved up, pushing his cheeks up and crinkling the outside edges of his eyes. Luckily my mom was there and verified the whole thing.
Most of the babies in our mums' group are already experienced walkers. I knew Swee'pea was a bit later, but I wasn't concerned. He's got his own timetable, and it seems to me that he's more interested in getting from a to b to satisfy his curiosity than he is in letting go of whatever helps him balance. I didn't really care that much. When he actually did it the other night, and every time since then, I get so excited and my heart nearly bursts with pride. Not because of the accomplishment, per se, not because he's reached this Milestone, but for the leap of faith it requires, the confidence to let go and take a stab at it. Even now, just thinking about how major that is, how brave my little guy is, my eyes are prickling in a serious way and a lump is making it difficult for me to swallow my sip of water.
This is heady stuff.
By Friday, he was a man possessed, a lean mean walking machine. When Sugar Daddy came home, Swee'pea almost immediately showed off his new moves. I just love how he laughs and squeals with such glee.
Saturday morning, he was trying even bigger distances...