dear wren (9 mo)
On Sunday you turned nine months old, which means that you’ve been living out here in this big wide world for as long as you were floating around in inner space, give or take a few days. In only nine months, you’ve gone from being a little dumpling with a bald head and acne that rivalled most pimple-faced teens to a proper girl who crawls and stands and giggles and claps and waves and makes genuine sounds rather than gurgles and babbles.
I can’t believe how much you’ve grown in the past 275 days:
You started crawling on Valentine’s day and have since travelled Olympic distances on all fours. Nothing stops you from getting to where you want to go. You are like one of those wind-up toys; as soon as we set you down, you are off like a torpedo. And now that you are also standing, gripping your little fingers on anything that remotely resembles a ledge (or a chunk of my arm) to hoist yourself up, nothing is safe anymore. When you are quiet, I know something’s up. “Wren? What’s in your mouth?” The excited look you get on your face when you’ve found something you know you’re not supposed to eat — eggshells, a piece of plastic, dust bunnies, used tissues, a snarl of my hair, paper, a bay leaf, hard leftover chunks of whatever you threw on the floor at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Anything your minuscule fingers can get a hold of in the cracks between the floor boards, things my 40-year-old eyes can hardly see from 5 foot 7 above. You turn your head towards me with twinkling eyes and a smile full of mischief, your little gums chewing away like a baseball player on a chunk of gum. I practically need the jaws of life to pry your mouth open. The other day, I plucked a pencil sharpener from your mouth and was forced to concede that it is most definitely time to start baby proofing the house.
Your nickname these days is jitterbug. You are by far the squirmiest baby I’ve ever met. I thought maybe all babies were this “busy” and chalked it up to curiosity. But I’ve been hanging out with other babies lately, babies your age, babies a couple of months older (and supposedly more mature) than you and it turns out that not all babies have ants in their pants. I’m afraid to say that you are the most mental one of them all. You will not. sit. still! How can one person move so much? If I could harvest the kinetic energy you spend in one day, I’d have enough power to heat our entire house for a week. Your dad and I are a little worried that you might be hyperactive but you’ve been like this since day one so it seems it’s just part of your colourful character. You popped out at 3am, wide-eyed, completely alert and ready to see what this whole “being alive” business was all about. You were practically doing crunches when you were 10 days old, constantly craning your neck to get a better look at things. This weekend, on the train, you crawled up to complete strangers, tugged at their pant legs and said ba-ba-ba (or dadada or mamama or nanana or lalala or any combination of those syllables), which I assume meant “Ready to be entertained now! ” It’s exhausting chasing after the Tazmanian Devil all day but I can’t wait to see what you do with all this energy and your innate sense of adventure.
Your two bottom teeth have sprouted this month. This has completely changed your face and makes you look even more cheeky, if possible. You’ve already left your little rodent marks on the edge of the counter and every time you sip water, we can hear your tiny teeth clinking against the glass. You chew on EVERYTHING but your favourite is the iPhone cable. Not the one we gave you for that express purpose, but the one we use on a daily basis. The one that now prompts an error message on my phone when I plug it in because iPhone cables are not meant to be chewed on by baby shark teeth.
We started feeding you solids in January and you devour pretty much anything we give you. But bread, bread is by far your favourite. You are just like your father who, at the young age of two, declared to his mother “I only hungry for dread”. Sigh. You have an equal love for pasta. I’ve now learned to cut your penne in half otherwise you just swallow it whole like a boa constrictor. By the time we are done with breakfast, lunch and dinner, you look like you’ve spread peanut butter on toast with your face and the floor is a Jackson Pollock painting — a broad stroke of sweet potato, splashes of yoghurt, a touch of avocado. It’s a messy affair but I rather enjoy this phase, you and I eating our favourite breakfast together in the morning, toast with almond butter and banana.
Last week, we took you to the Lake District with your aunt Michelle and uncle Michael, where you summited your first mountain in a bright green Osprey carrier (your little mini penthouse as grand-ma calls it), like a maharaja on the back of an elephant. You were such a trooper for the first few hours until suddenly you let us know in no uncertain terms that you’d had quite enough. You were SO disgruntled, we thought maybe you desperately needed a nappy change so there we were, like a Formula One crew at a pit stop, precisely timed, perfectly choreographed, changing your nappy on the edge of a cliff, a mere mile from the summit of Red Pike, your wails traveling on the howling winds, royally pissed off because: wet lady bits exposed to arctic winds. I can’t blame you. Nobody likes cold bits. Never has a nappy been changed so quickly in the history of nappy changing, after which you urgently lunged for my boob and immediately quieted down. Turns out you were starving. Total parenting fail (we’ve had a few of those in the past nine months, your recent roll off the bed at 5am being one of them – oops).
After your feed, we marched straight back into the howling gale. (Sidenote: we found out the next day that Storm Katie was in the area, brewing something fierce and she was just getting started the day we hiked up that mountain; the following night she battered England with gusts of wind up to 106 mph.) I could sense your disappointment by that point. I think perhaps you were even doubting your choice in parents. Dad huffing up a steep incline, straining under your weight, uncle Michael desperately trying to distract you, aunt Michelle bounding ahead like a gazelle so that all I could see were flashes of her bright pink rain coat as she frantically searched for the trail that would lead us towards the back of the mountain, where we would be sheltered from Katie’s fury. And me walking ahead because I felt helpless and didn’t know what to do to make things better except walk faster. As we summited, the wind picked up 20 notches, at which point you fell asleep (you fell asleep as we summited… we have much to teach you, little one) and as soon as we got to the top, your dad started to descend without so much as a glance at the magnificent view for fear that the wind would pick him up by your palace, like a parachute, and fling you both off the mountain. I’m not going to lie to you, it was pretty harrowing.
But I’m so proud of you. We really did push you to the limit and you were a tough cookie. Do I think perhaps we took it a bit too far and were slightly optimistic and maybe unrealistic for your very first hike (10km, elevation of 2,476 feet)? There was a moment, up near the summit in that split second when my face was being blown off when I thought maybe this isn’t such a good idea, but you’re half British (your dad hiked that mountain in a t-shirt like a boss) and half Canadian, the land of harsh winters, so we figure you’ve got badass in your genes. Another experience under your belt, a bit more character built. You never cease to amaze me, Wren. Your blue eyes watering in the wind, taking in the world, a gallon of snot leaking from your button nose and you still managed to end the hike with a smile on your face.
There is so much I want to remember about these past nine months, which have been pure magic. Your knee dimples, your double chin, the favourite pages of your favourite books — that’s not my monkey, its tongue is too fuzzy — the sounds you make to put yourself to sleep, the way your fingers wrap around mine like tendrils when you’re nursing, how your arms are always outstretched to each side, wrists twirling, like a Bollywood dancer.
Daddy always says you’re good value and I agree. We certainly got a bang for our buck with you, kiddo. It’s such an amazing journey to grow with you. I recently read that motherhood changes you at a cellular level. Every day you teach me patience, the art of letting go, the importance of staying curious. You are my little Buddha (except with crazy fluffy hair) and I’m so grateful you chose me to be your mom.