The farm at 6 months old, 16 months old

On Friday, we went to a petting zoo with a group of mamas and babies, the same place we went on the day S turned 6 months old. This time, he was just past his 16-month birthday. So there it was, all laid out for me, a picture of the difference 10 months can make in a baby-turned-toddler’s life.

At six months, I was carrying him most of the time, in the carrier or in my arms, or he was in the stroller. He didn’t really seem to recognize what was going on when I fed the goats a bottle of milk. When I held him up to the friendly camel, he just kind of hung there like a lump, and the camel got bored and turned away.

This time, my boy hit the ground running, pointing at first to the fish in tanks, making fish lips with his mouth. It was a cold, windy, grey day, sprinkling just a tiny bit, so the farm was almost totally empty. Which meant I could let S run and explore all he wanted, and I could keep my eye on him easily. It was so. Much. Fun.

In the bird sanctuary, S started flapping his arms, going, “Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw!” which is his word for “bird,” and what he and I do on our back patio when the birds are out. He bent down grinning to greet the unfazed birdies on the ground, who were used to little toddlers tromping around.

When I held him up to the friendly camel this time, he giggled and squinted his eyes shut. I swooped him toward the camel again and again, and he giggled louder with each swoop. He touched the camel’s nose. He gave his mane a pat.

He ran off to the playground, where I let him climb up into a wooden ship—holding my breath a little, because it was so far off the ground, and I could not go up there with him. He found the slide, and I was able to reach way up and hold him steady as he slid down the long wavy yellow curve of it, giggling.

He giggles exactly like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

He’s still a very smiley little boy. I took a series of photos of him that are among my very favorite ever: His approach to the alpacas, his lean in and grin, his sweet little happy Buddha dance-trot alongside their pen, then his arms straight up, more grinning, walking toward me. He is wearing a brimmed cap and blue jeans.

He was, as ever, a social little dude, putting his arms around other babies’ shoulders, climbing into the laps of other mamas. I took a funny video of him running into the wind, trying to get his friend to chase him, and his friend started to but then got distracted and ran in another direction.

He kept running into that cold wind, making sounds of exhilaration. The other mamas keep saying things like, “He’s so dramatic!”

Hmm, wonder where he gets that. Hmm, hmm.

He also sings to himself all the time. Little songs he makes up. And he wobbles side to side really, really quickly whenever he hears music, the cutest, funniest wobble-dance, his head bobbling, too. “La, la, la. La, la, la,” he goes, wobbling away, totally enjoying himself.

I remember that 10 months ago at the farm, my hips were killing me. I remember that I could not figure out my Ergo carrier to save my life. I remember the exasperation. The feeling like a mess.

This visit, I was three weeks into my running program, easily swooping my toddler boy up onto my hip. (Hips still get out-of-whack easily, but it’s so much better.) Having intimate moments peering at him, talking quietly with him as he straddled my hip, showing him salmon sushi (which he ate!), telling him softly, “I love you.” This time, I did not feel like a mess. I felt like I was starting to experience motherhood as I used to picture it, before he was born.

It just gets more and more fun. Yes, there are days when I feel awful. Strung out. Annoyed that I can’t finish my thoughts. I often feel a bit brain damaged. Depleted. So behind on everything that gives me personal fulfillment. Days when I can’t get my exercise in because of the things that crop up, mothering a toddler. Days when I can’t get to bed early enough because of the laundry and so on. It’s rough, without much outside or family help. There is a lot of recalibrating. A lot of cleaning up spills, dish-washing, picking up clothes, tripping on toys, and moments of collapse in exhaustion. Disappointment that I didn’t get to do that one thing for myself I was just dying to do all day. But. But. It’s all such a lesson in letting go and letting in.

And it’s getting easier to keep things in more of a balance. What am I saying. No, it’s not balanced. It’s almost never balanced. But life is somehow a little easier. The house is a stand-alone home for a family, with baby-proofed patio, and all sorts of other safety features installed by me so S can run around. There is much more flow in our daily lives now. That matters immeasurably!

And in the meantime, S’s mind, body, and spirit are blossoming wildly. He is a kind, loving, happy little boy, and I am still, every day, shocked by our luck.

I remember in my twenties when I fantasized about having children, I fantasized about their abilities, about what they would be able to achieve. I don’t do that with S. He’s a really interesting kid who can seriously rock the harmonica, but I don’t fantasize about him being a musical prodigy. I don’t fantasize about high test scores, precocious writing skills, amazing athletic ability, none of that. I just see that he is, in a fundamental, essence-level way, happy. I see that he offers love with purity of heart. I feel his gentleness when he hugs my legs, as I’m washing dishes, and kisses the backs of my knees with a soft, “Mmmah.” And that is all that matters to me. If we can help him hold onto his natural ability to be happy and loving, that will be the greatest gift we can give him.

In line the other day at a deli, I said, “Nom, nom, nom, we’re gonna eat some good food, my partner,” and smiled at the little Buddha on my hip.

S cocked his head to one side, gazed at me, and smiled at me in a way I can only describe as motherly. I realize now that he was probably imitating the way I smile at him. He leaned in and and kissed me on the lips, patting my shoulder. “Mama,” he said, sweetly. Pat pat, pat pat.

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3 Comments

  1. I love reading your updates! You and S seem to have so much fun together and your descriptions are so lovely – also can totally identify with the whole depleted/strung out feeling interspersed with all those other moments. I really enjoyed the end about S imitating the way you smile at him and patting you. So sweet.

    It’s been sort of a revelation and surprise that having a toddler is more the way I pictured parenting as well. I always assumed for some reason I’d love the baby stage the best, but that’s not how it’s worked out. The flow you mention returning to daily life and a bit more balance is so true.

    Reply
  2. Oh my, this is so sweet. You totally captured the magic of this age. I have many of the same feelings!

    Reply
  3. This bit at the end here reminds me of that famous John Lennon anecdote about getting grief from his teacher for wanting to be ‘happy’ when he grew up, he not understanding the assignment, she not understanding life. Sounds, as always, like very happy days, even amid the chaos of moving and job interviews. I guess you’re a good model for what you ultimately want for him – joy within the tumult of life :)

    Reply

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