It happened. My newborn became an infant became a toddler became a kid.
LIKE TIME THROUGH AN HOURGLASS THESE ARE THE MOTHERFUCKING DAYS OF OUR EVER-SHORTENING LIVES.
My son has a game. He says, “Mama.” I say, “Yes?” He says, “BEAR!” I say, “WHERE OH MY GOD WHERE’S THE BEAR WHERE’S THE BEAR.”
He watches me, transfixed. Then he smiles and says, “No bear.”
“PHEW. I THOUGHT THERE WAS A BEAR.”
Then he says: “Mama!” And I say, “Yes?”
You get the picture.
His sentence structure for naming things is, “Name [fill in the blank].” I watched him pick up a tiny plastic horse and introduce it to a cat by saying, “Hi. Name Horse.”
Howdy, partner. Name’s Jim.
Yesterday morning on the way to daycare, he announced from the backseat, apropos of nothing and without prompting, “I [his name]. I’m baby.”
He has entered the developmental stage of growling at people. Whereas before he simply stared at strangers, now he widens his eyes and sticks out his bottom lip and says, “RAWR.”
Recently he chanted from the backseat, “Lion, bear! Lion, bear!”
“Wine and beer!” I said from the front seat, delighted.
“No,” sighed his sister. “He’s saying lion, bear.”
He requests “Rainbow Connection,” which sounds like “Rainbow Keck-Shen,” to go to sleep. He doesn’t look quite so much like a teddy bear when he runs anymore, although he flaps his hands at his shoulders, like a T. rex ready for take-off. He loves to “wash hands” and cries when he has to stop. He makes a deliberately evil face, lowering his chin to his chest but keeping his eyes on you, furrowing his eyebrows. Whereas we once announced him post-bath, “Naked baby on the loose!” he now announces himself: “Na-ked beebee onna loose!” He will toddle into the living room, climb onto the couch, sit with his feet sticking straight out but not reaching the end of the cushion, and lower the projection screen with the remote control in his chubby hands, convinced this is all it takes to get the ball rolling for “watch movie.” When I sleep next to him, he latches his little arm across my neck like a vise, or he lays his bowling ball of a head directly on top of mine so our jaws align.
He also has entered the most delicious phase of all, which I have waited for for two years: THE MOMMY PHASE IN YOUR FACE SJ. He runs to me when I come in from work! He constantly demands that I “pick up!,” which is now as easy as carrying a St. Bernard. When he falls, he runs to me and accordions into my lap, and when he cries in the middle of the night, he cries my name. SJ is constantly reporting how disappointed our son is when SJ shows up for duty. I can’t get enough of it. It’s like being in love with a man, but without the Don DeLillo novels (NOT ALL MEN LOVE DON DELILLO NOVELS BUT ONLY MEN LOVE DON DELILLO NOVELS).
Recently we were in Hawaii (MORE ON THAT LATER). We went for shave ice, which is softball-sized spheres of ice streaked with flavored syrup, and we went to a place that served it with macadamia nut ice cream HOLY SHIT I THOUGHT SNORTING COCAINE THROUGH HUNDRED-DOLLAR BILLS TEN FEET FROM DANIELLE STEELE WAS A GOOD TIME BUT THIS CAME WITH CHUNKS OF MACADAMIA NUTS IN IT. We had wised up by then and instead of ordering three got one with four spoons. I got cold brew for the first time, too, which if you don’t know is COLD COFFEE IT’S COLD COFFEE STOP TAKING THINGS THAT EXIST AND RENAMING THEM YOU SNAKE OIL MILLENNIALS.
Jenny (hovering with “cold brew”): Let me know when you get down to the ice cream.
SJ: You’ll be the third to know.
This is what I’ve learned this year:
- The exponential development continues unabated. The distraction from everything else in my life makes me feel like I’m on vacation and makes leaking into my mid-forties easier to bear. I am fascinated by the smallest things my son does and I notice everything. They eclipse the slings and arrows of everyday life. I am constantly amazed that I go to work five days a week and maintain a job in an office with duties because I feel like I’m undercover, pretending I’m a copy editor when really I’m my son’s mother. I have not stopped looking at pictures of him throughout the day.
- I do not love my child any less. I feared I wouldn’t think he was as cute the bigger he got and my love for him would decrease. Not true. My love for him compounds with each passing day and fills me like breath. It permeates my entire body. I smile when I think of him, no matter what I’m doing. I think about him to make myself smile.
- I do not believe that no one else in the universe has ever known love like this, the way I once believed no one else had ever been so sad, or aggrieved, or in love. Instead I believe that these intense, unrelenting, complex, overwhelming feelings are the least unique of all, and this gives me a deeper understanding of and compassion for our world and less fear of speaking out.
- It does not, however, make me easier to work with or less likely to start a fight at 30,000 feet.
- I cannot protect my son from every contingency, and contingencies continue to manifest. He has gotten away from me and run across a parking lot. He has put an acetaminophen GODDAMMIT I CAN’T SPELL THAT FUCKING WORD AND LOOKING IT UP SLOWS ME DOWN in his mouth (SJ, who has dyslexia: Every word for me is like “acetaminophen”). He has gagged, although not choked, on the single piece of food I have ever let him eat in his carseat, prompting a very near pull-over on a highway. He has swallowed so many plum and cherry pits that I’m starting to believe this is the reason he resembles both a plum and a cherry. At various times he has appeared before us with garden shears and a chef’s knife. He has gotten a fat lip from launching himself off a chair. If he is ever standing on something so his head is higher than mine, I have learned I need to be ready to catch him, because he launches himself at me without warning, believing so completely in his safety in the world. He has fought me to let go of him in the swimming pool, under the mistaken impression that he floats.
- I am OK with my son, on a daily basis and often multiple times a day, pulling my boob out of my shirt, pretending to nurse, and then politely tucking me back in, saying, “My boot,” and laying his head on my chest. I know it makes me a walking pacifier and I don’t fucking care. I let my son suck on my boob even though there’s no milk in there anymore AND I LIKE IT COME AT ME.
- There’s a time limit with the world’s fascination with your kid. It starts to go away at about 18 months. If your kid is especially cute and not a complete nightmare in public, you might eke out another six months, but those approving looks and accommodating gestures? You used that shit up, mom, and now you’re just one more fucking asshole with a kid.
- If you’ve ever said to someone with a kid, or whispered to a friend, or thought anything along the lines of, “They need to shut that kid up” or “They need to get him to stop doing that,” YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHO YOU’RE DEALING WITH TODDLERS RUN THE SHOW AND ARE ESPECIALLY IN CHARGE IN SMALL SPACES IF YOU HAVE TO FLY FIVE HOURS WITH A TODDLER GRINNING AT YOU OVER THE BACK OF AN AIRPLANE SEAT COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS MOTHERFUCKER BECAUSE THE ALTERNATIVE IS A HELL YOU WILL NOT SOON RETURN FROM.
- Nothing is as cute as a toddler bouncing up and down on a red rubber donkey to get from Point A to Point B.
- Unless it’s a toddler “hiding” in plain sight.
For the second year in a row, our cousin Kaila made our son’s birthday cake! It continues the tradition of my grandmother making me a German chocolate cake every year for my birthday, and it’s fucking delicious.
The cake recipe is a classic, and the same as last year. First, the Rich Devil’s Food recipe on page 680 of Fannie Farmer. You need:
- 4 TB cocoa
- 2 1/2 TB sugar
- 2 TB water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 egg yolks, well beaten
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. soda
- 2 egg whites, beaten until stiff
You need to do this three times:
- Cook cocoa, 2 1/2 TB sugar, and water in double boiler until thick.
- Add milk, and set aside to cool.
- Cream butter with sugars, beat in yolks, and add vanilla and cocoa mixture.
- Beat in flour sifted with cream of tartar, salt, and soda.
- Fold in whites.
- Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees.
The frosting is from this Betty Crocker recipe. You need:
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup granulated sugar or packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
- 1 cup evaporated milk (from 12-oz .can)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
- 1 cup chopped pecans
You need to:
- In a 2-quart saucepan, stir the egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, the evaporated milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla until well mixed.
- Cook over medium heat about 12 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick and bubbly.
- Stir in the coconut and pecans.
- Cool about 30 minutes, beating occasionally with a spoon, until mixture is spreadable.
Then you need to:
- Place 1 cake layer, rounded side down, on a cake plate; using a metal spatula, spread 1/3 of the filling over the layer.
- Add second layer, rounded side down; spread with 1/3 of the filling.
- Add third layer, rounded side up; spread with remaining filling, leaving side of cake unfrosted.
- Store cake covered in the refrigerator.