Saturday, April 22, 2006

Q = 1

Today Q turns 1. She has made it. And so have we.

We have a party for her consisting of her friends from the building and from rather close by in distance and in age. The adults nurse mimosas, and the little ones simply nurse. The new parents in the small crowd look more than a bit dazed, and my wife and I make a point to tell each other how happy we are that this is the last first birthday that we’ll ever have to celebrate.

First birthdays are actually rather fun to celebrate, though, since they’re basically about the parents. We eat exotic things like quiche and blueberry scones and bagels with full-on cream cheese, things way beyond the “dairy & berry” line that most of the invited kids can’t touch. Not to mention the champagne.

Many pictures are taken.

Q walks well now--has for a month--and incredibly self-possessed she works the room. She wears a deep red corduroy dress and looks good. She tastes cake for the first time and, as expected, doesn’t like it, preferring the balloon plate it arrived on instead. Her brother plays loudly in the corner with a friend from the building, exclaiming at one point through a laugh and a teetering spin in the middle of the room,“Everything is so funny!”

With much energetic support from the boy, we’ve practiced the candle and singing part of the ceremony, but when the real moment arrives Q responds more or less as we expected, looking to bury her face in her mother’s neck by the time we've finished the song and clapped for her. (Her brother broke into outright sobs when facing his first cake and lit candle, for what it’s worth.) The boy gladly blows out the candle on her behalf, and we light it again and again for him and for a few others who want their own turns at making wishes. We distribute the exquisite cake from a local bakery, eating around and under the "Q" in the center. The boy has two pieces.

Though we've requested that no one bring presents, everyone comes with bags and boxes, which give way, up in our apartment after short naps, to dolls and stuffed animals and a music player that she loves to play with and dance to.

As she's standing there, pointing to the new things in the house (and then the old), I think about how we will still mark her time in months for a while longer. But soon she will talk, and one candle will become two; she will acquire a taste for cake. I see so much of my wife in her--her tenacity, her beauty, her self-possession--that I want to tell her stories of who she can be.

For now, though, we celebrate who she is. Happy birthday, Q, little one. We are proud of you. We love you.

P.S. I've been keeping this blog more or less for a year, and for what it's worth I enjoyed revisiting my groggy take on Q's arrival in April 2005.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Spring in New York

Spring has finally arrived--even the protective scaffolding is blue.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Taking Steps

Q, our eleven-month-old daughter, is walking.

Personally, I've never gotten that excited about milestones--the baby manuals are full of them. These books pitch clapping and stacking blocks as both important measures of child development and abilities that crop up on wildly idiosyncratic timetables. Moreover, you can actually “teach to the test,” as it were. Supposedly kids can stand on one foot for a short period of time around age two, but mastery can come pretty quickly with a little practice. The boy never really liked to throw balls around, which made him appear behind in the normal boy trajectory. From our experience, first words are a little vague, too. The boy began with “da” for nearly everything — buses, dogs — and Q works with “ba” — “bye, bye,” baby, etc. When did their babble become talking? Who knows? And according to the books, at age two the boy should have had a vocabulary of about 50 words; my lovely wife and I tired of counting when we passed 150 (including oddities like “steep” and “crescent moon”). This is not to brag (okay not just to brag), but to inject a little skepticism into milestone scorekeeping. Oh yes, and since the boy was born two months early, the math on all of that was fuzzy to begin with.

Some milestones really do matter, though, and walking is one of them. The house looks like a deathtrap now, all those sharp edges leaning out toward her. She now views our sitting her down in the middle of the floor as an invitation to stand up on her own and to move about freely. Which she does. Just last night I put her in front of the toy box that I could almost see from the kitchen as I started dinner. After a few minutes of washing and chopping, I look up to her rooting around in the plant on the other side of the room. More than once lately I've seen her somehow magically appear at our shiny silver trash can, about  to lick it.

She also uses her new mobility to terrorize her brother. After they both woke up from their naps yesterday, I threw together a train track out of his IKEA collection of wooden track pieces (thank you again, Ong/Ba Ngoai), and he proceeded to make a long train that would make the Thomas folks at HIT blush with pride and profit. Q, seated nearby, slowly worked herself up to standing, made her way over to the track, and promptly began to violently disassemble it. The boy rolled over into a cry. I knew this kind of exchange was on the way, I just didn’t think that it would happen so quickly. (We also thought that he would be the one to terrorize her. Wrong.)

Walking matters in a good way as well, of course. Beyond earning several pairs of beautiful shoes, it vividly represents the move from infant to toddler. She'll soon thin out, get those ropy toddler legs. She'll soon splash in the tiny fountains out front, all on her own, when the weather finally warms for good. She'll walk over to you, with a smile that dispels all clouds, and fall into a hug that she has brought to you herself.

In the end, I suppose those are the true milestones, the little but large steps we all take on the way to becoming persons. She’s just taken another one. Congrats, Q.

Monday, April 03, 2006

In her own words (so to speak)

I was thinking how I might capture Q's wonderful laugh. She does this gurgle thing...

Perhaps I should just let Q speak for herself. Click here to listen.