Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dear Cadence: Month 17

Dear Cadence,

This month has been such a whirlwind, though I suppose I should probably start getting used to that.  You have grown up so much this month, gaining more and more characteristics of a precocious young child, and shedding the remnants of the confusion inherent to babies still reeling from being dumped into this very strange world.  You have begun taking risks!  What an amazing step in terms of your growth, what a terrifying step in my journey to keep you safe.

One day, very early this month, you hit two major milestones that I was not expecting anytime soon.  You seemed to be in a particularly good and fairly creative mood, which I suppose lead to these discoveries.  But that doesn't change the fact that my head nearly exploded when my 16 month old daughter walked into the living room whistling.  You heard me; whistling. My (not) baby can whistle.  

And I don't suppose this would have surprised me nearly as much if we'd been trying to teach you how, but we weren't, hadn't even contemplated it, and in fact no one in the house whistles all that often, which means you just figured it out all on your own.  I'm sure that to you it was just a fun thing to do...but I think about all the people I know who struggled to figure out how to whistle, and am amazed.

And as if that wasn't enough, you then proceeded to climb onto the couch - which you've been able to do for some time, so I suppose I should have seen this coming - and then, to the contribution of my future ulcer and your utter delight, you climbed up onto the arm of the couch, from whence you took a flying leap, giggling the whole time, landing flat on your back on the seat cushions, head safely tucked, and then you looked over at me with the widest grin your cheeks would allow, and with a shriek of glee, started the whole thing over again.

 This month we've been adding more social words to your sign language vocabulary.  A couple of weeks ago, you amazed us all when you accidently hit baba in the head, and then, completely of your own accord, signed "sorry" to him, and gave him a kiss and a hug before continuing with your play.  

Cadence, we were all so proud of you in that moment...I know that you will often have me-centric moments, (you're a kid, after all, and I would expect nothing less from a healthy child) but I have to say, you are already proving on a daily basis that you are a kind, loving, caring soul.

In fact, recently you've begun to show genuine concern for others that are somehow unhappy.  When someone is sad, crying, or just emanating sad energy, you won't play, read, dance or sing...rather, you'll drop what you're doing and crawl into the sad person's lap, with a distressed look on you face, and will chat quietly and hug them until you get them to crack a smile.  

While I am so glad you are so caring and empathetic, I am determined not to let you think that it's your job to smooth over every glitch in our family, I don't want you to feel like you've failed at something if someone gets angry or if anyone gets into an argument.  Nothing gets by you, and it seems pointless and almost insulting to try to sneak things past you, so I don't often try to hide how I'm feeling, and if you show concern I'll talk to you about what's going on in the hope that even though it doesn't mean much now, as you grow, you'll be able to understand that there are reasons for such things, instead of sensing that things are wrong and having to search within your own world for an explanation.  Doing that inevitably leaves the searcher finding flaws in themselves to explain the sorrow, since the real cause may be so far outside of their perception that it would be nearly impossible to find.  Only time will tell if this will end up working or backfiring, but in the meantime, you seem to respond really well.

But back to the vocabulary:  we were worried about adding please, since the sign for it is so similar to the sign for sorry, but you took to it instantaneously.  I suppose that could have something to do with the fact that you didn't actually learn it from us, but from another kid.  

Mom and I took you to a baby shower for a friend, and you had your first experience of being away from me, in a gaggle of other kids.  You had a blast, and emerged from the crowd at one point with a little girl who was probably around 10 years old, who asked me if you knew sign language, because she and her siblings had all used it, and you'd joined right in.  Evidently she had a piece of candy that you wanted, and she asked you if you could say please, (while using the sign,) and you immediately repeated it.  That was all it took, you've consistently used it ever since.  Guess that's why they say you learn more from your peers than your parents.

This month we went back to New York and Connecticut to spend Thanksgiving with your Baba's family.  I was simultaneously not surprised at all and totally shocked by how well you took to traveling, and how well you remembered things (like the subway!  you LOVED the subway when we lived there, and I was afraid you'd be spooked by it now that you're older, but the very first time we took it you got this huge smile on your face and you were wiggling with delight!  I asked you if you remembered the subway, and you nodded that yes, you did remember.  I asked you if you liked the subway and you nodded yes so hard you nearly knocked me over (you were in the wrap, our good old NY travel method.) and people!  You knew old friends, and your family, which was gratifying and exciting, and I was even more glad to be sharing these precious things with you knowing that you actually understood.  

You started a game at thanksgiving dinner that you seem to so enjoy that you play a round or so at least once a day.  You'll point at each person in the room (sometimes including pets!) and wait for them to state their name (or have their name stated).  Once folks get the rhythm you can move through everyone pretty quickly, giving rise to what I can only categorize as composing, you create rhythmic patterns with people's names.  You even figured out how to have one person repeat, and then how to have two hands going at once, but you always have a rhythmic through line that makes it wonderful to listen to while we watch you discovering and growing.

You've also taken a step that demonstrates your increased understanding of the world.  You have developed a fake smile for the camera.  You crinkle your nose and scrunch your eyes and show your teeth...but why am I bothering to describe it?  If all the photos of me as a child with my fake smile are any indication, you'll be able to see yours in any number of photos taken over the course of the next several years.  I just hope I'll be able to capture a few genuine smiles in there, too, because girl, it's absolutely wonderful, there's nothing better, and I'm sure going to miss it when you grow up and strike out on your own.

It struck me the other day, as I was attempting to get you to stop dancing and go to sleep, that if there is ever a time when I am extremely old and suffering from dementia, and my mind forgets itself, wandering through time...I wouldn't be at all surprised if it ended up back here, holding my super awesome baby, basking in the all-encompassing love she is, feeling safe and strong in my role as her mama, and being so grateful and delighted for it.  This, what we are living right now, is my happy place.  

Love Always,