Earlier this month we ordered a new car seat for Mary Virginia and after I placed the order, I half expected a reply email from Amazon saying, “Um, are you sure you need this already? Didn’t you have this baby like yesterday?”
No, I didn’t. In fact, that baby is now a year old.
This milestone feels surreal. I feel like I’m crawling out of a bomb shelter, blinking in the sun. Is it true? Did we really survive the past twelve months?
And then also I can’t believe it’s already here because it went so fast. Like everything in parenting, this year has been one of extremes. It has felt both fast and slow, filled with delightful highs and canyon-deep lows. There were days so hard that I could only take them an hour at a time, and other days so full of laughter and fun that it only made sense to have 13 more babies.
As challenging as this year has been, it’s made me a better mom. For starters, I’ve memorized the acetaminophen dosage chart. And after wading through RSV, a high fever, the flu, a stomach bug, Hand Foot and Mouth disease, and seven ear infections, we’re on a first-name basis with the pharmacist. Having two children has forced me to establish routines, patterns, and other survival strategies to get us through the day. For example, I clip my keys to my bag with a carabiner. Who has the mental energy to dig through a purse looking for keys?
In the past year, right before our eyes, Mary Virginia has grown from a sweet sleepless infant into a sweet sleepless baby girl who is obsessed with baby dolls and Skip Hop backpacks. Like her brother, she’s focused and remarkably stubborn. Her favorite place in our house is the cat’s litter box, and she loves throwing things in the toilet and chewing on phone chargers. She can climb onto the couch all by herself, and when she does she flops onto the cushions and grins like she’s just discovered oil. She is fascinated by our grill and hugs a propane tank like it’s a long-lost friend.
She is a terrible, horrible eater. She’s picky and impatient and for every bite that goes in her mouth, she purposely drops four on the floor. Last night, she was eating strawberries — one of her favorite foods. She’d eat several, and then decide one wasn’t very good and after mashing in her mouth, spit it out. Then ask for more.
She has seven teeth — four on the top and three on the bottom. Instead of using them to eat, she uses them to bite Tom and me. May you never feel the pain of being bitten by someone who has no concept of social mores.
Mary Virginia isn’t walking yet, but she stands all the time. She’s super sturdy on her feet and has taken up to two hesitant steps on her own, but hasn’t quite taken off.
She is getting increasingly verbal. She says “hi” and waves her hand. She also says “WHOA!” when she discovers that I’m wearing a necklace or opens the Tupperware cabinet.
Tom also makes this chomping noise when he kisses her cheeks, sort of like saying, “Oh my gosh you are the yummiest little girl I’m going to eat you up.” I started doing it, too, and because she is honestly so, so yummy, we eat her up all the time. Now she chomps back at us and it’s adorable. So adorable that we have to eat her up twice as often as we did before.
Although Mary Virginia never lets me out of her sight, and she squeals when Tom comes home from work, her favorite member of our family is her big brother. Even after he whapped her with a pinwheel yesterday. She gives David her biggest laughs, and her most undivided attention. Her favorite time of day is when we go into David’s room to get him up from his nap. She waves wildly and says “HI! HI! HI!” Then she crawls into David’s bed and either gets a huge hug or a kick to the head, depending on what mood he’s in.
When I was making the slideshow for her birthday, I noticed that David is in most of her photos and nearly all of her videos — David and Mary Virginia doing tummy time, David and Mary Virginia playing with the hose, David and Mary Virginia in the bathtub. It made me realize how much this year wasn’t just about Mary Virginia changing and growing, but about all the wonderful ways our family is changing and growing.
Dear Mary Virginia,
A year ago, I held you for the first time, my first thought was, “I don’t even know this baby.” It was a weird thought, and not what I expected. I expected to think something more heartwarming, but when I looked at this beautiful little baby in my arms I felt totally overwhelmed. I had a nearly 22-month old at home and I was just figuring out what made him tick — I knew he was intense, prone to tantrums, obsessed with balls, and Elmo. But you? When I saw you it’s like it finally sunk in that we were starting from scratch. This year has been so hard and wonderful — and hard in ways that were different than the challenges in the first year of David’s life.
It’s funny, if you click that link and read what I wrote about the first year of David’s life, you’ll see that I said something similar. That I spent most of his first 12 months getting to know him, but that the getting to know process was what made us such a great team. It’s still true.
When I imagined becoming a mama, I always imagined that I’d have a girl. I didn’t want a girl because of the dresses and bows and girly things, but because I wanted a daughter. I wanted a daughter mostly because of my relationship with my own mom. I know the richness and depth of a wonderful mother-daughter friendship first-hand, and I wanted that in my own family. If my relationship with my mom is any indication, I’ll spend most of my adult life trying to get you to cut your hair already. And even better, we’ll spend our entire lives getting to know each other, learning from each other, and laughing together.
I am so thankful for you, so grateful for how well you fit into the chaos of our family, and how you make our days even more wild and fun. I didn’t know you on the day you were born, but we’re getting to know each other. And I hope that when you’ve grown into a young lady you’ll look back here and see how very dearly and deeply your mama loves you.