I am exhausted.
We just got back from a week-long vacation to San Diego to visit relatives with Lola and Angkong. You, despite extreme sleep deprivation, had a ball. Every time I turned around, someone was feeding you ice-cream. You (and Dad, not me!) braved the FREEZING cold Pacific for a swim, spent the day at the San Diego zoo, ate lots of great food, and terrorized your parents on the plane ride back.
Your dad and I like to travel light, so we decided to leave the pack-and-play behind and just let you sleep with us for the duration of the trip. BIG MISTAKE. You refused to sleep unless we lay down with you, and when you DID sleep, you insisted on taking up as much space as a twenty-pound little body could take. We woke up early every morning after a fitful night of sleep for some sort of activity, which meant that you were averaging four hours of sleep fewer every night than you get at home. A sleep-deprived Anna is a manic, Tazmanian Devil Anna. This meant frazzled, sleep-deprived parents, too.
Yesterday, our friends M and P visited. They do not have children yet and P was asking me what it is like to have a child. I, confident despite the tell-tale bags under my eyes, told him that our lives haven't changed all THAT much. I'm still the same person; we mostly do the same things. I likened going out with you to leaving the house with a giant purse, since you used to sleep all the time. (That was true six months ago. HALF YOUR LIFE ago. Why that stuck in my mind more than the difficult last few days is a mystery.) Then we went out for dinner and you spent the entire evening throwing food, spitting out milk, and squirming out of your high chair. I restrained you with one hand while eating my burger (and my words) with the other.
You ransacked the house this morning but are now, mercifully, napping. I am taking this opportunity to write your letter (if I don't, it will never get done!) and catch up on my monstrously intimidating to-do list. I am also pondering over whether or not you are acting this way because you are still sleep-deprived and out of your routine, or if this is just your true personality coming out. You have gone from being the chill little baby who sat through countless weddings without a peep to the little punk who punches her mom in the face and throws herself to the floor when something ticks her off.
Does this sound like I'm complaining? Maybe I am, a little, but mostly I'm just processing. I always say that I'm afraid to have another child since you've been so easy and that must mean that the next child will be a terror, but maybe YOU will be our terror child! What a consolation!
Okay, I'm really joking. I love that you are so much more of a PERSON now. You have your opinions and your preferences and are more and more insistent that we try to understand what you are communicating. You have many games that you play and are proving to be a very sharp, spunky little girl, which are traits I have always admired and hoped for in my child.
You are still in love with books, whether they be your Touch-and-Feel (<--what a dumb name) ones or my novels on the bottom shelf. You mimic words, sounds, actions. You pick up "tricks" easily, much to the delight of your Lola. Your new thing? Hitting yourself on the head when we say "ouch!"
You have also found yourself a new comfort object. Unlike your friend Gloria, who drags around a blanket and a giant stuffed bunny, you have shirked all of your toys in favor of... your bellybutton! There is nothing that calms you like lifting your shirt and sticking your fingers into your bellybutton. I always wanted a slightly quirky child, as well, so... thank you, God?
Grandma came over yesterday and told me that she prays that we will be able to discern which battles are worth fighting ("This is not the mountain on which to die"). You are not allowed to hit others, but we do let you eat ice cream. (Or should I say, you are not allowed to hit others, but we do let you hit yourself when we say "ouch?") We gave in to your demands for constant distractions on the airplane for the sake of the other passengers but insist that you obey when we say "no." We let you watch Sesame Street on my iPod but don't let you watch TV (unless it is The Office, and people are over, and...). We figure most of it out as we go along and recognize that our rules are probably very different from others. Sometimes we break our own rules. Sometimes our rules are dumb. Parenting can truly be hard work and it is with a lot of humility that I admit that.
The challenge for me during the stressful moments is not to equate normal one-year-old behavior with misbehaving. As much as you were driving me crazy on the airplane, your Dad and I recognized the fact that you were acting that way because you had only gotten five hours of sleep the night before and could not get to sleep despite your exhaustion because of the many distractions on the plane. You cry and flail around when you do not get what you want because that is your way of expressing your emotions. You cling to me and refuse to go to others because you get overwhelmed by being with different sets of people all the time. That does not make you a bad kid. That just makes you a kid.
You woke up from your nap a little while ago. I changed your nappy and was about to bring you to the living room to play when the phone rang. It was someone I've been trying to contact for work and I had to take the call, so I made the split-second decision to put you back in your room, close the door, and answer the phone. I ended up having a fifteen minute long conversation with the person on the phone and through it all, I could hear you crying in the other room. After I hung up, I picked you up and you clung on for dear life. We sat on the bed and cuddled and when I smiled at you, you smiled back. When things like this happen, when we leave you in your crib to sleep even as you strain against the crib bars towards us, I always feel a little bit like you might hold a grudge. But regardless of how miserable you are, how long you've cried, we pick you up and hold you for a minute, and everything is okay again.
And no matter how many times my patience runs thin, how many times I want a break from being a mom, I feel that way, too.
Anna, I'm exhausted, but you are worth it a million times over.
You are our sweet, spunky, stubborn, whiny, hyper, playful, bright little girl and we love you.