Babywatch: First Year Observance

New parents are barraged with a series of sage observations on, and homilies about, the parenting experience by those who have been through the grinder. Among them is one that is part warning, part rueful exclamation: ‘enjoy the kids, time flies!’ Well, time has flown. My daughter is one.

She was born at 5:55 AM on December 23rd, 2012. and this morning exactly 365 days later, I heard her crying again as she awoke and called out for her mother to come pay attention and provide the day’s first cuddle and feed. Last year, when she had been lifted out by the obstetric surgeon and whisked over to the attending pediatrician for her first post-natal check, her cry had been part gurgle, part shriek. This morning her crying was stronger, louder, persistent and insistent in equal measure. She wasn’t crying just because it was an instinctive, hardwired response; she’s learned that her mother is close by, just behind the sliding partition that separates her space from our now-smaller bedroom; she’s learned her parents respond to her when she calls; she has, in this coming of age, shown that her oldest, most common response, has grown and matured with her.

So the days have gone slowly, the year has gone fast. The fourth trimester, the first three months of my daughter’s life, were, in retrospect, perhaps the most tranquil; she slept a great deal, often through loud disturbances; she had no nap schedule and slept easily in carriers, so we were mobile and took her everywhere, even busy adult gatherings. But she was barely responsive to the outside world, content to remain sleepily nodding at us, and occasionally bawling full-throatedly when her most pressing needs were not taken care of. Over the next three months, she began responding to our cues, switching on a full repertoire of facial and bodily expressions; she moved to a nap routine, and became harder to put to sleep; her growing interaction with the world meant she was increasingly reluctant to leave our company for the solitude of her cot. She began to gurgle and coo and laugh and giggle and babble.

And then, slowly too, came the increased physical interaction with the world: the rolling over, first from belly to back, and then from back to belly, the scootering along carpets and hard floors, the pushing off with one knee and then the second, which heralded the beginning of her crawling, the increased inquisitiveness about objects–many of which she felt she would best experience by placing in her mouth–and then, the full-fledged crawling followed by the first tentative steps.

She’s already left home. We were home with her for the first five months; I did the solo daycare gig for two months; then we got help with babysitters, then she did a day or two a week in daycare. Now, she spends the week in daycare, spending her time playing with others her age. She’s had her first cold, her first fever, her first cough; we’ve had our first full-blown panic attacks in response. She’s got plenty more ahead of the mixed fortunes that life dispenses.

One down, many more to go. She’s not the only one learning as goes along; she’s not the only one growing.

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