Thursday, October 16, 2008

Six Months of Jack: A Performance Review

Dear Jack,

Last night in bed, your father and I had a conversation about you (and I threw in the "in bed" just for you to barf about when you are a bit older. You're welcome, Snuggle Bunches. Also for you to puke on.), and we came to the conclusion that all of your life, we have been treating you as something to be managed. This is, as you might imagine, a marked departure from the way we treated your older brother when he was your age and we were convinced he pooped flowers.

You were a very colicky baby, and we spent your early weeks/months racing around the house between the hours of 6 am and 6 pm, trying to fit 24 hours of sane living into a 12-hour stretch because at 6 o'clock in the evening, you started screaming and didn't stop until around 11.

And we tried everything to make you happy, Jack. We rocked you. We wore you in the Bjorn. I nursed and nursed and nursed and nursed you in every possible position. Daddy held you and ran from the living room to the kitchen and back again, sliding in his sock feet on the slick floor for hours because this aggressive gliding was sometimes the only way you would stop screaming. We started asking each other for permission to shower because we didn't want to be alone with you and your cries because we wanted so badly to make you happy, and you looked so sad and red and tiny.

Gradually, the screaming stopped. You started to have good nights, and then these nights outnumbered the bad, and one day, your father and I looked at each other and noticed it was 8:30 and you were sleeping in my arms, and we were drinking wine and watching TV, and then we cried relieved tears.

One of those quiet nights-- seriously, your dad and I developed some sort of nervous condition from all the months of screaming, and the only sounds we liked to hear at night were the hum of the air conditioner, the whir of the kitchen ceiling fan, and the gentle drizzle of wine splashing from bottle to glass to tummy-- we talked about the morning you were born. About how the fetal heart monitor fell off of me for two minutes there at the traumatic end of labor, about how blue your head was when it crowned, about how fast the doctor body checked the resident out of the way when she saw it, about how silent you were when you entered the world, how still.
The first ever outside-the-womb picture of you. Thankfully, you started to pink up.

Still kind of creepy white, though

And then we asked ourselves-- outloud even-- the unaskable, unanswerable question. We couldn't even imagine it, Jack. Not waking up to your gummy grin punctuated with your pointy little tongue? Not smelling your wispy hair that grows to a silly point in the middle of your forehead? Not kissing your jiggly cheeks or marveling at how much lint gets trapped between your crowded toes?

You've always been an extremely portable baby. For all your needienss when your father and I want to go to bed or use 2 hands to clean the toilet, you have generally been quite happy to tag along with us as long as you can be strapped to our persons.

Or at least held really close.

When I say that we managed you, Jack, I mean we spent the first several months of your life putting you in the Bjorn and making sure you didn't cry. We invented whole new routines and rituals to stave off your tears-- turned our schedules upside down with one goal: make Jack not cry.

One night a month or so ago in the dread pre-bath, post-dinner interlude-- a time when you and Harry have both been known to fall to pieces over minor annoyances like being asked to stop whistling like a tapir (Harry) or being placed on a toy filled blanket on the floor (you)-- your bottom lip started to quiver, and I, in desperation picked you up high and pretended to eat your belly, a move that has elicited some pleasant-sounding grunts in the past.

On this particular night, my feigned tummy eating made you chortle, then chuckle, then guffaw. Your tiny shoulders shook, and you opened your mouth wide and curled your tongue in delight. This was not the first time you laughed-- that exact date is in your baby book, trust me-- but it was the first time you laughed so hard, with such obvious joy.

Your dad heard you and rushed in to see what was wrong. When he saw you, he, too, broke into a huge smile, and we made you laugh until Harry started throwing heavy toys at your head, so jealous and overwrought he could barely see straight. Oops.

The moral of this story? We're still figuring this having-two-kids thing out, that's for sure. And we've turned our focus from managing you to enjoying you.

It turns out, you're very enjoyable most of the time.

You love to swing

Your acne is all gone, and you look like your daddy again

You have the most adorable fat, pink feet

You think Harry is the most fascinating creature in the world. Even when he pulls your hair, bites your feet, or knocks you flat on your back when you're sitting proudly.

You've held the position of Harry's Little Brother for just about six months now, and I want to take this opportunity to discuss a few aspects of the job. You've shown up for work everyday, which is great. To my knowledge you haven't stolen anything from the job site. Great work there, and keep your grubby paws off my paper clips. I admire your initiative in putting in all these extra hours everyday, but feel free to work a slightly shorter week and take some more time for yourself-- you could use this time to sleep more, for example, if you wanted to. Or to take some continuing education classes. Whatever. Its not my business as your supervisor to dictate how you spend your Jack time.

Your father and I actually want to offer you a promotion. We know you were only Squalling Pile of Rags for a week or so before you assumed your current position, which, as I mentioned, has been going pretty well. Another promotion this quickly is unusual in this family-- you should know that. This one doesn't come with a raise, per se, but your benefit package will increase. Also, a substantial amount of old toys come with this job. If you can pry them out of Harry's vice-like grip. That's one of your first tasks, in fact.

The truth is, we think you're fantastic, kiddo, and we want you to be Jack from now on. A person in your own right. A squishy chompable person with delicious toes and scrumptious fat rolls on your marshmallow legs, but a person, nonetheless.
You can expect more of these suspicious glances now that you're C-level. Wait till you get the keys to the Executive Potty Chair.

I love you, Jacky Jackers. Happy birthday. Harry made you cupcakes. He also ate them all.

Your Mom


  1. Jack, you are getting so big! I love how you don't want evidence of how big you are so that Mommy and Daddy won't make you try to do too much!

  2. Anonymous11:02 AM

    I'm so glad you are being admired and loved for just being a mother of many, I know how hard it is to appreciate anyone as much as the first, but your mother and dad have conquered the dilemma,,congratulations ahd love Bomma

  3. I love this post. Can I just say that your blog makes the prospect of being a mom so much more real and less scary (not that I'm signing up for mom duty in the near future). I am fairly confident when Harry and Jack are older they will nominate your blog for some sort of literary award, just give 'em time.

  4. Love this!! It is so encouraging. We are certainly still in the managing phase, but I'll let you know in six months.

  5. Anonymous8:39 PM

    Happy Birthday, Jack! I love this post!

  6. This post brings tears to my eyes. I can clearly see what people mean when they say "it's all worth it." Thanks for all of your honesty - I'm learning so much about the ups & downs of parenthood.

  7. I can't believe he's already 6m old! I have loved watching him grow up so far! Your tales of his early months bring back so many memories.

  8. OMG, S, Dave and I laughed and I teared up a bit reading this!

    Happy 6 months, Jack! :)