Dear Elanor–10 months old

Dear Turtle

It gives me a twinge of sadness to say that you are 10 months old.  You will never be a single digit number of months old ever again in your life.  For some reason this saddens me…perhaps because coupled with your increased independence, it reminds me that instead of a tiny baby, I now have an incredibly active almost-toddler.  I realize I said something similar last month, but it’s almost impossible to convey how amazing it is to watch you grow and change month by month and I am constantly astounded by it.

As with last month, you turned 9 and then 10 months old away from home.  We flew from San Francisco to Philadelphia on 8/3 and were in Scotland on 9/3 having an adventure on 9/3.

We took an extra day in Philadelphia on our way home because I had raved so much about the Please Touch Museum that your Daddy wanted to see it, too, so we took you again on 8/4.  Your Daddy loved watching you explore and play in the 0-3 areas.  We watched you as you crawled around after other babies (because surely whatever they were interested in was FAR more interesting than anything you could find on your own).  You pulled to stand and cruised around the fairy tale land.  You and Daddy went on the carousel while I took pictures.  Then Daddy and I watched as you discovered a small piano with enthusiasm, banging on it for easily 5 minutes before losing interest.

Once home, we had a lot of things to catch up on.  You had your 9 month well baby visit (26/27 inches tall-18th percentile, 15 lbs-1rst percentile), with a covering pediatrician as your Dr had a new little baby boy.  But don’t worry, she’ll be back in time for your one year well baby visit.  You also visited with your gastroenterologist and we discussed the process of introducing new foods to you.  However, I’ll need to check with him if the plan is the still the same after you had what was obviously an allergic reaction to something you’d eaten in Scotland.  You saw your hematologist, who talked about helmeting you for the next 6 months as you learn to walk.  Which was fine, except the helmet is too big for you–a small problem with being so teeny.  You also hate it and have taken it off multiple times at this point.  I’m kind of ambivalent about the helmet–I do agree that there is increased statistical likelihood of your injuring yourself, but on the other hand if you’re not going to wear it and wearing it makes you  miserable is it worth the increased protection?  I don’t really have an answer.  Your Early Intervention nurse and physical therapist worked with you while we were home, and continue to be happy with your progress.  When we get home, your EI is going to be a bit different now that you’ve 85% or so got the purposefully letting go of objects skill down.

Also while we were home, you got to hang out with Auntie Kate one afternoon while I went into my volunteer job with Planned Parenthood.  You spent two afternoons with your grandparents, and one day with your grandmother while I volunteered as well.  During this month I also interviewed to work on the Planned Parenthood hotline.  While I am helping by stuffing envelopes and filing paperwork, I want to do something a little more personal, and the hotline seemed like a great idea.  It’s important to me that you see me doing things outside the home, and it’s also important that the things I do that take time away from you have meaning to me.  It’s one thing to be pro-choice, which I am, and to want to pass that value onto you.  It’s another to show you with my actions (which we all know speak louder than words) that I’m pro-choice.  You’re far too young now to understand why I do what I do, but someday I hope to have made you proud with my efforts.

You hung out with Auntie Julie and Auntie Mary so that Daddy and I could have a date night.  Which only reinforced that Daddy and I need to do this more often.  I felt pretty smart though, because I managed to create our date night by asking our Facebook friends if anyone wanted you for an evening.  Remember that our friends on Facebook are all real life friends whom we’d trust with you…and not just random people on the street.

Mommy had some really rough days during the time we were home–it’s hard to know how much to share with you in a letter like this, but I know from first hand experience that your parent’s depression affects your life profoundly.  Statistically, you are also fairly likely to inherit our depression/mood disorders, so I don’t want to hide any of that from you either.  Your Dad was diagnosed with bipolar type 2 disease, and I am trying to get evaluated, but it is suspected for many reasons that I also fall onto the milder side of the bipolar spectrum.  Some of what I’m dealing with are poor coping skills.  I wasn’t taught good coping skills as a child, and I never quite learned them as an adult.  So I am going to go through some fairly painful (I’m sure) personal growth in the next bit of time, so that your Dad and I can teach you good coping skills and model them for you.  I see a lot of my mother’s patterns in the way I act…some of that may also be inherited mental disorders, but some of it is just innappropriate behavior.  I can only say I hope to do better in the future.

You had a playdate with Auntie A’s son.  He wasn’t crawling yet, although Auntie A reports back that 48 hours after watching you crawl and bounce all over the place, he was crawling, too.  BAD INFLUENCE!!!  I was a bit worried when you kept crawling over to him and stealing his toys.  Was I raising a baby bully?  It was, however, evidence that points to the need to procreate again (although certainly not soon) as it’s not like your Daddy or I know how to share (as we are both only children).  You, my dear, need a sibling.  It was during this visit that Auntie A pointed out that you had 2 more teeth…the top teeth on either side of the top middle two had come through.  It’s hard for us to know (until you chew on us, which we try to avoid these days) when you have new teeth as you hide them with your lips when you open your mouth and are NOT OKAY with us trying to open your mouth to get a good look on our own.

We left Boston on August 24th and arrived in Scotland on the 25th (local time).  I was cursing the decision to keep you in lap for this trip (significantly cheaper than buying you your own ticket) after the first leg of the trip (Boston to DC).  You spent the entire time climbing down off Daddy’s lap and standing up on the floor and then crawling to me on the floor (over the feet of a nice australian woman on her way to South Africa, who was incredibly kind to you) and then back.  You also tugged on the Aussie’s pants legs and used her to stand up many a time.  Luckily, she was enchanted by you.

Unlike our previous trips, where you either slept happily or just hung out in the MOBY (both ways to Colorado) or had your own seat (by luck to San Francisco) or were pretty okay with being held (from San Francisco, although you eventually got your own seat thanks to the seating shuffle and the fact that you puked on someone, who then wanted to be very very far away from you), you were NOT OKAY with being held.  I was dreading the long trip to the UK as you had forcibly not slept on the trip to DC or in the airport in DC–staying awake without a nap for over 6 hours–and were cranky.  Luckily, although you are technically too old for it, you still weigh few enough pounds that the cabin crew got the baby bassinet for you.  Once you gave in, you slept most of the flight to London.  You then slept a bit of the way from London to Scotland in Daddy’s arms.  I am praying we can get the bassinet again on the way home.

Your Dad, you and I had a few days of adventuring together before he had to start attending conference events.  We went to the Edinburgh Zoo and saw the Penguin Parade (and the only Koalas in the UK!), toured Edinburgh Castle and saw the Scottish Crown Jewels, and then spent a day in Glasgow.  Daddy carried you (in your stroller) up a flight of stairs so that we could all have tea in a MacIntosh Tea Room!  But the most exciting part of Glasgow for you was when we bought you a balloon twisted into the shape of a flower.  That was also the day where you learned about the inevitable consequence of chewing on a balloon.

Your Daddy has been attending a conference for the last week, and you and I have been on our own.  We have walked the Royal Mile, explored Holyrood Palace, driven all the way up to Loch Ness, done a bus tour of Edinburgh, been to a “soft-play” center at a shopping mall, and plenty more.

The most memorable stories I want to share with you about this trip are

–That I broke your stroller going up the very tight spiral staircase to Queen Mary’s chamber in Holyrood Palace. There is a small washer or screw somewhere in the palace that once belonged to your stroller.  The arms that control whether you’re sitting or laying (the back of the seat) in the stroller are what broke, and I currently have McGuyvered your stroller so that it will still be usable until we reach London and the replacement seat arrives at our hotel there (thank god for the Bugaboo warranty and their excellent customer service).  Basically I’m wrapping the rain cover behind the seat and securing it on the handle of the stroller so that you can sit up.  It works, but it’s not terribly effective in a rainy climate where I often have to unMcGuyver your stroller to use the rain cover for it’s intended usage.

-Your favorite part of Glasgow was the flower balloon.  Your favorite part of Edinburgh was the doggie balloon I got you…until I took you to a soft play center.

-That I have you to thank for such an amazing trip.

There are things about being in Europe with an infant and a stroller that have made me wish you were old enough to leave with your grandparents.  Many places here have strict rules about who can eat where at what time of day that were never issues for me as I’d only ever been to Europe as an adult.  Beyond that, the sheer difficult of getting a stroller around a city that was not built in an age of accessibility is a struggle.  I forwent a few attractions and more than a few restaurants simply because it was just too much of a challenge to get you, the stroller, the diaper bag, and the camera bag/my stuff up or down a flight of stairs.

But these restrictions on small children forced me to be creative in a way I never would have been were I here without you.  Without you, I would have been a good little tourist and paid for my highland tour and sat on the bus and read on the way up to Loch Ness and back, only glancing out the window occasionally or when instructed to by the tour guide.  Because I couldn’t take you, and the combined cost of a ticket for the tour plus a sitter for the day was incredibly high, I instead decided to rent a car and do it with you on our own.  I NEVER would have rented a car in a foreign country, where the cars are driven on the opposite side of the road otherwise.  Because I did, I learned that I could do something I never would have tried without the combination of rules and my own stubborness and desire to see Loch Ness.  I have you to thank for that.  As I did rent a car, I had to pay attention as we drove to Loch Ness and back.  I saw sights I never would have seen otherwise.  I stopped whenever I wanted to, to get gorgeous shots of the Highlands that I never would have had the chance to on a bus.  I saw roads, we made side trips (such as stopping at Culloden), and all in all, even without a Nessie Sighting, I think our trip was FAR more successful than my experience on a tour would have been without you.

I have you to thank for all of the wonderful Scottish people I’ve met here.  I would have talked to a few cab drivers, and maybe a person in a store here or there, but your presence draws in strangers like moths to a flame.  Obviously without you, I never would have had a reason to go to a soft-play area.  Because I wanted to treat you with a day where you could be out of the stroller and social after the long drive up to and back from Loch Ness, I decided on a soft play area.  While you crawled and played, and copied older babies (throwing ball pit balls!!–not AT anyone, but doing the purposeful release is exciting!) I sat nearby with other moms and we chatted and connected over our kids.  At the laundromat today, I talked to strangers because of you when on my own I would have just opened up my laptop, put in my headphones and zoned out while the laundry washed and dried.  To say nothing of strangers on the street.  So many people have been very kind; holding doors, helping us on and off busses, and a thousand other small kindnesses.  It really does reinforce my belief that most people are good.  I’m grateful to you for that–for helping me be more present in the day to day aspects of this trip.

Of course, your screaming in the carseat while I was on the phone with Alamo, trying to get my flat tire fixed, was not an enchanting experience.  But it’s part of parenting, and I understand that you were just incredibly frustrated with being in the seat and that you were incredibly bored.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t something I could do anything about.  Regardless of the truth (which is unknown), I’m still choosing to believe that the valet drivers were the ones who ran over the screw, causing the flat tire and that I didn’t drive all the way back from Loch Ness (or to and back from Loch Ness) in the rain on a flat tire…because that’s just too freaking scary to think about.

I realize that this isn’t a trip you’ll remember.  That in fact you may one day think we were insane to take you (perhaps the first time you take a baby on a plane or see a screaming baby on a plane).  But it’s part of the world I want to give you.  Travel opens your mind because it teaches you (to paraphrase Barack Obama) that people in other countries are PEOPLE.  As someone who first flew when she was 20, and who grew up in a small town, I could have easily misunderstood my fellow humans, finding our differences too large to overcome.  But as I travel the US and the world, I learn first hand that people are people.  I see things and learn things that expand my understanding of my fellow man and that bring me closer to him (and her).  I dreamt of Britain as a small girl, especially after reading books like “A Little Princess” and “The Secret Garden.”  I watched “Mary Poppins” and “My Fair Lady” and wondered what it could be like to live somewhere like that.  Obviously modern Britain is a far cry from those books and movies, but seeing a castle that is over 500 years old, breathing it’s air, touching it’s stone walls, walking in the gardens that Kings and Queens have walked in isn’t a feeling you can get from a book or a tv show or a movie.  While these are experiences that will be lost to the mists of your memory, I want you to grow up having similar experiences.  Knowing that the world isn’t as big as it seems.  Walking where so many others (both Kings and beggars) have walked.

I hope some day that you’ll treasure the silly shots I’ve taken of you…10 month old Elanor with a “hairy coo.”  Elanor at Edinburgh Castle.

Each day is a chance to experience the world anew with you, because it’s all new to you.  And while you’re not overly impressed by a castle, I am in awe of standing in a castle with you.

I love you

Mommy

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