Status Report

So it’s been awhile. Let’s get you up to date.

Jimmy has taken his first shuffles as he learns to crawl.

He is also starting to wave goodbye, say Mama and Dada, and generally terrorize everything lower than three feet off the ground. His clinginess to me has been exacerbated lately (I’m guessing) by teething — he cut one bottom tooth and is working on pushing out it’s next-door neighbor. You can see his first tooth in the photo at right.

toothWe took him to his first baseball game — Orioles v. Tigers — and he had a blast watching all the people and chewing on the seats. Currently, his favorite things to do include playing with his stacking rings and cups, banging on daddy’s laptop, and grabbing the dogs’ faces.

He is not so excited about sleeping on his own or being more than six inches away from his mama. We are working on these things. I am ready, at this point, to lengthen the tether, especially because I can’t take a three-minute shower without him screaming bloody murder while trying to claw his way out of his play pen or away from his poor heartbroken daddy to get to me. First of all, my legs are getting really hairy. More importantly, it’s not good for Jimmy to unravel every time I walk out of the room.

The interesting part is that Jimmy does fabulously when I am not home. He is overwhelmingly happy and playful when I’m not around. But as soon as I walk in the door, both at home and at school, it’s tears and furious scrambling  — by all his limited means — toward me. I don’t know if I’ve somehow created this (admittedly very lovable) monster or if it’s just a phase. If it is a phase, I’m wondering if my attempts to ameliorate the behavior (distracting him with a toy rather than picking him up, comforting him in his crib rather than on my chest) are totally pointless or if we can still chalk them up as “character building.”

It all feels like a giant experiment. I just hope the all the parental fumbling I’m doing doesn’t err on the side of emotional scarring. As I write that I realize it sounds ridiculous and I’m probably doing alright.

Deductions

Have just returned from a lovely family vacation to the beach, via a packed-to-the-gills minivan rocking a turtle top. Lots of togetherness. Lots of sand. And lots of tears from Mr. James every time I walked out of the room. The most heartwrenching episode occurred the night we left him with his Granny up on the balcony to take a ten-minute walk on the beach; we could hear him screaming bloody murder even above the crashing of black waves and the roar of traffic on Coastal Highway. When we walked back in, he reached out his arms for me and, red and bleary and covered in snot, smiled.

I have come to believe that Jimmy is screaming for me, at least lately, not out of some overwhelming needy love but rather simply because he is hungry. Last night, he ate a remarkable seven times between his 5 p.m. school pick-up and 1 a.m., when he finally fell asleep for the night. As 5 p.m. approaches again, I am preparing myself for another long night pinned in a chair by a ravenous (and luckily still toothless) suckerfish.

My late bedtime transpired into an inordinate proportion of today being spent spacing out on Internet news, and it seems to me that some remarkable scientific developments have come to the foreground in the past day or so. First, they think they’ve found a way to activate the endurance gene, which has the potential to make svelteness a human standard — without the need for abhorrent exercise. If it weren’t for the fact that they’ll have to inject something into your brain that literally alters your genetic patterns, I’d be signing up for the clinical trials. Also, they discovered a crazy new pot-bellied dinosaur while excavating in Utah, are finding evidence linking nitrites in processed meats to Alzheimer’s, and have made amazing progress in the development of an actual cloak of invisibility.

All this, and Walmart has the front of their store stocked with school supplies already. Utter insanity.

Tears

Well, it finally happened. Today when I left Jimmy at school (i.e., daycare; I just feel better about leaving him there for nine hours a day when I call it “school”), he cried for me.

When we walked in he was all smiles for his teacher — as usual — and he acknowledged the other little babies with a glance each, as if he were taking roll. As usual, he began chewing on everything he could get his hands on as soon as I placed him in the play area. He continued to amuse himself as I meandered through the room, putting his bottles in the fridge, his diapers in the bin, his binky and sunscreen in his cubby. When I kissed him goodbye, he gave me a big bashful smile, all par for the course.

Today, however — and perhaps for the first time — he followed me with his eyes as I walked away, breaking his typical concentration on the piles of brightly colored toys that surround him. I could hear him wail as the door closed behind me. It was devastating.

During the two or three seconds I remained in the hallway, I changed my mind a thousand times about what to do. Go back in was my first and most pressing thought, and it bounced repeatedly off of He’ll be fine (the eventual winner). I glanced through the window to see him screaming and tears burned in my eyes.

I walked away. It was the most difficult thing I have done so far as a parent — leaving him to the comfort of strangers — and it has been haunting me all day. I know he is fine. I know his teacher picked him up immediately and rocked him into peace. I know this. I know this but it doesn’t help.

Hours later, I still feel like I should have gone back in. You read these books and articles about babies manipulating their parents, and how you mustn’t give in lest they control you. But why not? If Jimmy has found a way to communicate his needs to me, why should I refuse to listen? Am I then teaching him that his needs are invalid, or that his communication methods are inappropriate? He is six months old.

Some might say that by giving in I am paving the way to an incorrigible two-year-old who will throw himself on the ground at Target, screaming and flailing for a candy bar. But in my mind, that’s truly inappropriate behavior. Crying for the comfort of your mama — that’s just a primitive attempt to fulfill a basic human need, no different than crying when hungry or tired.