This time last year, we had just moved to Pleasant House on the Prairie and Hawksley was a wee little six-month-old baby. He had just thrown himself out of his swing, landing right on his face (I didn't bother strapping him in because he was small and didn't move much at the time. #mistake) and it was one of the first times I ran up into the loft because of an emergency.
Yes I had him in his swing, upstairs, in the loft, not strapped in.
He barely moved then! He would sleep for another two hours in the morning when I transferred him to the swing! It was one of the many adjustments I was faced with by moving a baby to a new house. I no longer slept across the hall; I slept an entire floor away from him.
And he was now getting strapped/clipped in to the swing.
A year later and Hawksley is - finally - walking, and quickly crawling up and down the stairs. He started walking rather late around fifteen months, shortly after his last post. He is (still) so careful and docile that it took him a long time to get the courage to stand up on his legs and move his feet. Everyone warned me walking was hard, but honestly, I love it.
I don't love when I let him walk at the post office. I'm always forced to make him walk in with me rather than carry him because I'm usually piling a bunch of shipments from the shop on top of each other and I need a free hand to open the door. It's a crazy mad dash while I awkwardly chase/pull him, try not to drop anything, and try to get inside a small building. Honestly, I have never felt so less than chic than when I'm sending orders out. He screams at me when I make him go the direction he doesn't want to go in, and there is rarely anyone else there to hold open a door or take pity on the awkward young mom. Hi!
Thank goodness there are tons of collector coins behind baby-level glass in the post office. Hawksley is absolutely obsessed with "puppies" (which is also any animal with four legs, btw), and a large display of coins have some kind of "northern wolves" on them. As soon as we're inside, he's cooing with his little hands pressed against the glass, asking the "puppies" questions and barking at them. Of course there are many, "Mama? Puuuuppy!" exclamations in there, too - which I have to respond to by the way otherwise he repeats, "MAMA! MAMA! PUPPY!" incessantly.
That's the other thing.
Hawksley. Talks. A lot.
What he lacked in walking he made up for in talking. A couple days ago he said, "I love you, mama," and I was a puddle. ME! A puddle! I texted everyone I know. He's been saying little sentences for awhile, but he definitely has some go-to one liners like, "Cooooookie?" and "Moon on?" We bought him a toy Supermoon for his room. It's a life-like moon that hangs on the wall and it glows along with the moon phases of the northern hemisphere. It's bad ass, and he really loves it. My mom even got him one for her place for when he sleeps over. (I know...)
He loves to read and asks for "book" all the time. Strong emphasis on the K. It's probably his go-to toy, even over his trucks now. He sits and "reads" and gets so excited when I bring a new book out. He has this one black and white book with a bunch of images in it of simple objects. I brought the book out one day and pointed to the banana on the page, because he was having a particular phase where he just wanted "nana" any time he spotted a banana or sat down for a meal. (We honestly have to hide the bananas because if he sees them he needs them) Right away he chirped, "Nana!" and there I was smiling... all smug.
I pointed to another picture and he said, "Bottle!"
I was impressed. I pointed to a picture of a fork and a spoon - words I knew he didn't know yet because he really sucks with a spoon still, an he replied, "Nummy?"
Well now I thought I had a genius child.
"Yes! Nummy! Num-nums! That's what you eat with! You're such a good boy!"
I pointed to another picture that I thought would trip him up.
"Baaalloooooon," he said.
Balloon? Are you fucking kidding me? Where the hell did you learn balloon?
"How about these?"
Come on. Keys?
He then said, "button," "twit twoo" (birds) and called the cat "puppy" (wrong, but close though). It was the first time I really got that he was understanding his environment more than I had realized. Ever since, I basically point to everything like a crazy person to see if he somehow knows it.
Toque. Boots. Hat. Elmo Chair. Crystal truck. Chicken. Pants. Body. Eyes. Milkies. Juice. Hockey. Football. Go Jets!
Basically, anything I say, he can say. Last night after supper, I said to Derek that I was going back to work.
"Back to work?" he asked me, right after. Strong emphasis on the Ks.
He repeats me all the time, especially if he's in a funny mood - which happens a lot. Sometimes if I'm being too serious, he scrunches his face up all silly and asks, "Cooooookie?" then puckers his lips.
He always gets a cookie. He plays me like the suck I am.
He'll say something new - a new word - watch me flail in excitement, then immediately do the face scrunch/cookie question. It's basically the ugliest, funniest, most adorable face you've ever seen. And he knows it.
"What do you want to do, bud?"
"Are you ready for a bath?"
"Do you want num-nums?"
"Are you watching hockey with dad?"
"Go Jets! ...Mama? Coooookie?"
The other thing that I maybe take advantage of a little (ah, I see where he gets it, now) is his ability to take direction. I can say 90% of things to him and he somehow understands me. Like when did this happen?
"Hawksley can you bring mum the blankie?"
"Blankie? Mine?" he asks, while holding up his blue, raggedy blanket.
"Sure. Mum's cold."
He hands me his blanket with a big, toothy smile, and waits for my reaction to his good deed.
"Oh thaaaank you, Hawksley. You're so sweet."
"Teeeeek yeeeeeeew mama." (thank you)
Despite his awesome sleep habits since two months old, we've entered one of the hardest sleep times. For whatever reason, if Hawksley gets off his schedule or goes to bed late, he wakes up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder. There is no consoling him. He doesn't want to be held, he just wants to scream. It can sometimes be two hours of screaming.
When it started, it seemed a little extreme for a just bad dream, which led me to believe he may have been having night terrors. I'm not sure if they're hereditary, but I used to get night terrors really bad and for a large part of my life. Sometimes, you "wake up" (you're still asleep) and the nightmare is still happening. I suspect this is what's happening to Hawksley because sometimes he has a bad dream, tells me about it, lets me rock him and we're good to go. But other times it's as if I'm part of the bad dream and he's fighting me off.
He always screams "Puppy! Puuuuuppy!" behind tears... and in my extremely understanding, half-asleep, midnight mom logic, I'm just like, "OK, he's obviously being mauled by some deranged wolf in the dream world, Derek."
I really wish you could be there for those arguments.
The only way he calms down is if Rogue comes into the room. Legit. Not me. Not Derek. The dog.
The whole thing is really upsetting because he spits and hits and screams and bawls. A few nights ago during one really bad one, Derek was gone to hockey (Hawksley always has an episode when Derek is gone), and I was home alone when the screaming started. I brought the dog up with me and took him out into the loft. I told him he needed to show me what was upsetting him. He climbed down off me, dragging his blankie behind him and peeked into his room. He pointed to the moon that was lit, I told him it was fine, and he walked in. I followed him in. He walked right up to this little moose rocking chair he has, pointed, and then went hysterical.
I yanked the fucking moose and tossed it into the loft. Then I yanked everything that was behind the moose (just in case) and tossed it into the loft, too. He instantly fell asleep on the floor.
He gets extremely scared of all the deer in the yard, too.
Deer/Moose. It's all the same to a baby, right?
Addendum: I just realized something. When his current bedroom was the spare bedroom (before we moved his room into there), I used to sleep in there sometimes. I would fall asleep in the spare bed, waiting for him to fall asleep if he had woken up. And every time, I would have violent dreams... about dogs. One time, they were all licking me so creepily and aggressively that my skin grew so tight it all split open and ripped from my body. It was disgusting and horrific. I still have nightmares about it. I would always cleanse it after a bad dream in there, but it just might need something a little more intense. Ugh. Poor Hawksley.
It's more complicated because everything with legs is puppy. So I don't know if it's all connected or if I'm totally off, but either way I'm sure it's terrifying to a kid. If we keep him on his schedule, we can sometimes bypass the night terrors. But I'd love to be able to give him, like, a stuffed animal dog and tell him it's his protector so he doesn't have to be afraid. But he's still too little. Soon!
He understands, I'm just not sure if I can persuade him just that much, yet. The other day he looked at me, quickly shouted "Potty!" then started to push really loudly, yelling, "Bum bum hot, mama!"
I barely saw the purple vein bulging in the middle of his forehead because I couldn't believe he gave me warning that he had to go potty. Potty? You're one and a half, Hawksley. Mom is so not ready for "potty" yet.
Which is the next step right?
It's at this time that I understand how people can start thinking about having another child. The baby becomes more rewarding, at least for me, because he interacts with you and his personality really starts to come out. He seems more person and less baby. The terrible nights of screaming seem like a long forgotten memory - even though I permanently tattooed the memory of Derek and I holding hands while laying on our backs on our bed, listening to Hawksley scream through the baby monitors for the second hour straight. My nerves were shot.
"Let's never forget this desperate moment," Derek said to me.
"OK," I said quietly. "I won't." Ever.
Derek and I were pretty good about maintaining our relationship as the primary importance in our lives over the past year, but it's definitely fallen short in the past few months. Hawksley is more demanding, and even getting him dressed is - no joke - like wrestling a god damn wild animal. I feel like a fucking ninja/Indiana Jones-type when I've successfully put him in his boots and jacket. When did he get so strong?
After the strict bedtime routine to avoid night terrors, Derek and I are both exhausted. I retire to play video games (I know... don't) and Derek will watch sports for a couple hours just to recharge our fun bars before we collapse into bed. If we have a free weekend without a child, it's all about chores. Install the garage door opener. Paint the fireplace. Close up the yard. Plough the driveway. Pick up firewood. Install all the trim on the new windows.
Being responsible is such a drag, but like, you have to be. You have a child now. You're the adult now.
The other day, Derek called me at 9AM to chat.
"Did you need help with something?" I asked, after the polite hello, good mornings, and how are you's.
"No, I just wanted to chat. I feel like when I call you, it's the only time we really get to talk."
Um. Is that the most depressing sentence you've ever heard?
I was always so mystified when I heard about a couple divorcing after 20 or 30 years of marriage. To me, I always wondered how you could spend so much time together and then just somehow realize that you weren't for each other anymore. After all that.
But actually, I get it. You probably haven't even talked to one another in 30 years. You have no idea what is going on in the other person's life, and you have nothing in common anymore now that your kids are out of the picture. I get it. Life has been all about them - the kids - and now you two are actually alone and together again, and it's like... wait, who are you?
Five years ago, I was a very different person. When you have a permanent partner, you both grow and develop as the years go by, and you hope that you grow as individuals but in a way that complements the other. Now times that change by 30 years. It's actually amazing that so many people can stay together that long and somehow grow together in a way that works. I mean, if you really think about it.
There is such a shift in the relationship when you become parents. You're suddenly business partners. Who else can look at you with baby shit on your forehead and somehow still find you endearing? Who else can watch your boobs awkwardly and unflatteringly fall out of your bra while you wrestle a one-year-old into a pair of boots, and still somehow see you as a sexy human being?
A part of me feels quite ruined after having a baby. Used up. The best of me gone. Only a little piece of me left to offer. I'll never have my body back and thank goodness someone has fallen in love with me because how the hell would I attract someone new with a sagging belly and ass stretch marks? My carefree side has completely dissolved and now I constantly worry about a tiny human being. Spontaneity stresses me out, because night terrors, and if someone tries to change plans on me I'll just straight up cancel. No I don't want to go out and party. I want to sleep. These are not the fun attributes I used to define myself by.
Life insurance? Wills? Investments? Mortgages? Schedule coordinating? None of these things are romantic. And there is no time for romance. How long does this phase last? 30 years?
I find I romance over my parents relationship a lot. The one I remember while I was growing up. There were so many things that they did that pissed me off when I was little, and now that I'm an adult and a parent, they seem so smart.
- The "no kids allowed" Saturday morning coffees and separate newspapers. They were alone, but together.
- Reading separate books in bed, side by side. By lamplight. Mom's, a self-help book of some kind. Dad's, the latest Stephen King.
- Mom and dad having tea together after supper while the dishwasher hummed in the background. Neil Young playing on the stereo.
- Mom going to play bingo on Monday nights. Dad going to play hockey on Tuesday nights.
- Dad making us spaghetti for supper, then ice cream, then driving us to Girls Club on Wednesday nights when mom worked late. (always spaghetti)
I find I default to the way my parents did things a lot. Like they somehow had it all figured out, even though my mom openly says they had no idea what they were doing half the time. I think we all feel that way, but maybe Derek and I can get it together and one day Hawksley will think we were pros, too.
Vanessa Kunderman is a writer and poet, mother, smoke bath addict and cancer survivor. She created Rogue Wood Supply after reconnecting and rediscovering her spirit self; a surprising side effect of surviving her cancer diagnosis at sixteen years old. She plays six instruments, loves a smooth honey bourbon, and starts each day with a warm fire.