Essay by Stacy Bolt
Congratulations! You’ve survived an entire year with me as your mother. I’m not a big believer in miracles, but I think the fact that there’s only been one trip to the emergency room, one call to poison control and zero appearances on the local news is as close to miraculous as we’re going to get.
You’re not going to remember anything from this year, so let me give you a quick recap of what’s happened so far. Despite being in the care of two people who have no idea what they’re doing, you appear to be a happy, healthy, incredibly large child. I know I can be prone to exaggeration, but I’m not overstating it when I say that you are freakishly huge. At four months, you weighed over 20 pounds and had already outgrown your infant car seat. You’ve developed folds of flesh where your wrists should be, making it look as if you’re wearing a sweater made out of another baby. And if we’re not careful, food gets trapped between your many chins, producing a noxious substance we call Neck Cheese. Now, at twelve months, you’re the height and weight of an average 20 month-old and I have the chiropractic bills to prove it. They say a child’s first words are usually the things he hears his parents say most often. Please accept my apologies if your first words turn out to be “You’re killing your mother.”
Your pediatrician says that your size is the reason you’re not crawling yet. But I know better. It’s not that you don’t know how to crawl. You simply choose not to. Instead, you roll. From one end of the house to the other, you roll with the deliberate grace of a ballerina and the momentum of a pony keg. In deciding which way to roll, you always choose the path of most resistance. If there are toys in the way, you roll over them like a chubby pink steamroller. If you hit a wall, you keep backing up and trying again, as if by sheer force of will you could make the wall cease to exist. I have no doubt that this trait will one day make you a strong and fearless man, but not before it makes you a complete pain in the ass as a teenager. And while a part of me does wish that you’d choose a more evolved and conventional form of locomotion, another part of me is ecstatic because my floors have never been cleaner.
Despite your resistance to crawling, you have several other highly advanced skills that you’re currently honing to perfection. These include screaming at the cats, unplugging the phone and sneezing immediately after taking a bite of baby food, usually something orange. You’re obsessed with a small plastic cup that you like to put over your mouth and breathe into as loudly as you can, like a tiny version of Dennis Hopper in “Blue Velvet.” You’re also a big fan of lobbing your pacifier out of your crib like it was a live grenade and you’ve recently started triumphantly pulling off your diaper the way a Chippendales dancer rips off his tear-away pants.
So far you seem to be very good at entertaining yourself, a trait that blends well with our parenting style, which is to let you entertain yourself for as long as possible while we read magazines and talk on the phone. Right now your favorite form of entertainment is a toy I call “Horrible Thing.” It was a gift from your Uncle Eric in retaliation for me calling him a pyromaniac on the radio. Horrible Thing has four misshapen yellow feet supporting a body composed of brightly colored concentric rings and topped by a hideous face that resembles the badly sunburned love child of E.T. and Pippi Longstocking. It plays 120 different sound effects and 75 different songs, each one more shrill and merciless than the last. It is ugly and loud and it drives me to drink. I’m also fairly sure it comes alive at night and makes long distance phone calls. But you love Horrible Thing and you’ll play with it for at least 20 uninterrupted minutes at a time, so for now it stays. Uncle Eric may have won the battle, but he will not win the war.
What else can I tell you? Since you were about seven months old you’ve been clapping — joyously and enthusiastically applauding everything from the mailman to the vacuum cleaner. If your pudgy little legs could support your thunderous weight, you’d most certainly be giving them standing ovations. Currently, your favorite thing to clap for is the sound of ice ricocheting off the insides of a stainless steel shaker. Like a Pavlovian puppy, you know that this sound means that in just a few minutes, Mommy is going to be in a much better mood.
That reminds me: You don’t know it yet, but in a few short years you’re going to come to the disturbing realization that your parents are old. You’ll know this because all of your friends’ parents will be younger than us and they won’t groan and curse when they stoop to pick up their children. When this happens, you’ll be gripped by fear. They could die any minute, you’ll think to yourself. You’ll lay awake at night worrying about what will happen to you, where you’ll live, who will raise you. I know, because my parents were old, too. And these were the things I worried about. So I’m going to tell you the same thing my father told me when I came to him with my fears of his imminent death: Don’t worry. We’ve arranged for you to be sold to the police. You’ll join an elite, all-kids crime-fighting squad dedicated to finding lost kittens and repairing potholes. You’ll have a good, safe life and in time you’ll forget all about your parents, whose deaths were only partly your fault.
Of course, I’m kidding. Mostly. The truth is, your father and I did get kind of a late start on this parenting thing and we’re definitely paying the price. I now completely understand why people have children when they’re young. But neither of us were ready to be parents when we were younger. Personally, I was far too busy smoking pot and ruining my credit rating. And besides, if I’d had a kid then, it wouldn’t have been you and that’s not acceptable because I’m pretty sure you’re the reason I’m here. So even though I’m perpetually tired and confused, even though I’ve aged ten years for your one, and even though you’ve robbed me of crucial brain functions that allow me to remember important things like who Colin Firth is, I have no regrets. I hope you don’t either. Happy birthday little man.