Letter to Camille: Seventeen Months

Hello sweet sleeping bunny, and Happy 17 Month Birthday! We just tucked you in after a nice bath and you seem to be sleeping soundly. Your bath went well – they’re going much better now that we’ve figured out how to help you endure the trauma of hair-washing. Several months ago, out of nowhere, you started crying every time we’d wash your hair. You seemed panicky about it, signing the word “done” almost as soon as we’d gotten you in the water, because you knew the hair-washing was coming. As I’d lean you back, you’d start to squall, and wouldn’t stop until you were out of the water and bundled in your towel.
But one night, we decided to shake things up a bit and started singing “Elmo’s Song” while we washed your hair. You seemed so startled, you forgot to cry. For a week or so, you still whimpered through the hair-washing, but without the screams. Then, you began to relax even more.
Tonight, as I leaned you back to wet your hair, you matter-of-factly stated, “Melmo.” It was one simple phrase, but a very clear demand for us to sing the Elmo song. So we did, and you grinned all the way through your bath.
Songs seem to have that affect on you often, which is nice. When you get upset, we’ll burst into a melody and it can radically change your demeanor. I’m glad you like music – your Mama and Daddy do too!
Know what else you like? Having your feet tickled and nibbled. But you’re so coy about it! Your Daddy loves to pretend to eat your toes whenever you’re lying down, and you’ll snatch them away and laugh. Then slowly, they’ll inch their way back toward his mouth, like “I really want you to do that again, but I don’t want you to know that I want you to!” So he’ll eat your feet again, you’ll snatch them away, then slowly bring them back again. It’s adorable. I love to watch you two play. Makes me feel like a very lucky girl.
About a week ago, your Daddy taught you something new – he taught you to stick out your tongue. He’ll ask you, “Where is your tongue?” And you’ll grin and stick it out. Except this can go on and on, which is why last weekend I got lots of pictures of you with your tongue out.
Can we talk about something a little more serious for a moment? Mama’s still sorry about popping your hand the other day. This month, you’ve started pushing boundaries more, and we’re going to have to figure out this discipline thing together. Me, you, and your Daddy. You’re still pretty compliant most of the time, but you’ve thrown a few little tantrums too. Most of the time we just try to ignore them, even though I still hate to hear you cry.
Last Sunday, I was trying to fix your lunch as your Daddy packed the car so we could begin our 7 hour trip home from Tennessee. You were wandering around Nana’s kitchen, and started opening and closing drawers like you’d been doing all weekend. And all weekend, we’d been telling you no and trying to redirect you to something else. I told you no several times, but you just stared at me with your hand on the drawer. Open. Close. Open. Close. I walked over and got down at your eye level and told you sternly to stop. You did it again, and I popped your hand for the first time.
You froze, looked at me, and then the corners of your mouth turned down. You started to whimper, and my heart broke. I scooped you up, close to tears myself, and told you I was sorry.
The thing is, I don’t think hand-popping is bad. It won’t be my first choice for discipline, but there may be times when it’s appropriate. But what felt wrong about this instance was that I got impatient. I didn’t feel well because of my oncoming cold, I was stressed about our long car trip, and I was feeling emotional because I’d lost my wedding band (only temporarily because Nana found it – thank goodness!). Popping your hand wasn’t totally reactionary. I thought about it before I did it. But I still think there were some other tools in my disciplinary toolbox I could’ve used before resorting to that kind of punishment. But I was in a bad mood, and I took it out on you. And I’m sorry.
I’m sure there will be more hand-poppings and maybe even a few spankings to come, and it’ll probably upset me every time. But I just wanted to tell you again that I’m sorry I got impatient, and thank you for forgiving me.
Okay – after all that seriousness, I want to get back to the fun stuff and tell you about two of my favorite things that you’re doing this month.
You have definitely become my lovey-dovey little girl. You’ve always enjoyed getting hugs and kisses, but now you really enjoy giving them a lot. Before, you would pucker and make kissing noises from afar, but you didn’t seem to relate that to actually kissing my cheek. This month you’ve figured it out, and you LOVE to lean in and kiss my cheek. My head. My leg. My foot. You walked over to me the other day, picked up my hand and planted a sweet, tender kiss on the back of it. You’ve also figured out how to blow kisses, and it’s adorable.
I’d like to say you reserve all this sugar for just your family, but you like to share your sugar with the world. Your teacher at school says you kiss her all the time, and that you even like to kiss your classmates. No wonder we are always sick. That’s okay, I’m glad you love people.
The other thing you started doing this month is feeding your stuffed animals, and I freak out every time you do it. It began at Nana and Granddaddy’s house last weekend when you got your play kitchen. You’d been cooking all day, and we were upstairs in the playroom where you were busy stirring pots and pans. Then without prompting, you walked over to a big stuffed bear and held the pot up to his mouth and smacked your lips to make eating sounds. It was so cute! You walked away, cooked a little more, then suddenly stopped and looked back at the bear and asked, “More?” Then you walked back over and gave him a second helping.
I melted into a puddle on the floor.
It’s so cool to watch you begin to play pretend. It’s also neat to see you thinking about giving to something or someone in that way. Now it’s a regular part of your play routine. Every night when you cook, you make the rounds of the room to give everyone a taste. Your Daddy and I think it’s some of the best cooking we’ve ever tasted.
A couple of days ago, I wanted to see what you were doing this time a year ago, and re-read the letter I wrote to you at 5 months. You’d just rolled over for the first time, and were beginning to get good at eating out of a spoon.
What big changes you’ve made, little girl! I was just starting to feed you, and now you’re feeding your bears! I’m excited to see what you’ll think of next.
Thank you for a terrific month, full of kisses and hugs and lots of Camille-goodness. Sleep well, little peanut, I’m looking forward to more adventures with you tomorrow. I love you so much.