On Curls and Treasuring the Moment

If you want to become dead to me, go ahead and tell me Scout’s hair won’t always be curly.

And yet, I know it’s true. It’s strange to consider, because right now it’s what people comment on most about her, her identity to the world, having finally left behind her newborn bug eyes.

When she’s running wild in just her diaper, her scrawny 23-pound-frame and giant halo of golden curls make her look like some sort of fairy child, 90% uncontrolled hair. She is my faerie second born.

When Pip was a very small baby, I misread a label on one of his onesies as “Just One Year” instead of “Just One You” and thought with panic, “Just one year? It feels like eternity.”

Probably one of my favorite pieces ever published on the internet* compares babies to cake: it’s a sweet, rare, special time, sure, but awfully rich, and sometimes overwhelming. If you haven’t had cake in years, you long for it; if someone’s forcing you to wake up every two hours for cake and expecting you to enjoy every slice, it’s pretty frustrating.

Maybe it’s that I’m almost five years into motherhood now, or two kids deep, but I think it might be Scout’s curls that finally helped me to start concretely savoring these little years as such a brief season. Scout’s hair will certainly darken and possibly straighten in coming years. Someday, soon, Pippin will lose his last, delicious, babyish hand dimples, and stop wanting to snuggle me, as oppressive as snuggles from a sturdy preschooler can feel. Soon we will have the delight of this new little girl, yet unknown to us, but it will never again be just Pippin and Scout, squabbling in the backseat and making uncouth poop jokes.

Summer and second trimester are coming to their respective ends and change looms: heartburn and homeschool and potty training and so much I can’t yet anticipate. So for now I’ll run a hand through these unkempt curls and try to enjoy what we have in this single, unrepeatable moment.

*I can’t find it. I’m sorry. Anyway, you’ve probably seen it: it goes around facebook constantly. I’ll add the link when it reappears.

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Weaning and the Dress

I’ve got my library copy of The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning. We’re done with travel (during which time I got two plugged ducts…!), and Scout’s just about done with her cold. It’s time. Time to wean.

But I find myself hesitating, half elated, half devastated. It makes sense, I guess. When I stop to think about it, this project of breastfeeding extends to almost all aspects of my life. Weaning is a big deal.

Because I’ve always had an open door policy on breastfeeding, nursing on demand, the scope of nursing is bigger than it might be for mothers with more structure. Almost everything is affected. With Scout, I didn’t even bother introducing a bottle, so I didn’t spend more than a couple hours away from her until she was well over 1. I buy my dresses for breastfeeding access. My treatment of everything from strep to a cold is affected by breastfeeding, as is my consumption of alcohol. Because I’m nursing, I’m skinnier, hungrier, tireder.

Weaning will mean I’m less tired, less shakily hungry, less scrawny (a good thing, for sure). I will be able to wear normal bras and jeans I haven’t fit for a year. But I won’t have as much time for reading — one arm cradling baby, one holding a book aloft — or for cuddling a sleepy toddler in the middle of a quiet night. I won’t have nursing in my arsenal of comfort measures when she bumps her head, or to help her fall asleep and stay asleep in a new place. Looking back on my old tumblr, weaning was a big deal for me with Pippin, too. Despite predictions I might have made in those scary early weeks with Pip, I love nursing — unlike pregnancy, it feels like something I do well, that comes easily to me and overcomes my myriad failures as a mother.

I’m in no rush to wean my infants — there was even a time when I worried Scout would wean early — and letting them nurse past a year has meant 18 month breaks from my period and breathing room between pregnancies. I’m in no rush to wean my infants, but I have no interest in nursing an unwieldy preschooler, either. While several close friends have successfully nursed far into their pregnancies, I worry about how I’d balance everyone’s needs (good for you, not for me). And so now feels like the right time, even if Scout will take some gentle convincing.

So now I try to think of the Dress: a pretty, comfortable blue one (with pockets!) my mother-in-law let me pick out for Christmas, one I currently have to save for date nights away from Ms. Neverwean. It’s symbolic of all that’s waiting for me when I let this door close. If I can get us to the other side of nursing, I will have said goodbye to Scout’s babyhood, but that’s something we really left behind when she finally started walking and talking around 16 months. I’ll be as prepared, physically and emotionally, as I’ll ever be for if a third baby decides to grace our family. And I’ll be able to wear the Dress anytime I please.

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I have loved nursing this baby.

 

Mama-Scout Dates

 

Scout the big kid, ruling the playground

So, a couple of things have conspired recently. Pippin’s in preschool without me three mornings a week, and Scout has kicked the morning nap habit. Suddenly, the world has opened back up: I have just a toddler again, awake and eager.

 

For awhile now, I’ve been taking Pippin on Mama-Pippin dates, usually just a walk to the local Starbucks to split a plain croissant and buy him milk in a box, which is apparently the height of luxuries. But I haven’t gone a lot of places with Scout simply for her enjoyment, unless, of course, she enjoys ambling through Goodwill as much as I do.

The other day, we dropped Pippin off at school and I went to return a giant stack of library books Pippin and I had accrued between the two of us. I was just going to run them to the drop box while Scout hung out in the car and then I realized I could take her in.

The thought, honestly, felt a little traitorous. Pippin loves the library! I should wait till he can come, too!

But I went anyway, and figured it was fine if we went back later this week, even later that day. I got to grab a few books I needed for my homeschool class without hauling around Pippin’s dragon-hoarde, too, and Scout clambered happily among the toys, and recklessly pulled things off shelves, and invaded the personal space of other families. It was pretty great.

Crossing the street from the library, Scout hooted and pointed at a truck. The truck driver softly honked his horn in greeting and she peered over my shoulder, wide eyed.

It’s the kind of moment I’ve had a thousand times with Pippin, but it’s all new with Scout. My big girl. My not-baby.

 

(Well, not too big.)

 

 

The Walk and Talk

We moved into our new house, and recently, on a warm spring evening, Scout and I set off.

The menfolk were at the old house, gathering up enough stuff to last us through the night, and in the squalor of our partially unpacked house, I couldn’t find the leash to take Bonnie along with us, so it was just me and my daughter, and though my shoulders ached under the Ergo from a week of packing and lifting and moving, the walk around our new neighborhood with my daughter felt right.

Long before I was introduced to the Aaron Sorkin walk and talk, I was an accomplished walk-talker with my mother. When I was seven, we moved from out in the country where we lived beside a busy highway to a sleepy outer suburb of a bigger city. And I don’t remember how or when it started — maybe when my mom started doing Weight Watchers? — but somewhere along the line, we started taking walks together.

Because the origins are hazy, I don’t remember why it was nearly always just me and my mom, and not my sister. In the same way, I don’t know if Pippin will ever be my walking buddy; he’s so focused that right now, at least, he seems always to prefer hurtling or bike riding or playground-clambering to anything as mundane and poky as a stroll. (And then he has the gall to complain his legs hurt as soon as I do convince him to go on a walk.) Maybe Scout won’t be a walker, either — but I hope so.

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Over two decades of walking with this lady, and this is the only photo I can find from our walks. (Also, that walking stick goes with us everywhere and has warded off many sketchy dogs.)

Just as they say that the car is an excellent place to have a conversation with your child — something about the lack of eye contact paired with sheer proximity — so my mom found, I guess, that walking was a great time to have conversations with me. I breathlessly related, in painstakingly dull detail, no doubt, the plot lines of the books I was reading and the little dramas of my schoolyard life. She told me about work frustrations, and we worked out elaborate mythologies for the neighborhood: its white squirrels, its odd dogs, that perpetually marshy corner. She’d knick my knuckles with her engagement ring as she swung her arms, and I’d get all huffy about it.

We walked through my school days, and when I was back from college in those still, oppressively hot summers. Now, when we’re visiting, we walk still, usually with a stroller or Ergo or both. We make the same loops we always did, sometimes with me in wheezy postpartum shape, sometimes with me in the lead. We talk about the neighbors who have moved, what I’ve heard the kids I grew up with are doing now, whether we like new landscaping choices. My parents have lived in the same house since 1993, but it’s different now from how I remember it: the yard sunnier after those trees had to be taken out, the garden more lush now that my parents have more time to devote to it. Sitting on the porch glider after a sweaty Florida walk, though, sipping water from a glass slick with condensation, it all feels about the same.

I want that for my own daughter, too.

My Daughter’s Hair

I can remember when it started: a summer evening on the patio, visiting with the neighbors and admiring the view. My parents were staying with us, I think. I glanced down at Eleanor’s baby bird fuzz, damp with humidity, and thought I saw it: the merest suggestion of a curl.

Or maybe it was before that, when I was pushing, and the midwife announced she could see the head, and that there was A Lot of Dark Hair. I pushed harder, with wonder, and surprise. (My first baby, after all, looked like this.)

Or maybe it was when I learned I was expecting a girl, and thought, “I have got to learn how to French braid!”

My mom has always made me feel like my hair is beautiful. In many ways, our hair is alike: just-brown, glossy, baby fine. (My sister’s is as straight as mine, but thicker and darker, and less persistently dirty.) Mom’s is wavier, whereas mine is made for bobs alone.

Of course, what I always wanted was curls, and a disastrous perm at 20 finally taught me that isn’t to be. And while Eleanor’s may bring her many frustrations in the future, it will always fill her mama’s heart with gladness.

My own sweet curly girl.

Feeling Weird About Weaning

For the most part, I’m not usually sentimental about my kids growing up. I’m excited about each new development, and optimistic about the future. I’m not hugely a newborn baby fan, and I like seeing the people they’re becoming. Sure, I feel nostalgic when I look back at pictures of Pippin as a white marshmallow baby and Scout as a tiny pink bean, but I don’t long for time to slow down or anything.

The exception, for me, is weaning. I mean this in the British sense of introducing real food, not in the American sense of completely leaving behind nursing.

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Eleanor Babyperson, nursing

The thing is, I really like breastfeeding. I’m good at it (though it’s nothing I can really claim as an accomplishment; a lot seems to be luck and disposition), and I don’t mind it — though I might tell you differently at 2 a.m., or when positioning a noodly newborn. What’s not to like? I could handle more hours in a quiet room by myself with a cuddly baby and a book, I’m pretty sure.

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Pippin the Never Wean

And introducing a baby to real foods — it’s messy, and it’s another thing I have to remember to pack, and it generates a ton of waste, and there are lots of conflicting opinions, and it all seems so fraught.

Our pediatrician (DR. LITTLE, BEST PEDIATRICIAN NAME EVER) told us to start solids with Pippin at 4 months, so we did, with pureed sweet potato, and he hated it and pretty much kept on hating everything. (See photo below.) I had planned to wean him (in the American sense) at 12 months, but if I had, he would have been forced to subsist on boogers and raisins (pretty much what he lives on now, along with peanut butter). He seems to have inherited my gag reflex, which sucks for all of us. Recently, we bribed him with ice cream to try Scout’s avocado. When he finally did, he promptly puked all over himself. J was appalled. “Can I have my ice cream now?” he immediately asked, unfazed.

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This is Pippin’s opinion of birthday cake. Cake, people. He fed the rest of it to the dog.

 

With Scout, we are doing things differently. We didn’t bother starting her until a bit after six months, and we’ve been loosely trying Baby Led Weaning principles. Things are going well, and it could be because we are so wise, but is probably just because she’s her own person (and maybe because she takes after her father, John “I Like All Food” Bowers). This weekend at book club, I wouldn’t give her any brownie or tea cake and she kicked her legs with energy and indignation. FEED ME!

Cool it, girl.

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Fried egg, a Bowers breakfast specialty

But it turns out having a baby who’s an enthusiastic eater carries its own challenges for me. And so, just as I felt weird and conflicted about my reluctant eater, now I feel weird and conflicted about my enthusiastic eater. I worry that she’ll choke on something I’ve prepared incorrectly (unlike Pippin, at the same age, she still has no teeth and enjoys nomming on such exotic fare as pesto meatballs and smushed blueberries). I worry about all the food stains I’ll have to get out of her clothes, and mine. I worry that she’ll stop nursing entirely before I’m ready.

In the early months, nursing feels like a project my baby and I tackle together, and it takes both of us to make ecological breastfeeding work. Moving on to the next chapter is a tricky, messy transition to navigate.