Ryland is officially SIX MONTHS old, and to mark the occasion I thought I would continue my series of letters to my daughter that I started last month. I have failed miserably at taking those cute monthly pictures with her in the same position with a little number sign stuck to her onesie. And I know they say a picture is worth a thousand words. But as a writer, I feel like sometimes nothing is worth the same as a thousand words. Or at least I hope that to be true. So...
You are six months old now. SIX MONTHS! That's half way to a year. You have officially turned the corner from any trace of being a newborn and are a full fledged baby hurtling towards toddlerhood. I don't know how this has happened.
In the last month you have grown by leaps and bounds. You eat a lot more formula these days and as such have quickly become a total chunk. As your aunt, Lucy, pointed out last night, your legs are almost as wide as they are long. You have a beautiful, round gut that sticks out like a watermelon, just like your late, great grandpa, Jerry. You still have a receding hairline and some male pattern baldness, but there is a ton of light, almost reddish fuzz coming in too. With the mix of what's left of your dark newborn hair and your new lighter hair, from a distance you appear to be a sweet little ginger.
You're still not totally distinguishable as a girl if you're not wearing girly clothing, and people out in public routinely call you "he", especially when they hear your name is Ryland (sorry!). But you're starting to get rosy cheeks and a sweet little mouth, and as soon as that hair really comes in, people should know you're a girl. If they don't mama will start to buy you headbands with bows on them to really sell it.
You have finally mastered the art of turning from tummy to back and can actually do this with something resembling intention. However you do get "stuck" on your tummy and then get mad, even though you know perfectly well how to turn back over. I think it's your feisty stubborn streak that keeps you on your tummy, waiting not so patiently to be "rescued." When you're in a good mood and really awake, you will roll and roll and roll, to the point where you can get yourself from the playmat, across the rug, and onto the wood floor. You also really seem to want to crawl. When you're on your stomach you will kick and push those legs as hard as you can, but so far you have not gotten the hang of forward movement (thank goodness because the house is not even a little bit baby proofed yet!).
You love your dog "siblings", or at least love them sometimes and cackle when they tickle your feet with their kisses. You're not quite as ecstatic when they evade mom and dad's attempts to stop it and lick you on the mouth, but you take it in stride. We're pretty positive that your first words are going to be "No George!". We really hope they're not "Damn it George" since you hear that a lot too.
You still love your Jumparoo and can stay entertained for a while bouncing around in it and cackling to yourself like you're a villain from a James Bond movie and it's your lair from which to plot worldwide destruction. When you're wearing socks you slip and slide around in it like a drunken sailor, but you seem to think that's pretty fun. You also still like your playmat and all of the hanging toys on it, even if you won't stay put on the playmat as well anymore. You've gotten big into any toy that you can chew on, but are sort of over the whole pacifier thing. You still will play with the wubba nub pacifier but are more into the stuffed animal part of the toy. The BEST thing to do with any toy though is to fling it somewhere and for the nearest adult to play fetch. This is even better and way more fun when you're out in public or in the stroller.
You like to be out and about, and really love anywhere with crowds or large groups of people. You have been to almost every brewery in Richmond, a fact of which your parents are pretty proud. You do okay in restaurants as long as you can be in someone's lap, which makes eating a little tricky for your parents. This might mean that sometimes mom and dad spill things on your head. But we promise it's never anything scalding.
You can sit in the stroller now without being in the infant car seat, and on walks you always have the appearance of a bored monarch. You take everything in from the comfort of your seat, but aren't particularly impressed with anything. And to show your boredom you usually fall asleep.
You love blowing raspberries, and will respond to your parents' declarations of love with a big, fat, wet one. We try not to take it personally.
You make a lot of noises, from screams to giggles (these are still rare and difficulty to elicit, unless you are four legged and named George). You also have a strange little cooing/purring noise you've started lately.
You are eating food! Which is very exciting if totally messy. Usually after a "meal" you look like you were on the losing end of an epic food fight. It took a while for you to get the hang of the whole eating solids thing, and typically the first bite you still react as though we are feeding you rat poison, but you've finally learned how to swallow food and not just let it dribble immediately down your chin. On your "like" list: bananas, apples, pears, and prunes (not to embarrass you, but you have occasional troubles with constipation, and need your pureed prunes like you are a geriatric). I know, I know, these are all fruits. But avocados and sweet potatoes were not hits. You also hated peas and rice cereal. Mom promises she will try to get you to eat something green soon.
You still love your bottles, and flail about in excitement like you are seizing whenever you see us preparing one. You also still nurse, but are much less single minded about it than you used to be. You will stop and look around and smile and turn your body to look at the TV, which is quite the departure from the intensity and focus you used to bring to the breastfeeding table.
The big news flash around here is that for the last week+ you have been SLEEPING. As in through the night. As in 12 hours straight on multiple occasions without a single wake up. In your crib. Without being attached to mama's boob.
You may still harbor some resentment that there were a few tears involved the first couple of nights of this process. I promise we only did it for your own good. But you don't seem too upset, unless you are just a really good actor and secretly plotting your Menendez-like revenge every night from the comfort of your crib. In which case, we will start locking our bedroom door as soon as you can walk.
Here's the thing though. I am over the moon that you can sleep through the night now. I know it's so refreshing and restorative for you. I am thrilled you can fall asleep completely on your own. I love that you seem to love your crib and sleep peacefully on your tummy with your little lamb lovey clenched in your hand or stuffed in your mouth. I love that you go to bed at 7pm so mama and dada can have a glass of wine and watch TV. This is all wonderful.
But, I miss you my sweet daughter. I miss you something fierce. I am starting to get used to sleeping without you, but the first few nights I felt like I was sleeping without a limb. While you snoozed soundly I slept horrendously on these nights, tossing and turning and waking up every hour. We were terrified that you must have stopped breathing and couldn't help but check on you every so often the first few nights. But of course you were okay. Your parents on the other hand were after six months faced with a bed without you, and that big king sized bed, even with two humans and a dog, felt utterly empty without your tiny little body in it.
I miss waking up to see your little face. I miss being able to check on you constantly throughout the night, to rest my hand on your little tummy and feel it rise and fall. I miss you curled up next to me. I am literally a creepy stalker who is obsessed with you (I've realized parents=total creeps about their own children) and it physically hurt at first to go 12 hours away from you, even though you were just in the next room. Even though I spent the other 12 hours of the day with you, even though I may have done a happy dance when you fell asleep on your own, even though I love to have time with just your dad again, the nights felt like far too much time away. But I'm adjusting. You handled this transition with ease and acted like sleeping through the night in your crib was no big deal at all. It was much, much harder on your mom. Which I think is probably how parenting goes, your baby ready for change and independence, the parents hopelessly clinging on to the past.
But enough about the big philosophical parenting things. I know you're already bored. You have become the most fun lately. I mean to be fair you can still be an enormous crank. Your crabby days are trying. But when you're happy you are like the human embodiment of a sun beam. You warm up the entire room and make everything brighter. Your smile is as always, just the best. You are SO expressive, about everything. You don't seem to experience life mildly or passively. You are IN IT. Big time. And you are so curious and alert about the world around you.
And the world finds you adorable. I can't bring you into a public place without being stopped multiple times by people. There's no stranger danger yet, so your favorite trick is to crack a wide, goopy grin at people who stop us out in public and really turn up the charm. It kills. You are routinely called "beautiful" and "adorable" by complete strangers. Enjoy this phase in life. But don't let it go to your head kid.
Even though you're not quite to the separation anxiety stage, you are starting to show some awareness that mom and dad are separate from you and can leave you. You don't like us walking away from you across a room, and sometimes now you will cry if handed off to a different adult. And you know what, I realize now as a parent that we LIVE for that stuff. We pretend to be all "oh no, separation anxiety, it's the pits", but it's not. It's everything. It is like parental crack to have your baby show blatant preference for you, because for the first 6 months we get nada. We need to be needed. It feeds our souls.
You grab everything. You can sit up as long as you are propped and surrounded by a pillow fort for when you topple over.
You are still stubborn as a mule.
Just in the last few days you have started to occasionally rest your head on my shoulder when I'm holding you. I'm not sure if I've ever felt something as sweet as the feel of your little head on my shoulder, your hand lightly clenching my arm.
I'm going to tell you this every month, and it's going to get really old, but you are so, so, so very loved. Every molecule of you is loved by so many. You are the best thing your parents have ever done. We are just crazy about you my little monkey.
You are six months old. And you now have my permission to stop growing.
I'm a thirty-something mom of two, wife, pediatric RN, and writer with a passion for the all the big and little things in life.