So here's the thing. This 8 month age is pretty great a large percentage of the time. The baby is all cute and interactive now (well she was always cute in my biased opinion, but early on like all babies she was a little more smooshed and wrinkly). She SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT (I don't think I will ever stop being excited about that). She doesn't crawl yet so I can still leave her for a few minutes to go to the bathroom or brush my teeth (she can spin herself in a circle and push her way backwards across a room, but these are all fairly slow forms of travel). She smiles and giggles a lot. I know this is a good age. And strangers routinely tell me this when we're out in public, how fun things are now. "Enjoy it while it lasts!" they say, with a slightly menacing smile. "Just wait until she's a toddler." And then they cackle maniacally while I run away (or maybe not, but I always excect it).
But, and I feel like the angry parenting gods will smite me for saying this, even though, yes this is a FUN age, and I do enjoy it, and think Ryland is the best thing in the world, even better than peanut butter, it's still not exactly a cake walk every second of every day. Our nights, like I've mentioned and done numerous happy dances over, are awesome. Baby is almost always asleep by 6:30 and sleeps through except for occasional little cries that usually don't last more than a minute (I'm thinking nightmares, and I am deeply curious what baby nightmares consist of, empty bottles? loud noises? continuously having shirts pulled over her head? a world with no boobs?). But baby has also decided she no longer cares for chunky naps. She is back to micro naps or cat naps, or as I like to call them, demonic naps from hell, usually about 25 -30 minutes. And because she is taking these cat naps her dispostion is not at its peak of sunniness. By the time it gets to oh, 3pm, it is usually an uphill battle to keep her from a total nuclear meltdown before bed.
These days right now, with their lack of real naps, are long. And when my husband is working they feel even longer because his time at home does not overlap at all with any of the baby's awake time, so it's all mom duty, all the time. I typically try to get out and see people and do things, but on days where we don't see anyone and I don't interact with another adult human, it can feel like time slows to a crawl. And I feel like a jerk saying this, because I love my daughter more than anything. I LOVE spending time with her. I hate to be away from her. And yet, like most things with parenting, I've learned it's possible to be absolutely in love with your baby and not want to be away from her, and also go slightly insane on days when your baby is the only human you interact with and start having too long conversations with "Alexa", your robot overlord (or Amazon's hands-free voice activated speaker that I mostly use right now to play Christmas songs and tell me jokes). I thought the best way to illustrate how long these days can seem is to show you what one looks like. So here goes, the good, bad, and the ugly:
5:30-6:30: Somewhere in here the baby wakes up, typically with a brief cry followed by a stretch of silence followed by cackling noises. R is either already gone or just about out the door at this point. I usually lay in bed for a few minutes to see if she will fall back asleep, until I hear the telltale thud of her kicking her crib with gusto. After a moment of "ugh, I wish I could sleep more", I actually jump out of bed and still get excited to see Ryland because I've missed her over the last 12 hours. I walk in her room, and from her crib she shoots me the biggest grin you've ever seen while thrashing her lovey around in the air. We go straight to a diaper change followed by a bottle (and mommy's first cup of offee). I give her the bottle in the family room while we watch the Today show or local news while the sun comes up.
6:45: Almost send out several texts before realize that it's 6:45am and not the most appropriate time to send texts, particularly if it's a weekend. This used to happen all the time when I worked nightshifts when I was so used to being up at 2am that I would almost send a text or email and then have to stop myself and realize that normal people (outside of college students) are not awake at 2am.
7: Bottle is finished. Playtime. I put the baby on the rug and surround her with her toys. Depending on her mood, she will either spend an hour entertaning herself or 5 minutes. On the days where it is 5 minutes, I'll put her in the jumparoo, buy another 5 minutes or so, take her to lay on her nursery rug, another 5 minutes, and on and on little increments. Usually though, even in the midst of the current Nap Strike, the morning is her happiest time. I watch the Today show while she plays. I used to always think it was kind of strange/worrisome the way my friends with kids talked about the Today show anchors, with fervent passion, like they were their pals. And now I TOTALLY get it. When you're a parent and spend almost every morning at home with your baby, the Today show anchors become your second family. Matt, Savannah, Al, Tamron, Dylan, heck even Carson can feel like the only fellow adults around me. It is absoultely a little deranged, but you do start to get attached to them in a borderline unealthy manner.
8-9ish: Time for baby's first nap. I put her down awake and she falls right to sleep (this part is always easy, thank goodness). And then I have to make a choice with this precious baby free time, productive or non-productive. Usually all I want to do is watch whatever TV I DVR'd the night before, but since nap time is so short these days, I usually decide to instead take a shower or unload the dishwasher or write or do laundry, etc. I always have a list of about 5-10 things I need to do, and these days typically get through 1, a shower.
9:30: Coos and cackles come from the nursery. She seemed exhausted just 30 minutes earlier and fell asleep so quickly. Surely today would be the day we were back to longer naps. But no. I finish whatever I was doing (usually putting contacts in) and get the baby. Another diaper change.
9:35: Breakfast! A jar of some kind of puree, usually a fruit. We're also starting to try some puffs. Typically she just smashes her hand into these and gets maybe 1 out of every 20 actually into her mouth, but it's progress!
9:40: Breakfast is finished. Crap, now what to do? If it's not too cold outside we might take a walk. This is also usually the time I go to the grocery store as long as it's not a weekend. Or we have more playtime which is usually the baby rolling around on the floor like a little caterpillar. I Pinterest activities for an 8 month old, see the elaborate Montessori level "games" depicted that look to involve about an hour worth of prep time for a 5 minute reward (seriously who cooks up an entire package of spaghetti noodles just to let their baby sit on them?), and instead hand the baby an orange to chew on. That's educational right?
10:15: Have run out of activities. Walk the baby around the house and show her things or take her outside in the yard to throw George a ball. We are both a little bored.
10:30: Bottle time!
10:45: More play time. Rotate from the jumparoo to her toys to letting her roll around and wedge herself under furniture.
11:30: Since she only napped 30 minutes last time, she's already tired and rubbing her eyes. Nap #2! This one will be a winner right!?
11:45: Frantically run around the house trying to get things done or fix myself lunch and eat while raptly watching last night's Real Housewives of Atlanta. I mean can you believe this Sheree/Kenya feud? And Kandi's baby daddy drama!
11:55: That couldn't possibly be her making noise from the nursery right? I mean she JUST went down. That must be the neighbor's cat. I don't think our neighbor has a cat, but I'm still blaming the noise on it. Wait a few. Nope, that's definitely not an imaginary cat. She is cooing and crowing and kicking the crib rails, wide awake.
12:00: Diaper change. Also finally time to get her out of her pajamas (on days we don't go anywhere I always wonder at the point of changing her into real clothes, but I guess even babies should have standards). Let her play with a diaper (clean of course!) or her tube of butt paste on the changing table for a few minutes.
12:10: Put the baby in the highchair for "lunch", either some more puffs or a few more spoonfulls of puree. Hand her a banana which keeps her entertained for a solid 5 minutes.
12:15: Playtime! Dump her entire basket of toys out on the floor in front of her. Will at least get a solid 20 minutes out of that.
2:00: We've managed to keep ourselves entertained for a solid chunk with a mix of toys, random household objects, and location changes (it's amazing how simply moving the baby to the rug in the nursery will create entertainment out of nothing). Once again the baby is acting super sleepy since once again her last nap was almost non-existent. Put her back in the crib.
2:05: Pay some bills. Send some emails. Maybe move the load of laundry to the dryer that has been sitting in the washing machine for the last several hours.
2:30: You've got to be kidding me!! Baby is awake. Only this time, unlike the last two naps she's woken up already cranky. But at least it's bottle time!
2:45: Bottle finished. Baby furious after the last sip and after I won't let her destroy/eat the paper towel I use to clean her chin. Look at the clock. More than three hours until bedtime. Even worse, it's more than TWO HOURS until it's appropriate to have a glass of wine.
3:00: On our way to Target. Not that I need anything at Target. In fact I just went there yesterday. Posisbly the day before. But because I HAVE to get out of this house or I will start discussing politics with Alexa (again, robot overlord from Amazon) and things might get heated. It's too cold/rainy to go for a walk. I don't need anything from the grocery store. I'm good on things I could get at the mall. But Target is a magical place, because you can go there and kill an hour even if you absolutely need nothing at all. You can grab some coffee at Starbucks and then just peruse the aisles in a leisurely fashion and no one will think you're weird. In fact, on any given weekday every Target in America is full of mothers with their children. And I used to think they were just shopping, but now I know the secret truth! None of us moms in there NEED anything. We just had to get out of our houses and see other adults or we would lose our ever loving minds! I typically leave with some baby item and maybe a candle or magazine. And of course wine if I don't have any at home.
4:15: Back home, and this is when things get dicey. By now the baby is really tired because she hasn't slept enough during the day. It's way too early for bedtime, too soon for another bottle. She's not in a jumparoo mood. And it is STILL not time for wine. We are out of options folks. And so begins our frantic keep the baby from losing her shit dance that we will perform for the next 2 hours. It's sort of like the movie Speed where Sandra Bullock has to keep that bus above 50mph or a bomb will go off. Only in this scenario I'm Sandra Bullock, the baby is the bus (or perhaps the bomb?). Anyway my point is unless I keep things moving we're all going to explode. We might try another walk. There's always the trusty let the baby destroy a magazine trick (only this inevitably leads to issues when she gets tired of ripping the pages and instead wants to eat them).
5:00: I've made it!!! No it's not bed time, but it is the next best thing. It's WINE TIME. It's also dinner for the baby which keeps her happy for at least 10 minutes. Usually a veggie purree. (Or kale mixed with apples, because that still counts as a veggie right?). I ask Alexa to play us a tune in the kitchen. When I ask her to pour me a glass of wine, I get only silence in return (one day our robot masters will have this ability). After the baby is finished, I let her play with an orange again or tupperware or wooden serving spoons. Everything is violently tossed on the floor (babies are super violent right? thank goodness they are tiny and lack fine motor coordination or we'd all be screwed!).
5:15: Attempt some more play time. Sometimes we'll get a few minutes, but usually things devolve fairly quickly.
5:30: Bath time. Ahh. This is when I know I've made it. Combined with the calming effects of the wine, bath time is soothing for both of us. Ryland loves her baths. Mama loves that Ryland is happy and content to sit in the bath for a while. We all take a deep breath. Only problem is that Ryland has learned how to splash with her feet and so whatever I am wearing (as well as our kitchen floor) will be drenched in a matter of minutes. It's kind of like sitting in the splash zone at Sea World and the baby is a tiny shamu.
5:45: Pajamas! More changing table playtime with an empty tube of butt paste (endlessly fascinating to an 8 month old). Also now we're all relaxed and happy from our bath that we might even have some more happy solo play time.
6:00: Bottle time! And, this is a fairly new development, after she finishes her bottle most days she'll snuggle! It's the best. I sound like a total weirdo, because I usually say something along the lines of "mama needs her snuggles!" right before she rests her head on my shoulder, but I don't care. Mama really does need her snuggles.
6:15: Stories and bedtime routine. Also the best.
6:30: We have made it to bedtime people! The bus did not explode. We are all okay, and we even did it without Keanua Reeves.
6:45: Ravenously down my dinner and lay back in the chair with my full concentration now on Vanderpump Rules (because everyone knows that Vanderpump Rules is a show that requires your full and total attention, it is basically Game of Thrones set in LA)
Okay so there you go. Now granted this is one of our "long" days, when the baby is cranky/going through a Wonder Week and doesn't nap. We've been in the thick of days like this for a couple of weeks now, so it's hard to remember our "easy" days, but they do exist and will hopefully return soon. And even in this cranky phase, I wouldn't trade days like this for my pre-Ryland days, not even for a second. The times she smiles and giggles and rests her little head on my shoudler, the moments she looks around at the world in wonder, all of those things outweigh the fussing and the short naps by about a million to one.
And of course, the wine helps too ;) Also they make babies cute for a reason.
I'm a thirty-something mom of two, wife, pediatric RN, and writer with a passion for all the big and little things in life.