So the thing is... Jane is turning one year old.

Dear Jane,

Happy Birthday, little one! How exciting! It's a big birthday, especially for you because you are leaving your infancy behind at the same time and graduating into the next stage: toddlerhood. And it's a big day for ME, too, because you are my last baby and you are a baby no longer.

This year has gone so fast! It is probably the fastest I have seen time fly, as seems to be more true every year. But it seems like just a few days ago, I was leaving for the hospital with your dad and frankly, I was more concerned about your sister and her reaction to your arrival than I was about YOU. I didn't know you, see. Not yet.

And then there you were, miraculous and beautiful and such a definite little personality. I knew right away that everything about you was different from all the truths I thought I knew about babies. For one thing, you were MAD at everything connected with the caesarian and you yelled from the moment you emerged until I finally put you to my breast.

And then you nursed for about three months nonstop. I nursed you in the grocery check-out line, while having my hair cut, while supervising the big landscaping project in the back yard, while answering the door, while changing Anas diapers and once, when you were about three weeks old, while I was having my teeth cleaned. You were a good sport when I went mental and weaned you at six months, something I still ache over a little, even though every single person I talked to was loving and supportive. Now get on with your fine life with those children. Life that goes far beyond just getting them fed, wrote one of my readers, and she was right.

Because life with you really HAS gone far beyond our nursing relationship. It's been such a wonderful year --I can't remember or imagine life without you. You are such a joyous little roommate and so FUNNY! SO much your own person --it just cracks me up. Like the fact that you initiate a little Wave every few minutes and everyone in the house stops what he or she is doing to say SO BIG! Like when you hear water running and you head from the far corner of the house at a full-throttle crawl to make sure that no one DARE take a bath without you.

Thanks for your enthusiasm for everything remotely related to water, by the way. I can appreciate it, since every picture of me as a child before the age of, oh, twenty, shows me lying down in a puddle. I could, however, do with a little less yelling and fist pumping when I have to take you out of the tub or the pool or the dogs water dish. Here's the thing, Smiley, and I mean this in the kindest way, YOU CAN'T SWIM YET. I promise that we'll do a Mommy and Me swim class next year and as soon as you pass the lifeguard water safety test (which includes dragging my lifeless body from the water) I'll let you swim without interference.

A few things, Jane, about this past year. I'm really, REALLY sorry about the fall down the stairs. It was all my fault for leaving that gate open. Well, that and underestimating the lightening speed at which you detect an open gate on the stairs. (By the way, please stop standing in front of the closed gate and rattling the bars and HOWLING when someone upstairs runs water. It's frightening to our guests.) Anyway, thanks for forgiving me, (unlike your sister Ana who continues to ask me if you fell down the stairs due to my negligence.) And thanks for not needing to go to the emergency room because I'm not sure I could have driven right then.

I'm also sorry for the incessant cold/flu/ear infection cycle we've had since Ana started pre-school --I fear that you won't have the same great relationship that Ana has with Dr. Reidy (whom she called Dr. SEUSS when she started talking) because we've seen her so often for reasons other than having her diagnose you as perfect. You still ARE perfect, even if it turns out that your Eustachian tubes are a little on the short side. Oh, and I'm sorry about the whole Dimetapp thing. Had I known it would hype you up like a wind-up toy, I never would have given it to you! I'm sorry it took me so long to make the connection --I was a little sleep-deprived.

Speaking of that, Jane, we need to talk very seriously about sleep. Don't take this as criticism or anything but it's been 365 straight nights for me without a good night's sleep. I know it's not your job to make sure I get enough sleep but Jane, I'm a better mom when I am rested. I really am. So, if you could do your part to actually sleep through the night, I'll do my part to get used to it so that I don't wake up at three in the morning with my heart in my mouth, afraid that you've stopped breathing since I haven't heard from you. And Jane, if you learn to sleep a little more soundly, I'll actually come and check on you before I go to bed, just like I've done for your sister every night of her life, practically. I always seem to wake you up so Im afraid to do more than just listen at your door. Not waking you up is somewhere above BREATHING on my list of Really Important Things.

One more thing about this year, Jane: I'm sorry about that damn pacifier. I'm really, REALLY sorry about it right now since this is the time when most doctors recommend I take it away from you. I appreciate how great you've been about only getting to have it in the crib for the past six months or so. The truth, Tiny, is that I can't stand seeing you with a pacifier stuck in your lovely mouth. I know, I know, it's a total double standard since your sister sucks her thumb and that doesn't bother me at all, but the pacifier has to go. I will start putting money aside now for your therapy sessions when you are an adult and find yourself orally fixated. It will probably equal your sister's orthodontics bill.

Another thing that has to come to an end now is the bottle. I'm supposed to take you off formula now and start you on whole milk. This frightens me as much as it does you since you have only two teeth (well, that second one is almost through) and since I can never remember to feed you breakfast, lunch AND dinner in the same day. Perhaps if I had managed to feed you solid food before you started pantomiming eating while smacking your lips, we'd have a good track record of getting you your most important nutrients from solids. On the other hand, if you hadn't wiggled out of your restraints in the high chair and STOOD UP ON THE SEAT, I might feel a little more enthusiasm about the whole meal experience. Please forgive your dad for using one of his belts as an added restraint --he was only looking out for his already huge medical bills and having your little head sewn up is not in our budget. (But thanks for not telling him that I sometimes sit on the floor and feed you little bits of food like a puppy.)

Anyway, happy birthday. You've taught me so much, Smiley Jane --and I dont just mean wrestling techniques to be used while trying to get a diaper or shoes on you (it goes without saying that I would rather try to put shoes on the CAT.) The truth is, I am rather humbled by the wisdom that you brought into the world with you. You've taught me about the power of infectious laughter; about the disarming effects of a genuine smile. You taught me that an easy-going demeanor sometimes hides a steely determination that will not be denied --you are the most focused and fearless child I can even imagine.

And you taught me so much about love, Tiny Jane. I think I learned what it felt like to LOVE unconditionally when your sister was born. But you! You taught me what it feels like to BE LOVED that way! Thanks for applauding when I walk into the room. Thanks for coming as fast as you can travel when you hear my voice. Thank you for putting your little head on my shoulder and smiling at the rest of the world. You just make my heart sing.

Happy Birthday, dear Smiley One. I cant wait to see what you do to the cake!

Love, Mom

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(c) Barbara Cooper 2001




Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (3.5) and Jane (ONE YEAR on Thursday!!). She lives in Austin, Texas and can often be seen in public places doing the Wave. "So BIG!"