I know everyone says this, but I can't believe how quickly Julia is growing up. Most of the time when I drop her off and pick her up from her caregiver's house she is sleeping, or cuddled into her caregiver's arms. It's easy to imagine that without me or Kristin there she remains that way -- passive, cuddly, sleeping, as if we are the force that animates her. Yet the other day I picked her up from daycare and I walked in and there she was, sitting on the couch playing with a toy. She was so intent on her toy -- examining it, shoving it in her mouth, pulling it out again and banging it on her head and then stopping to look at it from another angle -- that it took her a while to notice I was there. It threw me for a loop to come upon my little cuddly infant, sitting by herself and playing independently. And though I quickly realized that she was not exactly sitting by herself (she was safely secured and supported and her caregiver was sitting next to her, just interacting with another child at the moment) it also struck me that my child, my baby, my helpless darling has a life without me.
Don't mistake me. A sense of independence in children is something that I find very desirable. I want Julia to develop interests and activities and thoughts outside of mine and Kristin's. I want Julia to think and explore and live for herself. It's just I didn't expect it to begin so soon. She's only 3 months old. She can't even roll over yet. But there she was, here she is, beginning to grow in her own direction, manifesting as a unique individual, becoming a discrete entity. That moment I saw her separately from me or Kristin was as beautiful and miraculous and painful as her birth.
And this is just the beginning. This will happen over and over. And I'm sure that each time I will be proud and excited and sad and tiny bit frightened and maybe more than a little challenged.
Now I know how my parents must feel. So, that moment in A's living room was a liberating and an exploratory one for both Julia and me. I realized, in an almost physical way, that the process of letting go of her has already begun, while at the same time I began releasing the last of my own guilt for growing differently than what I felt my parents had planned for me. And as for Julia, well... I can't speak for her. She is learning to speak for herself. She's already begun.
Julia is so interested in communicating through words, she works at it constantly. In my experience, most babies are interested in noises, but Julia is primarily interested in noises that comprise spoken English. Chirp or whistle or buzz your lips at her and she couldn't care less. Talk to her, coo at her, babble at her and you've got her immediate attention and her own eager response. Now, unless there is something immediately physically wrong with her (sharp hunger, a dirty diaper, physical discomfort) rather than crying, she talks to us to get our attention. She hollers from her nursery when she's finished looking at her mobile. She asks us questions and waits for our response. She initiates conversations. Kristin and I usually start conversations with her with the word "hi". So, lately she's also been starting conversations with the word "hi". It is so damn cute to pick her up and have her say hi to greet us. Does she know what it means? My first thought is that she does not. But actually, "hi" doesn't really have much of a meaning besides as a word of greeting. A nonsense syllable that people say when first encountering one another, when initiating a conversation. In that case, she does seem to know what it means. That's certainly what she's using it for. Does this count as her first word? Does this mean she's begun talking in a recognizable manner at 3 months can I expect her to add "Mama" and "Mommy" and "Oliver" and "Oscar" and "Zoe" and "more" and "for God's sake, bring me the dictionary, woman, I need to look something up" in the next few months? Or am I just reading too much into it and the whole thing is coincidence only?