That baby 

17 09 2015

Tabitha, since birth (the new way of saying this might be “throughout the first year of her life”), has been known as “the good baby” at our house: she sleeps more, and more willingly than her sister did, eats all the things,  plays happily by herself or with her siblings, smiles and laughs a lot, flirts with us lovingly, and has mostly quit barfing on all the things: she’s a good baby!  But you know how there’s that cultural meme about being “that guy”? The guy who takes one bite out of the last piece of pizza and leaves the rest in the box, the guy who leaves his socks wherever he got tired of wearing them, even if it’s someone else’s house, the guy who says the obnoxious things you then have to spend the rest of the night trying to apologize for because you’re the one who brought him to the party–the guy who just makes more work for everyone around him and just doesn’t care?  That guy.

We never child-proofed our lives with Caleb or Evanny. We moved a few things out of reach (most of them are still there), said “no!” forcefully, to make an impression, about the occasional danger, and just generally taught them what was theirs to play with and what wasn’t (Evanny’s new thing with compulsively unrolling the toilet paper is just that–a new thing, singular, recently developed, in no way part of the pattern of wanton destruction comedy websites about children pass off as the inherent nature of the human toddler).

That baby, modeling puffed cheeks and a seed-dribble, after happily picking for herself and shoving into her gob a nightshade fruit--fortunately, of a deliberately cultivated tomato variety!

That baby, modeling puffed cheeks and a seed-dribble, after happily picking for herself and shoving into her gob a nightshade fruit–fortunately, of a deliberately cultivated tomato variety!

Tabitha, though, is showing some serious signs of how we might have to change our ways.  She’s not the first kid to take an interest in the spice cabinet, but she is the first I’ve found on the living room floor drawing trails in a 3-foot-radius powder-puddle of baking soda, as well as the first to pop open the cumin on the floor and shake the curry until the bag tore. She’s that baby. (For the record, when the curry-and-cumin stunts happened, that baby smelled divine!) She’s not the first to open the cabinets full of precariously wedged pots and bans, the ones with such useless, broken baby-locks on them that we might as well have not even bothered with, but she’s the one who opens them over and over and over, pinching her fingers in the doors, and is thus probably going to be the first to pull down a whole pile of cake pans and cookie sheets down onto her head.  She wasn’t the first to climb into a chair, but she was the first to try to use the back of the dining room chair as a ladder, which unsurprisingly resulted in a crashing down and said ladder pinning her wailing form to the floor: that baby.

That baby heads merrily down the concrete steps in her daily race to play in traffic.

That baby heads merrily down the concrete steps in her daily race to play in traffic.  (Note: this entire collection of demonstrative photographs was taken during one 15-minute window.)

She is the first to really do the tantrum thing: her sibling would be (are) overtaken in moments with yelling or stubborn refusal, but Tabitha is the one who lies back (at least, after the first few times, she learned not to drop her head back too) or flops dramatically onto her belly and kicks her feet in fury.  (Once, a month or two ago, while Evanny watched, bemused, from the shopping cart, she did it in the middle of the aisle at Wal-Mart, and as I stood there laughing at her, I realized that that baby had just made me into that mom.  Thanks, Tab.)  She’s also the first one who puts everything into her mouth: we fished one or two small or inappropriate objects out of Ev’s and Caleb’s mouths, but with Tabitha it’s an all-day occupation.  Rocks, crayons, pennies, bottle-caps, chalk, Lego blocks, pen caps, bits of paper (and if she gets hold of large pieces of paper, she wastes no time tearing off bits), the small pieces from any and all playsets, marbles, the broken plastic nubs on the bottom of the chair legs.  “Not food!” is the phrase my father uses most often in conversation with her.  And she thinks it’s funny: she’ll give him the widest, proudest grin before sticking the rock right back in there.  That baby.

With mud ground into her forehead from tumbling out of this swing, that baby climbs right back in to try it again.

With mud ground into her forehead from tumbling out of this swing, that baby climbs right back in to try it again.

All of our babies (probably all babies everywhere) put food in their hair: that baby points to the ketchup and then rubs her head to show you that that’s what she wants the stuff out of the fridge for.  All of our babies made some protest at bedtime: that baby shoves herself away from my boobs to stagger around on the floor, turns falling into downward dog into a faceplant and a few good kicks while she’s there, wails about the injustice of bedtime, but then wails seven times more loudly if I pick her up and try to rock her instead, pleading desperately to go back to the chair and nurse after all.  All babies have to sample the tempera paint once (I can clearly remember baby-Evanny’s look of betrayed horror at the bland stickiness in her mouth that wasn’t anywhere near as delicious as the pretty pink paint looked): that baby sticks her fingers straight into the jar and then her mouth as if it’s yogurt every time she gets near an open opportunity.

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That baby climbs into the splash pool fully clothed, during the 30 seconds it took Mummy to text Lola a cute picture of her eating raspberries.

And then there’s the actual danger that baby gets into.  Where her brother and sister were easily coach-able to be sensible about the road, flinching instinctively at Daddy or I dropping register and bringing out the Serious Parent Shout, and veering immediately back to the sidewalk, that baby will look over her shoulder, laugh at that too, and speed up, taking our concern as an invitation to play chase (Apparently “NO NO NO STOP!” sounds, in baby language, exactly like “You’re it!”).  Where they would lean too far over the edge of the tub, courting the danger of slipping and crashing headfirst in to the porcelain or out onto the tile, that baby swings her slippery, chunky little leg right up by her ear and goes for it, with no thought for whether or not I’m close enough to catch her.  Like her sister, she’ll climb anything she can reach at the playgrounds we visit, even those designed for leggy twelve-year-olds, with long steps and large gaps and high, high towers; unlike her sister, who would carefully, foot-by-foot, suss out her way down or yell for help (“tut”!), that baby walks up to the nearest gap when she’s tired of climbing, makes eye contact (but doesn’t wait for confirmation that I’m even close enough to be of any use), and jumps.

So far, touch wood, we’ve accrued only little bumps and scratches.  (So far, it hasn’t occurred to her to try climbing out of the crib!)  But it’s probably only a matter of time. After all, our friends with kids post ER-visit pictures fairly regularly–Tabba’s little boyfriend Merritt (he’s fine) pulled his high chair over on himself and went in for a checking-over just last night.  Our first two made it through babyhood without any such excitement, but the odds of getting a third through aren’t good even in general, and if anybody’s going to manage to survive something heartrending and spectacular but worthy of lots of get-well cards (and probably a cast), it’ll be that baby.  Fortunately, although the needs, wants, and gravity-limit testing of her sister makes it a challenge, keeping an eye on that baby–on this baby, this marvelous, wonderful, daring, world-embracing, instantly delighted, laugh-ready baby–is most times a privilege.  She’s work, this baby, but boy is she worth it.

This baby. (No scars yet @ 14 months)

This baby. (No scars yet @ 14 months, but she’s always scouting for opportunities!)

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