On the week Jesse just turned nine months old, Dada got to spend the weekend alone with him. With Mama on a well-deserved friends trip, I was given the opportunity to have quality time with my son, which proved more challenging and fulfilling than I could have imagined.
I was looking forward to the time with him, as I had in the past – just him and me, doing baby stuff like reading Pout Pout Fish and going “blub, bluuub, bluuuuuuub” over and over again, looking at the photograph of the Icelandic waterfall (Dettifoss) and going “Cheeoo, cheeoo” (If you haven’t noticed yet, Jesse loves silly sounds.), and feeding him home-cooked poached eggs with spinach and gruyere.
That was all before he turned nine months old, and while these activities were still on the agenda for the weekend, so was crawling. Jesse chose the weekend when Mama (and the grandparents) was gone to really be on the move, and as a first-time parent, I found it petrifying. I let him explore, watching him every single moment except for one, when I took five seconds to glance at my phone and send a text message. That was enough for his tiny fingers to get stuck in a drawer and for his father to question what the heck to do for the next two days.
I’m sure you veteran parents have lots of advice, some of which are kind-hearted (“I’m sure you’re doing an amazing job to keep him safe!”), other more practical (“Be sure you don’t have long curtains, which can cause strangulation instantaneously!”), and some most certainly smug (“You new dads warm my heart. You don’t know what’s coming. Good luck to ya!). Well, I’m new at this, and can’t see how you pros do it yet. What happens when he’s running around? How do I stop him from banging into stuff? What if a heavy object falls off a table and hits him on the head? Oh, baby proof my house, huh? Well, what about taking him anywhere else?
Luckily, Jesse’s fingers were only caught for a brief moment and they were totally fine (though he wouldn’t stop chewing on the ice pack I put on his hand), but these feelings of dread never went away, as I let him do what I knew he wanted: go off and explore his surroundings. I nearly begged my friend who has two kids to stop by and lend a hand (and bring me a bagel), but he and his wife were preoccupied with trying to bake cookies for their three year old while their fifteen month old baby threw every object he could find down the stairs. So it was just Jesse and me for the rest of the weekend.
Without any further catastrophes, we ate dinner (well, he did – oatmeal with pear sauce), bathed, and said good night to the map of the world. I let him crawl to his bookshelf on his own, and in typical Jesse fashion, he removed every book and threw them on the floor. I sat with him, waiting for him to finish playing so we could read Goodnight Moon like we did every night, when he picked up Click Clack Moo instead. He opened the book himself and put it on his lap, so I started reading it to him by pointing to the pictures of the animals and making animal noises. He smiled every time I accentuated “mooooo!” and kept opening the book back up after I finished reading it, so I just kept on reading.
Finally, he put the book down, so I put him on my lap and fed him his bottle. He drank the whole thing, looking me directly in the eyes the whole time. I burped him on my shoulder and he looked at me and giggled, finding the proximity of our faces quite hilarious. When I put on his sleep sack and placed him back on my lap, he made a sound (high-pitched and pointed) I never heard before, but I understood what he meant completely: “I don’t want to go to sleep just yet.” I nodded my head and instead of putting him straight in the crib, I rocked him back and forth, singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” He laughed a little when I began to sing the familiar tune, and moved his lips to my cheek and kissed it (for the first time). Then he squirmed in my arms before slowly falling asleep, but not before adjusting his head slightly so his chubby cheek leaned against my shoulder. I paused for a minute or two before putting him down, feeling the weight of him in my arms, his small breathing body a part of mine.