2016. It sounds so space age, and yet here you are, just a notch above zero, with your whole life ahead of you. By the time you can read this, maybe the hoverboard will be a real thing. Or maybe it’ll be a real thing in about 30 years… when you invent it.
Time flies, girl. Last Christmas, they stuffed all eight and a half pounds of you into a stocking and placed you in my arms for the first time. This Christmas, you hung your own stocking. Then promptly yanked it down. Babies.
We had a great first year together, didn’t we? All last spring, we went to mama ‘n baby bootcamp where you were the kid that never cried and I was the mom who almost keeled over pushing a stroller up Leslie Street. Sometimes I wished you would cry so I’d have an excuse to stop doing burpees. I got callouses on my hands on the way back down Leslie Street with the stroller. I swear, I’ve never held onto anything so tight my whole life.
You love music. We kick it old school with the lullabies. Our song is Eternal Flame by The Bangles. (One of the first all-female rock bands — you will love them.) I’ve been singing that song to you since you were born. Your brother can sing it word for word. Now that you’re walking, I think it might be time to Walk Like An Egyptian.
Your current favourite is The Mummer’s Song. There’s a bulb on the Christmas tree that plays it – a gift from Nanny Murphy, because you’ve got hers worn out. You clap to the music and bob your head up and down. You’re quite the dancer. Hear the subtlest beat and you break out in a spontaneous groove session. Your signature moves are the mini squat and the double arm flap. Poppy Jim had the same moves. Thanks for reminding me of him.
We live just a couple minutes from Nan and Pop Murphy now. Pretty awesome, right? You’re going to be spending a lot of time with them now that I’m back to work. Please keep the diaper blowouts to a minimum so they won’t rescind on their offer to babysit you. Just last week Poppy said how thrilled he was that he would get to experience all your joy and not somebody else. We are going to bake him some date squares (his favourite) this week. Well, let’s face it – I’m going to bake them while you hurl all the Tupperware out of the cupboard.
Your new room is pink. I’m not painting it anytime soon, so go ahead and love pink if you want. It’s cool. But I really want you to know that you can like whatever colours you want, and play with whatever you want (you know, except matches and knives.) Remember — half the dinosaurs were girls! Everything is for everybody, kid. Don’t let them tell you any different.
You won’t remember your old house, but you had pretty green wallpaper on your bedroom, and the floor creaked when we crept in to check on you, and the sunlight poured in in a dreamy way, and there were ponies down the street, and when we’d hike on the Gallows Cove Trail you’d fall asleep in the carrier and miss all the natural beauty but I got to see twice as much with you, beautiful you, in my view.
Yes. It’s time for the part where I say how lovely you are. You’re a feminist, obviously, so one day you’re going to be mad that I mentioned how you look at all. (You’re also going to resent the fact that your first movie at the theatre was Magic Mike 2. Sawry.) Go ahead and get mad. I’ll be proud that you did. People are going to tell you you’re pretty or plain or skinny or fat or this or that your whole life, and I hope with all my might that your wisdom about that comes early: none of it matters, not one little bit. Just last week when the new Stars Wars movie came out, Carrie Fisher (who played Princess Leia) said, “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments.” Listen to smart, strong women like that, will you? It will help you navigate the
Oh, and by the way, Star Wars named their new hero after you. They spelled it differently to be sneaky, but we know what they’re up to. I guess your next Halloween costume is figured out. If you’d rather be Strawberry Shortcake, that’s okay too.
For the record only, here’s how you look at one year old: Your hair is a honey brown colour, like golden sugar. It’s getting long, so we have to brush it to the side to keep it out of your eyes. It’s straight, surprisingly; when Max was your age, he looked like the white Lionel Richie.
You’re in the 95th percentile for size: 26 pounds and 30 inches tall. Your cheeks and thighs are chubby and squishy and I hope they stay that way forever, and I hope you don’t care very much if they do.
Your eyes are dark mocha, beneath long, sweeping lashes and those distinguished Murphy brows. Combined with full, bow-shaped lips, you often look super serious, like you’re thinking about all the things that don’t make sense in the world. Which is a lot of things. When you grow up, you’re going to change some of those things. I will help you.
Sometimes when we’re driving, I glance in the rearview mirror to see if you’re okay back there, and you’re staring out the car window looking pensive and concerned. Watching the trees whizz by. Taking in the world. This is one of my favourite things to look at: you, thinking, wondering, learning.
That serious look complements your pointing habit. You’re always pointing. You’re a pointing junkie! When we’re at a restaurant, you turn to a stranger nearby and point right at his eye, like you’re picking him out of a line-up. “That’s your guy. He stole the microfilm.” Then you pass him your sippy cup. Truce.
You point because you’re curious and smart. You know where your nose is, and your ears, eyes, mouth, hair, tongue, and toes. We ask you where your tongue is and you stick that sucker out all the way to Florida. You also know where the vacuum plug-in goes. (Um, could you un-know that, please?) You can woof like a puppy dog and baa like a sheep. You like to say “baby” a lot. A couple nights ago, you woke up every hour and shouted “bayyyyyy-bee.” Which was 51 per cent annoying, and 49 per cent cute. It went something like this:
Other than my emotions, your favourite thing to play with is water. You practically climb into the bathtub headfirst as I undress you. Let’s go swimming more in your second year on Earth, okay? Let’s try and stay awake though. Last time you went swimming, you fell asleep in the pool while sucking your thumb.
You don’t have a favourite toy yet. You got a new kitchen for Christmas but you’re still trying to figure out what all the round things are (they’re plates.) You play with your brother’s trains. You hug your dolly and say “awwww.” You do the same thing to the remote control. Your love knows no bounds.
Especially your love for Mommy. As soon as you’re in my arms, you put your thumb in your mouth and snuggle in. Sometimes, when you see me approaching to pick you up, you stick your thumb in and lean your head toward me, assuming the cuddle position before we even touch. You make a low humming sound when you’re finally resting on my collarbone. The sound of contentment. Of coming home. I know the day will come when you don’t do this anymore, so I made this paragraph extra long and detailed, to preserve it real good.
When you’re not staring down a suspect, you’re a happy tot. Last week, Nanny Shirley put you down in your crib and started to sing you to sleep. Without thinking, she softly sang, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” and up you popped, clapping them chubby paws. That story cracks me up. Your good humour makes up for the fact that you are the worst sleeper in the universe. Yay/Yawn.
When it’s naptime, you wave to the birdies on the wall as we carry you up the stairs. I knew it was a good idea to hang that picture there. “Bah,” you say. “Bah.” Which means either bye-bye, or birdies, or both. Or maybe it just means, “Bah, I don’t need no nap. You fools think I’m going to sleep – bah!”
When other moms tell me their baby sleeps for 14 hours straight, I shoot lasers at them with my eyes. (Just kidding, I’m happy for them, envy is bad.) You usually go to sleep in your own bed, but almost always wake up in ours. I don’t mind. I especially love it when you kick me in the face. And when you turn sideways between Dad and I, rendering our king-size bed a Lilliputian cot. And when you snore like a chainsaw. (Sometimes I can’t tell who’s doing the snoring – you, Daddy, or the dog – so I give all three of you a poke). And when I abruptly wake up at the very moment when you’re about to lunge headfirst off the side of the bed and I suffer a mild coronary. And when I wake up at 5am to find you sitting between us holding my iPhone and laughing, with Siri saying “I don’t understand.” Co-sleeping is a riot.
That laugh though. Oh my. It’s like you’re reading “ha ha” right off the page. We laugh, you laugh more, we all laugh our heads off and all is right with the world.
Your smile slays me too. You tip your head back a little, scrunch up your nose and show your teeth – two little ones on the bottom, four uneven ones on top. Who needs a full set of teeth anyway? You were chewing top sirloin months ago. Your schoolyard nickname shall be Tough Gums.
You love your groceries, especially bananas, carrots, peppers, and green peas. (Let’s face it, I could have put ice cream and cake on that list but I’m trying to look good here and it’s the grandparents’ fault you even know what these things are.) You’ve yet to turn up your nose to anything. Splash waits eagerly under your highchair, but the castoffs are scarce. Which is not really fair, since you’re always mooching off her rations. I’ve scooped Holistic Choice dog food out of your mouth at least a couple dozen times. Yesterday, I caught you facedown in the water dish having a nice drink for yourself. Me nerves.
You love your fur sister, and your human brother. Max makes you laugh more than anyone else. “I make her laugh the best and smile the most,” he says. Hopefully he’ll continue to entertain you for free, now that you’re on the move and crushing his Legos like Baby Godzilla. You don’t crawl anymore at all. It’s all walking now, all the time. Cousin Norah says you walk like you’re riding a horse. Giddy-up, world, here comes Rae.
You are a busy little bugger. The only way for me to cook or wash the dishes is to give you free reign of the Tupperware cupboard. I carry the food from the fridge to the counter to the stove like I’m running an obstacle course in Munchkin City.
It’s hilarious how you sling things out of boxes and drawers. You throw each thing over your shoulder with a swift flick without even looking where it went, then move on to the next item immediately. Packing up to move in the fall was challenging. As fast as I’d pack a box, you’d unpack it. It was 49 per cent annoying, and 51 per cent cute.
Your clothes are mostly hand-me-downs from your friends, Maddy and Sadie. We’re saving our money for medical school. Or art school. Whatever, you decide.
You don’t have much interest in TV, despite my efforts to plop you down in front of Sesame Street with a cracker so I can go poop. Probably because I binge-watched a dozen series on Netflix when you were an infant and thanks to my violent sobbing during Call the Midwife you now think the TV is just a big shiny box of tears.
You love books though. You turn the pages like a boss. You don’t wait for me to read a page before you’re turning to the next. We don’t make it to the end of one book before you’re pushing a different one in my face. I hope you love to run and dance and sing and swim and paint and build, but above all these things I hope you love to read. Maybe in 2016 we can slow down and point to the pictures.
Your brother’s first word was “stay,” because the dog, then a puppy, never stayed still. Splash is eight years old now (56 in dog years) and way more chill, so your first word was “dada.” I’m okay with this. Dada’s a good guy. In fact, right this second you’re looking out the window while Max skates on the mini ice rink Daddy made in the backyard. Next year, you’ll have skates too.
We’ve been breastfeeding for a whole year – high fives, partner! Since I’m back to work there’s no boob juice flowing in the daytime, but you still have a couple good swigs at night. It’s funny now because you can easily tell me what you want. No matter where we are, you jam your hand down my top and squeeze, like I’m toting a couple of ripe oranges. Sometimes it hurts and makes me scream, but it’s hilarious so I endure. I’m going to write a new article about breastfeeding (I wrote one when Max was a baby, about how horrible it was.) You’ve changed my mind on a good many things.
You have a big year ahead, girl. You’re going to learn all about trees and birds and rocks on the trails of Mount Pearl. You’re going to touch your first caterpillar. (Touch, please, not eat.) We have sidewalks in our new neighbourhood, so you’re going to ride that tricycle like you stole it. We have new friends to meet, new playgrounds to climb, and new books to read. Your brother is quite the scribe these days so maybe he’ll even write a book for you! Let’s hope it’s a little lighter than his last book, which included a page that went: “At home with your wife pregnant.”
I’ve rearranged my priorities a bit for 2016, because of you. A fire has been lit under me these last couple of years when it comes to women’s issues, gender equality, social stuff. Especially now that I have a daughter. I talk about it a lot on my blog and in my articles, trying to make a difference in some small way; silence is for the grave and all that. But I realize the biggest impact I will have in this life is with you and your brother, and when I’m talking about these things to all these other people, I don’t have the time I need to talk to you. So in 2016, I won’t be writing for The Overcast anymore. My ad career and packing Max’s lunchbox are more than enough for me in the Commitments & Deadlines department. The rest of the time, I want to be playing and talking with you. That’s how I’ll change the world – through you and Max. And if there’s time to spare, I will write, and hopefully people will read. You will get the best of me. And I will see, fully, the best of you. You’re only one year old, little girl, but I already know there’s going to be a whole lot to see.
Happy first birthday, my glorious Rae.