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Noticing changes in an infant

Cherishing time with 8-month-old Hazel

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Our little baby Hazel is 8 ½ months old, which is an important milestone: she’s been out as long as she was in. Her age is starting to show: while she used to curl up in her swing chair like a softball in a catcher’s mitt, now her feet hang off of it. According to the pediatrician, she’s in the 84th percentile for length! She’s not a tiny peanut anymore, but she’s still in the little bouncing baby stage; she smiles at people she recognizes, babbles like an Alpine brook in springtime, cries when something’s wrong, and shrieks with laughter when you look at her funny.

It seems like things are different every day, but a lot of the big developments — crawling, walking, talking — haven’t happened quite yet. We’ve been holding steady at this fun stage for a while, and now I wonder: can we just enjoy all the changes that are already here, and hold off on the big, impending milestones a little longer?

Here’s the kind of development we’ve seen recently: she started eating solid food. Well, it’s only sort of solid food. And she’s only sort of eating it. This is how a typical feeding goes:

Hazel is sitting in her little booster chair with the tray table in the “lock-down” position. She bounces and flails her arms and grins. Any attempts to bring food near her mouth are swatted down. Or up. Or, let’s just say, “all over the place.” Next, she vigorously smashes her ring of plastic keys against the tray table over and over and over and over again until she drops them on the floor. Then, she leans alarmingly far over the side of the chair, reaches a hand down, and stays like that until I retrieve the toy for her. This cycle is repeated three or four more times.

Finally, she sets her keys down on the tray and an expression of calm curiosity comes over her as she looks at the colorful puppets on the TV screen. This is my moment — she’s receptive to maybe two spoonfuls of blueberry baby yogurt. (Baby yogurt is just like adult yogurt, except it comes in smaller containers and costs twice as much.) A few seconds later, she looks down at the keys and remembers what she was doing before the miracle DVD distracted her. And then all bets are off again.

After 40 minutes of this, she has eaten half as much as she used to eat just a week ago.

“How about one more spoonful?” I ask, and she screams and tears off her bib like Hulk Hogan tearing off his shirt. Thus endeth the breakfast.

It’s a noteworthy development that our baby is capable of eating, but it’s not some watershed moment — the big difference is really that my wife and I are trying to stuff pureed fruit into her mouth.

Most of the other recent changes have been transitional and incremental as well — things aren’t boiling yet, but they are simmering with more and more intensity. Hazel rolled all the way over for the first time on July 4 (Independence Day — go figure!), and now she’s rolling back and forth all the time like it’s nothing. But she isn’t truly mobile. Not yet.

She’s also becoming more assertive, and this is evident in a number of ways. Her advanced length percentile, I should mention, equates to an equally advanced percentile for “grabbing stuff that Daddy thought was out of reach.” A few weeks ago, if I took away something that she wasn’t supposed to have (magazine, TV remote, steak knife) she would move on to something else. Now she cries and screams like she’s being tortured. Likewise, if I have the audacity to try to keep her lying on her back during a diaper change.

Which reminds me: somehow she keeps getting even louder. What decibel levels are left after “deafening” and “ear-shattering?”

On one hand, we can’t wait for what’s next. We’re so eager for her first word — to hear her little voice actually talking. On the other hand, her pre-language responses — those giant smiles and thrilled squeals of laughter when I make a silly face at her — are expressive in a way that’s pure and magical. (It’s amazing that without a firm understanding of normalcy, she can have such a solid grasp on absurdity — it looks like she’s taking after dad already!) Once she’s past that stage we may never see such unfiltered joy again.

All the parents I talk to — family, friends, complete strangers — tell me to cherish this time.

“It goes fast,” they tell me. I’ve come to recognize the look in their eyes and the tone in their voices — no matter how their kids have turned out, parents everywhere secretly wish they could return to that wonderful time with that happy, smiling baby. Naturally, parents want their babies to reach every milestone, and then to grow up and flourish as adults. But they also want them to stay exactly the way they are.

So to everyone giving us new parent advice: in this instance, at least, we’re listening. We’re still in the middle of this wonderful time, and we’re not missing a minute of it.

Tim Perrins is a part-time stay-at-home dad who lives with his wife and their brand-new tiny human in Park Slope, Brooklyn. More of his thoughts about babies and other things that confuse him can be found at www.RevoltOfTheImbeciles.blogspot.com.

Updated 5:21 pm, December 9, 2016
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