Monday, June 9, 2014

Ten Months, and Tootsie's Tips

Tootsie turned ten months amid a very busy time at home and at tournaments, preparations for 5th grade promotion (Big Sis's outfit and event planning...), sister and brother-in-law and baby cousin coming to town, end-of-year awards, campaigning and bond election, and graduation.  Meanwhile, she was busy tackling more developmental stages, as well as remaining her cute and smiley self.  I found myself having a good old cry at the passage of time (my baby growing less babyish inspiring tears on one hand; my spending time elsewhere as she keeps growing on the other).  But I did some healthy reflecting on the nostalgia around our children's inevitable development, and allude to epiphanies below in my graduation speech.

Here's the big "step" Tootsie took last month:

And, of course, such strides result in frequent bangs into furniture and bonkings of her head.  She otherwise crawls at warp speed toward the dog food, giggling mischievously en route, or finds tiny objects to put in her mouth to scare the bejeezus out of us.

Instead of the 'ooo' face of wonder she adopted as a tiny baby, she now makes a serious "ohhhhhh" sound and expression when she's truly captivated or curious about something--dogs, animals, and other babies in particular.  She loves her cousins.

Her favorite song is Pharrell's "Happy," which Big Sis sang at her choir concert last month.  Her favorite books are Hug, Hush Little Baby, and On the Night You Were Born (though she was born in the AM).  She likes the Hairy Maclary book, but only until the page with the scary cat, Scarface Claw.  Then she cries.  She doesn't like the Elmo character at Sea World either.

When her sisters ask her questions like, "Do you want to help me with my homework?" she shakes her head vigorously with big grins.  Her vocabulary includes "blah blah blah blah."

She loves to swim and take baths, and we've spent some good times with the cousins in Mammom's swimming pool.

As far as nursing goes, it's like breastfeeding an octopus or wrestler.  And she uses her free hand to pound me on the chest.

But she made an apt subject for my first commencement address as a high school principal.  Here are Tootsie's Tips:

Last summer I was a pregnant new principal who planned to start the school year and then take a little time off when our baby was born in September.  But next thing I knew, I was having my baby early, in the wrong state across the country, and we were in the hospital on your first day of school.  I wound up missing the fall semester of your senior year, and you can go ahead and blame it on the baby, Faera, or as she became known to many, Tootsie.  As school has come to a close, I’ve been thinking about some of the lessons Tootsie taught me this year, and I want to pass them along to you. 
 First, accept life’s vicissitudes.
 There’s a tendency, a normal and natural and wise tendency, to plan out your life.  And I suggest you do.  But this year I’ve had to recognize what parts of life are in and out of my control.  Tootsie has helped me accept that life is messy, unpredictable, scary, and mysterious, but also beautiful and surprising and serendipitous.  You may invest time, work, and hope, only to experience a disappointing outcome.  Practice facing the circumstances before you and renouncing regret for what couldn’t or cannot be.  Tootsie would endorse what your classmate Ines Cruz wrote so aptly in her Identity Project in art:  “I want to fearlessly go, and see what unfolds before me.  If I mess up, I want to know it’s okay; it’s part of the journey, part of the design of my life.” 
 Second:  Embrace the new and unfamiliar
During babies’ first months, every experience, every place is brand new.  I watch Tootsie wake up sometimes and I know she’s thinking where the heck am I now?  Here you sit before us, about to depart the familiar—your daily routine at home and at CHS with the people you know—for an adventure of the unexplored.  You’re going to cry about it sometimes—Tootsie does—but we don’t bail her out every time she wants to eject from a seemingly scary place.  Recognize that this is your mission:  to explore the new, and to exploit the opportunities that adventure brings. From Ines Cruz:  “I need to walk on warm sand, not on hot concrete, under stars, not street lamps, over miles and miles of new places with new people, not standing stagnant in place.” 
Third:  Make the most of where you are:
Tootsie only recently started to crawl.  She has spent most of her short life stuck where we put her—in her carseat, stroller, crib, or front pack.  But from flat on her back or sitting up she finds the world an amazing place and the people around her fascinating.  Ever been stuck in a long line and noticed the adults looking anywhere but at each other?  Babies seek out and gaze right at fellow humans with wonder.  They grin, coo, and engage with anyone who catches their eye, no matter who they are.  You, too, can make the most of where you are, and even make someone’s day, on planes, in traffic, at jury duty, in your dorm with assigned roommates: entertain yourself, enjoy the view, bring your best attitude.  Get to know the person next to you. 
This one is for the parents too:  Accept your own and others’ evolutions
I always wanted a third baby.  I love babies (almost as much as I love teenagers). But a baby is a growing person, and however much we want our babies to stay small and cute and cuddly, they grow and change.  Every day my Tootsie is a newer version of herself.  And so are you.  You haven’t discovered all of your own strengths, skills, and vulnerabilities.  Future experiences and relationships will bring out new facets of your self.  You don’t have to be whom you have always been or expected to be.  By next summer you may have adopted different interests and aspirations, hobbies and habits.  Be prepared to find your high school friends and family members have, too.  Let yourself and others shed dead skin and emerge anew.  Graduates, parents, friends:  pledge to reacquaint yourself with your loved ones in their present. 
 Just a few more tidbits from Tootsie: 
Dance, sing, laugh, or act goofy. Every day.
When you perceive an injustice, holler about it.

And finally, Tootsie has this look she gets on her face when she’s particularly proud of herself.  It’s okay to think you’re hot stuff, especially when you’re making a huge developmental leap.  So, high five, graduates; swagger on down that carpet.  You did it.  Congratulations.