By David Swanson
You are one today, March 29, 2007, Wesley Neil Swanson, and 365 days ago you had not yet seen the light of day. Now you love it. Now you wake up every morning with the sun and shout your delight at being alive. You make the hand sign for light, and then you hear a bird and flap your arms like a bird. And it breaks my heart to think that the world may not be or may not stay as delightful a place as you suppose it is.
And yet, for the moment anyway, within our house and yard and town anyway, you are exactly right. The cherry tree out front that bloomed the day you were born just bloomed again, along with the forsythia, the Bradford pear, the daffodils, and some of the pink dogwoods; and the song birds are all building nests as fast as they can hustle. What do nuclear proliferation, global warming, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, or children like you playing in Iran or Syria have to do with it? Well, you’ll read this later, Wes, and I think they do have something to do with it, which is why I’m sometimes sitting here at this computer and don’t get up when you rap on the glass door and give your best grin.
But your world is full now of frights and delights contained within the realm of your senses, and it’s a world that your mommy and I love nothing better than to explore with you. When you first came home, Wes, you were so tiny and fragile and strange that it scared me, and we loved you and worried about you 24-hours-a-day. You had to eat every two hours, and in between you mostly slept. You stayed in a little bassinette next to our bed, rather than far away in your room next door. The bassinette was your Aunt Cindy’s idea, and she was right. Her baby died in Iraq, and she told the whole world how that felt, which is why we need to accomplish something really big in the next 17 years: we need to put an end to war.
You got off to a slow start, Wes, and then caught up, and more, in your first month. Very quickly you were off the charts in height and weight, not to mention cuteness. Friends of your Gum and Gup asked them if your photo on the fridge was an advertisement; they didn’t think real babies were really that cute. But you are, Wes. You’re adorable, and a lot of it is because you smile all the time with that huge grin of yours, and your sparkly eyes. The color of your eyes may have come from me, but in everything else you look like your Mommy – which must be how you came to be so cute.
When you were still tiny, we always put you on your back to sleep and you always slept with your head to one side. As a result, your head got flat in one place. That’s why in recent months you’ve worn a helmet. Now we have to look very hard to see any trace of the flat spot, so you’ll stop wearing the helmet soon. But we love having it on you, Wes, because you’re so active. You barely crawled before you launched right into walking. Now you toddle all over like Charlie Chaplin, and we don’t worry because you’ve got your helmet. When we had it off once, you fell and cut your head, which scared us to death. But it’s healed now, and your walking is more and more steady. I’m sure you’ll still fall a few times, Wesley, after the helmet’s off for good, but please don’t!
Last night you went out to dinner with us, at a restaurant with tables outdoors at the Downtown Mall. You especially liked trying to drink water out of a normal glass. You’re such a big boy, but you don’t like sitting still and waiting for the food to come. So your Mommy and I take turns walking around with you. You don’t need to hold hands much anymore, but you still like to hurry over to us for a hug. And you like to climb steps and bang on lamp posts and get wet in fountains and licked by dogs. You like to get into everything, Wesley, and you think everything is good. That’s why we’re there to stop you before you fall off the steps you climbed or pick up a cigarette butt and eat it.
When it comes to eating, you love almost everything, and your favorite hand sign is “more!” You had your first ice cream just this week. It was gelato, vanilla, and you ate it with such pleasure and screamed in pain when the next spoonful didn’t arrive quickly enough. You may have inherited your Gramp’s gene for ice cream.
We used to carry you around in a pouch, Wes, or push you in a baby stroller. Now you love riding in a backpack, and yesterday we tried a plain-old piggyback ride, which you loved. You love being up high and seeing more. Your favorite activity is going somewhere new and examining every detail of the place. When you’re in a new place, you can’t focus on anything until you’ve slowly scanned the scene and observed everything about it. And the next time you go to that place, the process is much faster, because you remember it.
I shouldn’t say that’s your favorite activity. Your favorite activity is playing hide-and-seek or being tossed up in the air (or in the swimming pool, you love swimming). You love surprises. And you love the suspense of surprises that are arriving. When you’re in a swing and you swing forward toward us and we grab you, that’s delightful, but if we slowly say “I-m – – g-o-n-n-a — g-e-t — you!” and then grab you, it’s much better. You also clearly love music, and you clap your hands or wave them as you walk or bang one of them on something to the music. I think you’re right-handed, judging by the hand you use the most.
While you’d always prefer to look outside or – better – go outside, you also enjoy playing with toys, especially the ones where you stick balls or different shapes into holes and get them inside the toy and then dump them out again.
You also seem to very much love people. Only in recent days have you shown any sort of shyness, and it doesn’t usually last long. You’re fascinated by people, and some of them you grin at right away. Others it takes a little bit of time. And of course, most people love you. You’re so happy that it rubs off on them.
Your favorite time of the day, Wesley, is bath time, because you get to get wet and splash. But your least favorite time of the day is getting dressed. You don’t like people messing with you. You don’t want anybody taking your shirt off or putting it on, or doing anything else to you. The only way we can cut your finger nails without you screaming loud enough to wake the neighbors is to cut them while you’re drinking a bottle. Someday soon, though, you’ll be able to dress yourself – that’ll be interesting. And starting now, you get to drink milk instead of baby formula, and you get to sit forwards instead of backwards in the car. You’re growing up!
And someday soon you’re really going to be talking. Mostly now you say Ca and Da and Ma. Those mean cat and Daddy and Mommy. And Da also means duck. But your Mommy, who is so wonderful with you, is telling you the name of every object in sight; and of course we’ve read a ton of books with you, so you should get this talking thing down pretty shortly here, and then maybe I’ll have to come back and edit this when you tell me what you were really thinking.
And then I’ll tell you why I can’t play with you all the time and why we need to make some changes in this world if your children’s children are going to have as much fun with their children as you and I and your Mommy are having.