My daughter, Gabby, has a friend whose mother watches a baby who is exactly two weeks older than Alice. She actually does more than "watch" the baby--I can't figure out the situation, but for some reason she has the baby in her home for weeks at a time. And then she won't for a weekend or so, and then the baby is back. She is not blood related to this baby, I don't think. So, yeah, it is a tricky situation. At any rate, there's this baby and it is the same age as my youngest daughter. 13 months and change.
Because Gabby and her friend are involved in the same after school activities, Alice and I are around this baby quite a bit. And it is striking how different the two kids are. Alice is friendly and loving, always close to me and a bit clingy. She smiles easily at others, and is always happy to wave "bye bye" and talk to others, but appreciates knowing that I am near her at all times. The other baby is very social and independant, perfectly content to be toted around by the cadre of 11 year olds that surround her. She contends with being passed from kid to kid and doesn't complain. She strays far from her guardian and is pretty unflappable. It is even more striking how different looking they are. Alice is big and soft, with a peach fuzz head and pale, creamy skin. I think she has LOADS of hair, since both of my other kids were even more bald than she, but others remark on her "baldness". She frequently rocks the Pebbles look after a nap. The other baby is small and wiry with a halo of blonde curls. In short, Alice looks like she could eat her. In one gulp.
Tonight we went for cheerleading pictures. I brought Alice along in her stroller with her favorite books, Moo Baa La La La (which Matt and I have effectively memorized at this point) and The Belly Button Book (which explains her nickname--Bee Bo). She was wearing elastic waist pink corduroys (over a Swaddlebees dotted diaper), an orange long-sleeved tee shirt with a pink sparkly bunny on the front, pink socks, and purple Robeez with pink flowers on them. On top she had a blue hoodie with a rainbow on it that Sam got her for her birthday. Very colorful, and just very...kid like. I like a kid in colors, you know? Because when you get older you can't exactly rock the pink and orange. At any rate, we show up. The other baby is there and is wearing jeans with rhinestone embellishments, a sparkly waffle henley style shirt, a green fur vest and pink patent leather cowboy boots. The boots were full on boots, ya'll, with a little heel and everything. Hard soles, it goes without saying. This baby, not afraid of walking in any circumstance, comes right over to us, carrying her bottle, one of those cheapie Gerber things. It is filled with orange Kool-Aid. Alice sits timidly in the stroller and then warms up, waving at everyone and holding out her book to get a willing reader. She has started this thing where she wants to look at one book while you read her the other one. And then you switch. I get Alice out of the stroller so that she can sit in the floor comfortably. She sits right with me and looks at her book.
I begin talking to Gabby's friend's mom, who watches the other baby. She is a very nice lady. She is telling me that the baby will only drink Kool-Aid and watered down 7-Up. She asks me what Alice likes to drink and I just tell her water and watered down juice, but mostly water. She asks me when I will give her soda. I want to say "NEVER" (both of my other two ended up getting it through my mother-in-law for the first time, not through me), but I just smile and say "Someday." She also tells me about the baby's mom who pops up every now and then and brings her clothes, including lacy dresses and more boots. She tells me about giving the baby spoiled formula by mistake and asks me how long that stuff can be out of the fridge before it curdles (I tell her that I don't know). She complains a bit about the baby not sleeping well, and how she has to let her "cry it out" every night because she doesn't want her to get spoiled.
And I sit there, and think about my Alice. Alice sleeps with me. It started out not by choice, but has now come to be something that works for all of us. I can see how it wouldn't work for many families. But it does for us. Alice is breastfed. She stopped drinking from a bottle abruptly at 1, as she no longer has milk when I'm not with her. She nurses in the morning, once in the afternoon when I get home, and at night. And as much as I am into fashion, I am all about comfort for my kids. I mean, I want them to look nice, but there's a limit, you know?
I say all this, knowing it makes me sound like some sort of elitist parent, that whole "My child has never had a chicken nugget in her life!" kinda thing. I'm not that at all. I'll be glad to sit you down and tell you all the things I've done wrong with my kids, including Alice. For instance, I'm not even going to front: I adore the scent of that cheapie Johnson and Johnson lavender sleep baby stuff. LOVE IT. And I have bathed Alice in a few times when she was teething and I was desperate (and then I proceeded to use the rest of the bottle myself!). I know that it can be bad for baby's skin, just plain bad for baby. But I did it. As parents, we all do these little things "just this once" when we are tired and done and whatever.
But at the risk of sounding elitist, I hate this idea that a lot of parents have that they can treat their kids like they are mini adults. If you like Kool-Aid, it is ok to give it to your kid. If you like boots, sure, slap em on your 1 year old. Don't cuddle that baby! You wouldn't do that to a 25 year old! I don't know. It seems like so many parents don't want babies--they want pliant adults in small clothing. Small clothing that looks just like theirs. And they want these small adults to do their own thing--get themselves to sleep, drink their own bottles, walk to their own tune. And it bothers me.
When we got in the car after pictures, Gabby says, "You know, Alice is bigger than [the other baby], but she's kind of like the "baby" baby. You know?" Yes, Gabby, I know. And I like it that way.