This is my home-game entry this week for therealljidol. I am not competing this season but invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries and the other home-game entries. This week's topic is "Cracks."
Ever since he opened his eyes and got his first glimpse of the world, our little Kung Fu Panda has wanted to see more. He was frustrated in his early days, when he was confined to lying on his back or stomach. An "activity gym" helped amuse him, a mat with toys suspended over him on two arches. As soon as he learned to creep along the floor, however, he was not satisfied with the soft confines of the floor mat. Instead, he trucked along -- backwards at first, and then forwards -- stretching his hands out like feelers while he sought something to grab.
He's been building his leg muscles for months. At just a few weeks old, he enjoyed being supported upright, his feet on a lap, a mattress, or the floor. He would bounce up and down, proud of his supported standing skill. His coordination has grown, as well as his upper body strength, and we weren't a bit surprised when suddenly, just before eight months old, he began pulling himself up on our furniture.
Whenever he's learning a new skill, KFP does what we call his Baby Workouts. He'll practice the new skill for hours, taking breaks for diapers and feedings, until he either gets frustrated and starts crying or tires himself out. At three months old, it was creeping. He would creep around the floor, making grunting noises. Then, at about five months, he was popping up on all fours, rocking back and forth in preparation for crawling. He crawled for his first time on Christmas Eve.
Today, he is working on movement and balance, in preparation for standing unsupported. Considering that he does not yet walk, he is amazingly mobile. He's even learned how to get around the broken footrest of the recliner that used to trip him and make him cry.
Lately, I have to admit, I've been the one crying. You see, my newly mobile explorer is undeterred when something fascinates him. That's fine when it's a toy, but if it's, say, the tray table I've been using during the day to house the laptop downstairs, nothing short of a fire-breathing dragon could keep him away from it. And the dragon would probably only make him want to explore more.
The past couple of weeks were particularly difficult, because he had one cold after another. He was in good spirits for most of the day, but he cried every time he tried to sleep, because lying down made the congestion worse. This cut down on my nap time, as well. Plus, I couldn't leave a sick child at the Child Watch service at the YMCA, and we were essentially quarantined inside our home in mostly frigid weather, except for grocery runs.
Whether I was at the laptop or not, he kept coming back to the table. I'd come back from getting some water in the kitchen and find him holding onto it, wobbling as he threatened to pull it over on himself. When I was trying to answer questions for the LJ Idol Work Room, he would grab the tray table and shake it. No matter how many times I moved him safely away and gave him a toy to occupy him, no matter how many baby playtime breaks I took with him, he would not be deterred. I even pulled out the decoy keyboard a friend had given me, so that he could bang on the keys. Nothing worked.
When I did give him what he wanted, scooping him into my lap, he rewarded me by pulling me in for a wet baby kiss -- by grabbing my hair. When I pried his fingers off, he'd grab my glasses. I swear he was determined to break them so that Mama would have to get a new look.
Proud as I am of his development, I found myself longing for the days when he'd curl up against my chest and sleep like a newborn panda. And somewhere in the second week of quarantine, sleep-deprived and stir crazy, I began to lose it.
The smallest thing began to upset me, and soon it built to anger. I raised my voice at him, even called him a brat. Once, I plopped him down in his crib with a couple of toys and told him, "Cry all you want; I don't care." I tuned it out by taking a shower while trying to cool down. Another time, when he wouldn't lie down for a nap because the cat, Luke, kept sauntering by just out of reach, I told him, nonsensically, "Stop looking at things!"
My mother says that KFP is a lot like I was when I was a baby. She says I was very active, always working on practicing my new skills, always babbling away. Once, when I was having a rough week, I asked her if I'd ever made her want to tear her hair out. She said that no, she'd just been entranced by everything I did.
But I know this isn't true, because I remember a couple rare instances in my childhood, before Mom decided that spanking was against her moral code, when she smacked me hard on the bottom. I never understood why she did it; I only knew that at such moments she changed from the mom I loved to a scary, angry Monster Mom, all flashing eyes and punishing hand. She never smacked my butt more than once an instance, but the impact was severe. As an adult, I told her how she'd seemed to me at such moments, and she told me she was glad she'd stopped spanking us. She couldn't stand the idea of me seeing her that way.
And once, this past week, after I had raised my voice at him, growling deeply in anger, I saw something I never again want to see in KFP's eyes when he looks at me: fear.
This morning, we went to the YMCA, since KFP is pretty much over his second cold. I have to admit, I was secretly glad for the opportunity to leave him with someone else for an hour. Even though The Gryphon takes care of him at night while I'm working, I'm still aware of every cry, every hiccup.
Bouncing away to the music in the Zumba class, I felt the stress melting away. For a brief moment, nothing existed except the music and the movement. And then, a white light flashed in the doorway, and a piercing noise penetrated the room. A fire alarm. I grabbed my water, my bag, and my coat and raced downstairs to Child Watch. "You're not supposed to run," I told myself, but nothing mattered more to me than getting to my baby.
When I flung open the door to Child Watch, he was crying bitterly as one of the staff held him to her chest. I opened my arms. Cradling him to me, I kissed away his tears, grabbed his coat and diaper bag, and rushed us out the door. "Mama's here," I told him. "Mama's here."
No matter how crazy he can make me, I love that sweet little panda.