353/365: Play

IMG_2093The pack’n’play is back in our bedroom. There are newborn-sized diapers in the wicker basket and a drawer full of tiny, freshly-laundered snuggle suits. The only thing missing in our room is a packet of wipes, but I’ve learned my lesson there: the wipes are appearing only when the baby does.

Iris has gone through two packs of them, neatly pulling out each wipe one by one and laying them in a nice heap beside her. Occasionally, she will clap at her own cleverness in inventing such a brilliant game.

These are the times, I told Carl recently, when I feel smug about our decision not to buy a lot of expensive toys for Iris.

Obviously, we have also been the lucky inheritors of other people’s hand-me-down toys—the slide in our backyard, the play table that sings songs and lights up, the ball-popper and tiny play kitchen. And we do buy her things—enough toys to fill a chest and books to fill her shelf—so I’m not saying I’m the queen of minimalism here, but you know… we have also said no to a lot of things too. She has two dolls, not twenty. She has one set of plastic fruits and veggies for her fridge, not the fruits and veggie set plus the cupcake one and the ice cream cone one and the pizza one and the—dear God, when was the last time you walked down a toy aisle?? It’s insane.

The pack’n’play (also a hand-me-down) is her latest favorite toy ever. She is very hopeful that I will let her jump from the changing table attachment into the crib part someday, but even without that pinnacle of joy she’s pretty stoked about it. She likes to get in the crib part with all the bed pillows and her stuffed animals and then dance around. Extra points for getting some gauzy scarves and waving them in the air.

During less energetic times, she just goes through all the cubbies and looks at the baby things, unfolding burp clothes and trying to squeeze out the lotions. When she had a cold months ago we used to rub her chest with the baby Vick’s before bed, and she still thinks that all lotions go on bellies. She will bring me lotion tubes and hold up her shirt helpfully. And, to be fair to her continuing interest, I usually just say “thank you, Baby,” and squeeze out a tiny dab for her.

Life is short. I mostly say yes.

I am curious to know everything about our new little man too. One of my favorite things about parenthood so far has been not only the opportunity but the intense need to observe everything about these little people. It’s part of falling in love, I suppose, and while I have mostly learned to curb my urge to share random facts about Carl (all of which are endlessly fascinating to me personally), it’s harder to be socially appropriate about one’s children. I don’t think the love is deeper. It’s just different. It’s apples and oranges. And after reading about how attuned our brains are to change, I wonder if part of it’s simply that babies change so quickly. There are SO MANY small preferences and skills and stages to notice, and if enjoyment (to say nothing of love) begins with noticing, then that makes for a lot of things to love and enjoy.

Our personalities and tastes evolve so much slower as adults that it’s only when I look at pictures or consciously think back that I realize all the little ways that Carl and I are not quite the same people we were when we started dating six years ago. But at eighteen months, I am texting Carl almost every afternoon about Iris’s latest and greatest accomplishments. A lot can happen in 8 hours when you’re paying attention.

And if this last year or two has been about anything in particular (and that is possibly an optimistic phrase), it’s been about learning to pay attention. That the richness and happiness of life can usually be found in the small moments we already have. There are so many things to be worried about if that’s your thing—health, safety, kids, parents, futures, choices, careers, coworkers, politics, governments, rights, relationships, regrets, and shortcomings. But there are a lot of things to be happy about too, and sometimes the best way to be just a little happier is to start paying a little more attention.

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