Alice turned 8 months old last week. Between months 7 and 8, drastic changes have been happening in Alice’s little (but expanding) world.
1. She is sleeping through the night without nursing–and I’m talking between 12-14 hours of uninterrupted sleep here, people (most nights = 13). She’s slept through the night before, like when she was 5 weeks old, every now and then throughout the winter; there was a period of about 2 weeks in March, etc., but it’s always been a phase. This time it’s for keeps. I think I motivated the change, because one night right after Memorial Day weekend when she woke up, instead of nursing her as I usually did, I sang to her and stroked her head. After that, she stopped waking up. I guess she realized it wasn’t worth it anymore if I wasn’t going to break out the goods anymore, heh heh.
2. I can now comfort her at night (if she does wake up) super quickly, with only a couple minutes of singing and head-stroking. As soon as she feels my touch on her fuzzy little head and hears the beginning of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” or “All to Jesus I Surrender,” she rolls right over, snuggles in and finds her thumb. My heart melts.
3. Her cry has become especially piteous and heart-wrenching. She says “babababa” and “mamama” as she cries, which just kills me. Ack! I can’t even hear it without wanting to rush in and wave my magic mother wand and make her better and happy forever.
4. She’s going gangbusters over solids.
She saw me eating pizza at work the other day and went wild. She wouldn’t calm down until I fed her an entire piece (chewed up by yours truly).
I love that she has an appetite. I love that she eats almost anything I put in front of her.
5. So close to crawling!
She’s up on all fours at the beginning of the scooting motion, but by the end her torso is back on the ground. I’m so excited for her to figure out the final pieces in this crawling business.
6. A sense of humor! Alice laughed for the first time many months ago (with her grandma Sara), but hasn’t exactly been laughing a mile a minute ever since. We call her our ‘tough customer.’ Getting a laugh out of that little bean takes some real dedication.
Smiles have always come easy, but that laugh has been a different story.
And then, all of a sudden, about two weeks ago, something happened. She started really laughing with ‘peek a boo’ for the first time (she’d chuckled before, but this laugh is the real deal). One night I imitated her emphatic little grunt, and when she realized I was copying her she thought this was the most hilarious thing ever, and proceeded to laugh uproariously. It is the absolute best sound you could imagine.
7. The meaning of “no.” It all started when my boss decided to remodel the office. Temporarily moved into a different space, Alice suddenly had to navigate an area that was criss-crossed with computer cables and phone cords–and I realized the time had come to teach her “no.”
At first I felt like I was fumbling somewhat. I knew I wanted to be clear and consistent, but I wasn’t always sure she understood what was happening, or if I knew what the best course of action was. But over the past month we’ve worked it out. I have felt God’s guidance in this process, which is such a comfort. Here’s what we’ve done and what I’ve learned so far.
Starting off, the process was simple: if she was approaching something dangerous or touched something she shouldn’t, I would get down on her level, right down on the floor with her, and say “no.” Then I would touch the object in question and say “this [blank] is no touch” while doing the baby sign that my sister taught me a few years ago.
(On a side note, the baby sign is useful, because now I can simply sign to Alice if–for example–I’m on the phone, and silently indicate what I want her to stay away from.)
I found it was really important to get down with her on my knees and show her exactly what I wanted her to stay away from by touching it myself. Sometimes there would be an area, which I would run over with my hands, saying something like, “this computer, this cord and this outlet are all no touch.” I wanted to be sure she understood exactly what I was talking about so that there were no grey areas.
Then, I would back away from the area. If she proceeded to touch, I would slap her hand and repeat “no touch!” And if she cried, I would comfort her and then set her down again in the same area. I didn’t want to distract her from the forbidden things–I wanted her to learn the lesson.
She’s learned so much that now sometimes all I have to do is say “Alice, no touch!” from across the room and Alice comes to attention. As of now, I don’t even say it harshly or even especially loudly–I want to give her the opportunity to obey gentle instruction. I don’t need to use an angry voice on the first command.
There are also certain things in the living room that by now she remembers she shouldn’t touch, like the guitar. And I’m learning to hold back with my reminders to her. I don’t want to give her a lot of warnings–I want her to learn to obey on her own, with minimal intervention from me. So when she approaches the guitar (as she does at least once a day), I hold back and don’t say anything. And most times, she will look at it for a while, and then scoot away to look at something else. By not interfering and anticipating that she might disobey, I hope to teach her that I trust her to make the right decision. When she doesn’t I will always follow through with correction, but correcting before the fact as a habit seems to be not only unproductive but dangerous, because it sends the message that I assume she’s going to disobey. Instead, I want to assume the best of her.
It’s interesting to watch her struggle with temptation. When I tell her “no touch,” especially with something new, I can usually watch as she considers her choice. She turns to me when I speak, then back to the newly forbidden object, and then back to me. I watch quietly and pray for her. The little fingers move, as if thinking “should I go there? should I not?” Sometimes the little hand will slowly advance. If she even brushes the object, I consider that disobedience and come over to slap her hand. But more and more, she obeys.
I’m so proud of my baby, and I pray that she will learn to love obedience. She only has to obey me for a short time, but I want her to obey God forever, and know the freedom that lies within His boundaries.
I know that the form and way in which discipline happens will change constantly as Alice gets older. I won’t be slapping her hand forever, and the guitar won’t be forbidden forever. But have a feeling that the heart of the matter will remain in many ways the same: I should always be praying for her. Assuming the best of her. Being consistent. Taking the time and energy for discipline even when it’s easier to turn a blind eye. I should always be gentle in my instruction. I should always point her to God. I should always make sure she is loved through the process.
May God help me! And I’m confident He will.
Okay, so there was much more about the discipline part than the pizza part, but thanks for stickin’ with me. Love you guys!