This morning I ran a shower while Anika was blissfully playing with her stuffed sloth, as close to a lovey as Anika has and the one she’ll pull around with her at daycare and drag by the hand through the house. She blubbered to her sloth as she toured the kitchen and living room, bouncing back and forth between spaces as much as she can in our tiny house. I turned the water on and waited for it to warm up.
As soon as I began undressing, Anika wandered in, arms outstretched and making little uh-uh noises that I know mean “up” even though she can’t seem to get that word out yet, or any word for that matter. I quickly finished undressing and jumped in, hoping her attention would be captured by something else, by whatever it was that she was searching for or talking to just moments before. Instead, Anika watched me shower. She stood opening the curtain, scrunched her eyes as the water droplets hit her face, and tried so so earnestly to share her sloth with me, who ended up getting just as clean as me.
My attempts to sing to distract Anika sort of worked. She squat-danced her way around the little bathroom as I finished lathering and rinsing, but as soon as she caught sight of my boobs it was all over. She chased me out of the shower as I insisted “just a second!” while I toweled off and put on pajama bottoms before nursing for one or two seconds, at which point Anika realized that she actually didn’t want milk after all. She just had to have a bite since it was sitting out.
Anika is all over me these days. Grabbing my hair, pinching my elbow skin, poking and prodding. On top of me and bouncing up and down, or under me and crawling through my legs. She wants me with her while she shows me a leaf, or while I show her how to stack a block. She cries when I leave the room, then cries to be picked up, then squirms and squiggles until I put her back down again. She is go-go-go until I’m not there, then everything stops.
Sometimes I look at Anika and wonder how I ended up with a one-year-old. Really wonder – where did that quirk of the brow come from? Learning to climb everything? Learning to stick a fork into her sippy cup then feed herself with it – where did that come from?
I’ve realized that sometimes throughout the day my emotions fluctuate as much as that of this little toddler’s. Screaming and crying and kicking as I try to change her – something she asked for with sign language then proceeds to fight tooth and nail – I suddenly want to cry. Then she stops dead, smiles at me, and I am suddenly giggling and singing to her.
It’s funny that raising a child is an experience so unique and so universal. It feels trite to write about her needing me constantly, or how I feel time is passing so quickly and so slowly all at once. I’ve read those stories and heard the lines between moms at the playground like they’re a script, but that doesn’t make them any less real as I live this year being with and caring for and catering to this tiny human.