I know that 12 months is the big mile stone for most parents, but for me 15 months is the one I keep thinking about. I started full time nannying my little godson at 15 months, and I’ve been counting the weeks until my own son is that old.
Five years ago, I left grad school on a quest to get healthy and be a writer. I had taken a leave of absence the previous fall semester, to let me test out this decision. By Thanksgiving it felt right. So I found myself at the start of 2012 out of grad school and embarking on a crazy elimination diet hoping that was going to be what helped me stop feeling sick all the time. (Spoiler alert, it was.)
Two weeks into January I was getting ready to head home from church when a woman that I knew, but not that well, stopped me to ask if now that I wasn’t in graduate school, I might be willing to watch their son Corin. To complete this picture, you need to know that Ellen was, at the time, holding a squirming 15 month Corin upside down.
I mumbled something about how I lived really far away from them (we lived up in Maryland and they lived down in DC, 45 minutes away by car in really good traffic and getting there by metro in morning rush hour would make it more like 2 hours), and she said she knew that. I said something about thinking about it.
As Evan and I got in the car to drive the 45 minutes home (Sunday nights were good traffic) I told him about the conversation, but I didn’t really consider it because I wasn’t going to commute 3 or 4 hours a day into DC to watch a little boy, even if he was exceptionally cute. But as I was telling Evan, I realized that Rob worked about 10 minutes away from us. (This was super unusual, 90% of our church lived and worked in DC.) Maybe, I told Evan, maybe they meant that Corin would come up with Rob to our place in Maryland.
So I emailed them that night and said that I could watch Corin at our apartment. They hadn’t actually thought of that, but they were open to it. And a week later we were in business.
I remember Corin so clearly those first few weeks. How small and round he was—blond hair and brown eyes—serious and alert. (I do have pictures of him, but as he isn’t my child, I am not at liberty to share them. But trust me, he was adorable.)
It’s amazing to find myself five years later, back, as winter stretches into spring, with a blond-hair brown-eyed 15-month-old in my charge.
They are different of course. Corin was a really confident walker then, had a handful of words and animal sounds, and was firmly attached to a lovely stuffed polar bear named Berwynn. Jackson still relies on crawling to get somewhere fast, he loves to babble babble babble, but has very few “real” words, and he loves toys to pound and toss more than cuddle. But Jackson does give hugs—no arms, just turns his head and leans into your chest and waits for you to say “awe” and then grins.
There are a lot of similarities between the two boys as well: Love of bananas. Love of throwing said bananas on the floor. Lack of any indication of recognition of the displeasure he sees on your face about how the bananas on the floor is related to him and his choices about throwing them there. Love of putting small things random places—I find toys in the breadbox, toys in the cabinet, under the shelf, under the couch—they even have the same hiding places with some of our same things.
Rob and Ellen saved a lot of the cutest outfits from Corin over the years and have sent them to us so that Jackson at times is in the same firetruck t-shirt, the same blue pants, and the same stroller that five years before his godbrother was in. On our walks, Jackson has the same fascination with dogs and trucks, squirrels and other babies that Corin had (and probably every 15-month-old has). I wonder if this is one of the amazing parts of having more than one child, getting to see them pass through the same stages.
I find myself sometimes wishing that little 15-month-old Corin from 2012 and little 15 month Jackson in 2017 could meet, and play with the same toys, and hide them and find them and be delighted with one another. Instead, of course, Jackson has a lovely older godbrother who sends him clothes and toys and loves when Meme and Mr. Evan and “baby Jackson” visit.
I remember being pregnant and feeling so comforted by the idea of having a boy because it would be like caring for Corin. I could picture spending my days with a little tow head going to parks, and reading books, and taking baths, and getting ready for bed, and cuddling a sleepy boy as he woke up, and being a present witness to the sorrows and triumphs of little boy life.
And now, I feel myself relaxing into parenting as Jackson becomes a toddler. I’ve been here before; I know what this is like, which is funny because I don’t know if it’s easier at all really, just different from the itty-bitty baby stage.
I’m finding myself more and more grateful for Rob and Ellen’s trust in me, realizing that I was significantly less worthy of it then than I knew. What did I know about caring for a toddler? I feel like I was given the best gift in getting to care for Corin, in spending my days with him, learning to trust and love and then (get this!) getting a full night sleep and days off from care giving.
Mostly I think that I learned that my staying calm and consistent will work things out. Corin stopped throwing his bananas on the floor, and Jackson will as well. Corin learned to run and talk and love to read books and pray and love broccoli. And Jackson will too, in his own time and in his own way, I need to love him now when all he wants is to turn the pages but not to listen to the story much.
I think that I am a much better mom because Corin’s family let me into their lives and let me care for their son. Right before Corin turned two we got asked to be his godparents. And I love how that offer wove our families together, formalizing the bond that we had over love of little Corin, and how five years later that would mean that Jackson was born into a bigger family than just the 3 of us here in Milwaukee.
Happy 15 months sweet Jackson!
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