Michelle Martin

Counting to one

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In a few days, Teresa will turn one year old. It will take a little time, but her age — defined first in hours, then days and weeks and months, will be counted in years.

The baby phase of her life will start to draw to a close as she begins to walk and talk and find new ways to establish her autonomy.

When she was born, I said that one thing that was different this time around was that when people said, “It goes so fast,” I really understood. I did, of course. It seems like only yesterday that Caroline was the one having a first birthday.

But really, this first year went so fast. If I close my eyes, I can still see the newborn curled against my shoulder, looking out on the world and keeping any thoughts to herself. Then I open my eyes and see the soon-to-be toddler, hair curling over her ears, teeth peeking out, eagerly reaching for whatever she can grab.

Now she wants to stand on her own two feet, even if she can’t quite let go and walk away just yet. She laughs at Frank when he bounces up and down and talks nonsense to her. She knows that her big brother and sister will liberate her from her playpen while I make dinner if only she can catch their eyes and give the beginning of a sob — a sob that was not there until she saw a chance to get picked up.

Maybe it seemed faster with Teresa because our family life in general has sped up. When Frank was born, Caroline was not yet in preschool, and once she started, it was a simple matter to walk her there in the morning and pick her up in the afternoon.

Now, with 12- and 10-year-old siblings, Tess is familiar not only with school drop-offs and pick-ups, but also sports and drama practices, playdates, errands. She doesn’t seem to mind riding in the car, but she doesn’t like waiting unless she can get out and we wait outside.

Morning naps — when the big kids are in school — are usually consistent and long, but afternoon naps are catch-ascatch- can. Somehow, she copes.

That might be the defining characteristic of being a third child: She has to cope with everyone else. So far, she does it beautifully. I wonder what she will be like when she gets to the age Frank and Caroline are now; by that time, both of her older siblings will likely be in college, and possibly out of the house much of the time.

She’s a good baby, Tony always says. And I say yes, she is, and it’s a good thing, because she doesn’t know how to be anything else. But that will change soon enough.

Happy birthday.