Even though she was usually home for "my" days, this gave me more time with him on my own than I'd had in the past, and I feel like I now have a much better sense of him as a person. Things like "snack" I'd usually been happy to cede to her on weekends during the school year, for example. It especially meant that I would go places with him and without her more often: library storytime, "learn and play" hosted by the children's museum, Publix, or just to a playground to use the swings.
There's also more to him than there was at the beginning of the summer, physically, mentally, and emotionally. He's a hefty twenty-five pounds; having taken his first few consecutive steps in early June (at the age of ten months), he is now a fearless and accomplished walker. He makes sounds that might be words (he definitely has a sound for the cat, which is something like "da"; Hayley gets him to say "quack" when playing with his rubber ducks, and both his grandmothers think he says "book").
More exciting is that he obviously understands us more and more. He quickly picked up "no," shaking his head back and forth whenever we said it. But he also shakes his head "no" even when you don't say it but do mean it: when you restrain his arm to stop him from grabbing the cat food bowl, or when you say something like, "don't do that" or "be careful." Sometimes he even does it when I just say his name, which I guess indicates how often I say his name in an admonishing tone. He also anticipates it-- he'll reach a hand out for the cat food bowl, look up at you, and then shake his head "no" before you even say something.
He understands other things we say, though. We've been reading to him since month one, but he's really into books now. He'll grab books off a shelf in the living room, walk over to you, and thrust them into your lap; I recently figured out that I could say "go get a book" and he would do it. He can listen to me read five books in a row and not get tired. He clearly has his favorites, some of which I enjoy reading (Monsters Love Colors is always fun) and some of which I dread (Star Trek: Little Redshirt's Book of Doom is inexplicably bad but apparently always appealing). Recently he's been climbing into a doll chair we have in the living room; he tries to stand in it, but if you say, "sit down," he (sometimes) immediately does as he's told.
A personality is emerging. A little shy at first around new places and people, but fearless when he settles in. He loves water. The splashpad at one of the local playgrounds is a never-ending source of delight, as is the "water table" that my thoughtful wife suggested we get him as a first birthday present. He cries if you leave him alone, but often he is happy to just play on his own while you are nearby, periodically interacting with you in some way.
At the beginning of the summer, sleep was becoming an issue. He had basically two ways to go to sleep: being breastfed in our bed, or movement. Movement could be holding him while you walked around (this was getting challenging at 25 pounds, though), a baby swing (weight limit: 25 pounds), the car seat, or a walk in his stroller. This meant that while Hayley's ability to put him to sleep was pretty good, my options were sometimes limited, which meant it was difficult to leave me alone with him for an entire day. There was a period where every day one or the other of us took him on a walk in the stroller for his morning nap. Let me tell you, even at 9:30am, walking outside in Florida in June/July is little fun, but I got a lot of audiobooks and podcasts in.
We embarked on "sleep training" using the "Ferber method"; it had some rough spots, but by the end of the summer, he could go to sleep on his own in his crib in his own room pretty smoothly. For night, we do clean-up as a family (he initially found this fun but is beginning to figure out it means his toys are gone), then Hayley dresses him and nurses, then I brush his teeth and read him Goodnight Moon before placing him in the crib. For naps, we do clean-up, then he nurses, and one of us reads him Sandra Boynton's Going to Bed Book. Usually the nursing is breastfeeding even on days where I am primary, but I can do it with a cup of milk.
It actually went great. There were some tricky naps, but pink noise always did the trick in a pinch, and we had a lot of fun: the Glazer Children's Museum on Monday (his actual birthday; his party had been the previous Saturday), a trip to Publix on Tuesday, the playground and splashpad on Wednesday, and Campbell's Dairyland (our local ice cream utopia) and the pediatrician on Thursday. The Children's Museum is a hugely fun place, even at his age: he spent lots of time in a fake barn running around with a plastic egg in each hand, and I guess that's what counts. I did discover that he could be a little mean-- four times he took or attempted to take a toy from another kid. (One time the kid was bigger than him, and shoved him; he didn't seem to mind!)
He even did great at the pediatrician; I remember on those early visits he would cry after his shots all the way home, and then still more at home. This time he was done crying by the time we were out the door!
At home we entertained ourselves with birthday presents, old favorite toys, and a never-ending stream of books. I have to say, it was nice, and helpful. During the school year it was sometimes easy to feel disconnected from him-- I'd get home, we'd eat dinner, and he'd go to bed. But spending the summer with him and spending days alone with him has definitely sharpened my relationship with him.
But fifteen minutes before Hayley got home Thursday night, my week of solo parenting ended in disaster.
But when I picked him up to comfort him, I saw blood on his face. A lot. There was a little cut (almost a gash?) in his lower lip. I think he must have hit the windowsill near that end of the couch.
I tried to calm him down and stop the bleeding while I waited for Hayley. Since I knew she would be home in fifteen minutes, it seemed premature to rush off somewhere by myself. Trying to read what to do about a mouth cut on my phone and actually doing it at the same time proved difficult, not aided by the fact that he wouldn't let me hold anything in place on his bleeding lip as he screamed and cried. (Though, when I temporarily put him down and stood up to get an icepack, he stopped crying to grab my phone off the floor and excitedly chase the cat, only to resume crying once I picked him up and tried to actually apply the icepack.)
Hayley soon made it home, and soothed him while I called our pediatrician, who said to go to the ER.
By the time we got there, the bleeding was over and he was actually in a great mood. He ran around in circles in the waiting room of the pediatric ER, and seemed particularly excited when he discovered that if he ran at the sliding door, it would open automatically.
The pediatric doctor at the ER ended up recommending stitches. I think that was the moment where it hit me the hardest. I know these things happen (I got my first stitches, also in my lip, at age 2), but man it is tough to look at your kid and think that this is happening to them and maybe if you had been a little more diligent, a little more careful, it wouldn't have had to.
We stayed through the whole thing. They shot some stuff into his nose to make him more... pliable, I guess? It made him think everything was funny. Then numbing stuff in his lip, and then the nurse practitioner sewed it up with five stitches. I had never actually watched someone get stitched before; it is kind of weird to see someone just start sewing parts of a person. The first couple made me flinch, but I got used to watching surprisingly quick.
A popsicle to make sure he was okay, and we were out of there. Surprisingly, the whole visit was just over two hours.
I think he will have a scar now. It felt like it was a pretty big chunk, but it doesn't look like one now. I am taking him to the plastic surgeon (!) for a follow-up soon (or will have done so by the time you read this); I also have to take him to the pediatric dentist to make sure no damage was done to his teeth.
You might think he would have learned something from this experience, but he is of course as fearless as ever.