- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003

The Little Viking just celebrated his first birthday. Yes, it has been a year since doctors and nurses allowed two first-time parents, foolishly we thought then, to leave the hospital with a 2-day-old.

What a year it’s been, so full of sleepless nights, diaper changes, lessons in child rearing and, of course, limitless love.

But first things first: the party. The Little Viking and about 65 friends and neighbors, including a dozen toddlers, celebrated with barbecue and cake.

The weather gods neglected our request for sunshine and warm temperatures, and instead we received gray skies and a cool 60 degrees, much like the little guy’s first days in the world, a year ago.

But there are big differences between now and then. In one year, our little guy has grown by 11 inches and almost 16 pounds. He used to sleep, cry and eat all day and night. Now he leafs through books, eats by himself and is mobile, having taken his very first independent steps just hours after his birthday party.

To a nonparent, this may seem about as astonishing as sunshine on a hot summer day. But to a first-time parent, those first steps and the rest of all this development are literally and symbolically “giant leaps.”

After the guests left, cleanup was done and our little guy, who had had a very loud meltdown in the middle of partying (apparently too many people and not enough naps) was asleep, my husband and I sat down with the Baby’s First Year book. As we glanced through it, the richness and the “giant leaps” of this past year became even more apparent.

A few months ago, it was a big deal for our little guy to lie on his tummy and lift his head. Then came rolling over from tummy to back, a huge step.

Then came pulling up on things, and in the meantime, teeth were popping up left and right — he now has eight teeth and is working on his molars.

Then came the solid foods and eating by himself. Eating with a spoon, which he has not yet perfected, to our 90-pound dog’s delight, and drinking from a cup followed.

We added play groups and interacting with other children (which now consists of pulling hair and grabbing toys) to his schedule a few months ago, about the same time that the “dada” and “mama” started. He recently added a new word, “nana,” which refers to his favorite food, banana.

At around 9 months, he crawled, and a few weeks ago, he started drinking cow’s milk. The books warned us that some children have a difficult time going from nursing to solid foods and ultimately drinking cow’s milk from a sippy cup. Not the Little Viking. The only food he doesn’t like is broccoli. He and the senior George Bush.

The Little Viking also has become quite the traveler, having taken several road trips in his first year, one to Atlanta and one to Providence, R.I., as well as a flight to Houston. With the help of Squeaky Duck, Clifford the Big Red Dog books, DVDs, silly parents (who were willing to act ridiculously in front of other adults to entertain their little one) Cheerios and juice, he did better than expected each time.

The Little Viking is not the only member of our family who has acquired new skills, developed emotionally and grown wiser this year.

Our dog, Loke, who initially didn’t care much for children, has become a gentler creature who accepts poking and prodding fingers. Loke is exceedingly patient and loving toward the Little Viking, especially now that our 1-year-old eats by himself and feeds Loke his scraps.

Loke also has learned to share his “park time” with our son. It used to be that for 30 or 45 minutes every morning and every evening, Loke got long walks and played with his canine friends in the park. Now he has to share with the Little Viking — which he does well, if a little reluctantly — the walks, the park time, us and our affection.

We, the parents, also have learned a bunch even at this advanced age. We have become, we hope, better time managers (we’ve gone from one-hour planning and preparation for outings to about 20 minutes) and are a little less inclined to “sweat the small stuff.”

There was a time, 10 months ago to be precise, when, if the Little Viking showed the slightest signs of a cold, I would be on the phone with the doctor immediately: “He’s stuffy. Will he stop breathing?”

The Little Viking’s doctor, fortunately a calm, collected and patient man, answered, “Just keep a humidifier in his room.”

Another time, the Little Viking’s face was covered with erythema toxicum (infant acne), which also worried us intensely. Again our doctor assured us the little guy would be fine. And he is. So fine. The loveliest 1-year-old in the world.

What a great treat it is to be a parent. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding. We’re constantly drained of energy but full of caring and affection. While probably taking a few years off our lives, the Little Viking constantly brings us loads of laughter and love.

Gabriella Boston is a features writer for The Washington Times. She and her husband welcomed their “Little Viking” in May 2002. Send e-mail to [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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