coming of age
Munchkin grew up a lot on our trip. Even S’s parents, who only traveled with us for two weeks, remarked how he had undergone several noticeable changes in the time that we spent exploring Croatia together. It was as if all our travel adventures had greatly broadened his worldview and stimulated his development.
We left Chisinau midway through Munchkin’s sixth month. We had just begun introducing solid foods — with rather tepid success. He did not seem particularly interested in the mashed purees S had concocted for his consumption and the boiled veggies we tried next wound up mostly on the floor, where Emmie happily licked them up. Also, although he was beginning to show signs of wanting to crawl, he still had not figured out how to get all of his limbs to act in concert to propel himself forward.
By the time we returned home, not only had the little man mastered the commando crawl — resembling a furtive soldier on a reconnaissance mission — but he also had developed a healthy appetite for adult food. S’s mom helped a great deal in this respect. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that feeding Munchkin three times a day was the highlight of the trip for her. Each morning, before breakfast, she would rub his gums for signs of his first tooth. He was still toothless when we parted ways, but D felt a razor-sharp incisor the very next morning, and Munchkin’s second tooth appeared not long thereafter.
What we’ll remember most is not the first tooth breaking through Munchkin’s gums, but rather the peels of laughter that broke his previously soundless smiles. Shortly before going on vacation we filmed a video of D blowing loudly on Munchkin’s belly, which caused his first guffaws. It seemed that he was still figuring out the feeling of it, his giggles sounding more like animal bleating than human laughter, but he caught on quickly. His laughter made playtime a lot more fun, but the best was when he would see us laughing and then join in, looking from one of us to another as if to show that he got it and was in on the joke.
Not all of Munchkin’s developmental breakthroughs were cause for celebration, however. In particular, we were less than thrilled to discover that he grew increasingly willful throughout our trip. If he was awake and not tired, he would resist being placed in his stroller. And car rides, which were once our magic bullet, became a trying experience. Sometimes he slept; if he was awake, however, he would complain about being confined. We had rented a car to drive around Slovenia for a week, and S spent most of those car rides sitting in the back seat, attempting to distract Munchkin with her renditions of various children’s songs. Her repertoire consisted of only about a dozen tunes, and there were nights that both of us had trouble falling asleep because the silly ditties kept playing on repeat in our brains long after Munchkin had gone down for the night.
Munchkin was still very much an infant when we left for Croatia. He returned on the verge of toddlerhood. Whereas before we only had to worry about satisfying his needs, now we also have his desires to contend with. The stakes have been raised.