One Year Old

Ellie — You’re almost a year old now, and your grandfather and I will be coming to help you celebrate. If you’re anything like your mother at the same age, you’ll smear icing all over your face and fall asleep with your head in the ice cream. First birthdays are mostly for parents and their friends and other family members to whoop it up — and not for the honoree herself.

Your mother in 1983. See what I mean?

Your mother in 1983. See what I mean?

One year old! It’s amazing to think of how much you’ve changed in that short time. You were an adorable newborn — but let’s be honest: Newborns don’t do very much. You ate, you cried, you slept, you repeated it all.

In the months that followed, you’ve learned to hold your head up, smile, vocalize, sit, cram food in your mouth, pull yourself up to standing, grasp objects and throw them down, laugh, move to music. Reportedly, babies work harder in their first year than at any other time of their lives. There’s just so much to learn and do.

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A year! It’s 100% of your life, so it must have passed slowly for you.

It’s a very different set of circumstances for your other grandparents and me, though. A single year, which is just a small fraction of our lives, passes quickly — almost unnervingly so.

The four of us grandparents have all been working and traveling and reading and being engaged with the world and other people. But it’s a different time of life for all of us. At our age, we don’t change nearly as dramatically as you do — and we don’t want to change as dramatically. Dramatic changes are usually bad news at this point in life, and we’re trying to hold on to what we have.

Here you are with the four of us, a few months ago.

Here you are with the four of us, a few months ago.

But maybe that’s why there’s such a great bond between grandparents and grandchildren: We are at such different times in our lives that we can see one another more clearly. Unlike your parents, we don’t have daily responsibility for you and we don’t have the great responsibility of bringing you up. Instead, we can gawk at photos of you and play videos of you over and over. And we can spoil you, just a little bit, without feeling too guilty about it.

Anyway, we can’t wait to help you celebrate your first birthday, my dearest Ellie. Please remind your parents I prefer a corner piece of the cake so I can get as much icing as possible. See you then, my sweet girl. Love you, Coco

(Copyright 2016 by Ruth Pennebaker)


  1. Brette Sember · July 27, 2016

    I always thought the first birthday should be a party for the parents — you made it, you survived it, you kept that baby alive, and you didn’t collapse from lack of sleep.

  2. Alexandra · July 27, 2016

    That lack of responsibility and the way it allows grandparents to create a special bond with a grandchild. So wonderful!

  3. Kerry Dexter · July 27, 2016

    “We are at such different times in our lives that we can see one another more clearly.” Fine insight well said, Ruth. I’m with you on those corner pieces of cake, too 🙂 .

  4. Roxanne · July 27, 2016

    1st birthday already? Wow.