That would be him.
That cute little guy with the engaging smile pictured above.
Hayden Patrick Rice, ten months old and 17 plus pounds, the most demanding of all our babies to date.
Of course, that description might be slightly skewed by our perception of "demanding" at this point in time. He was preceded in life by the world's least demanding baby (Lily) and that little fact might in fact have tricked us into thinking any baby actually crying for more than five minutes could be described as ...demanding.
We do, however, have nine other babies besides Lily to compare him to. It's just that our memory may have grown a little foggy over the years- we are, as we are told on a regular basis, older parents. During pregnancy this was referred to as my "advanced maternal age"...as if somewhere, a team of doctors coming up with politically correct medical terms decided that calling us old was just plain insulting.
Whatever the reason for our view of Hayden's temperament, there is no denying that he has one defining trait that stands above everything else : he needs us.
Like, I mean - reallllly needs us.
If we are playing a family game, enjoying our time together, laughing and talking and soaking up each other's company...Hayden needs us. He is not content to sit on the sidelines, playing with his baby toys quietly, while we carry on in our family fun. He wants to be in the thick of things, pulling pieces off the game board, crawling onto our laps and crying to be held, or simply just throwing his head back and yelling for attention... he needs us.
If we are enjoying breakfast, the children spread out around the bar, Mama cooking and serving, and Lily practicing sitting at the counter with everyone else...Hayden needs us. It's not enough that he is enthroned carefully and purposefully in his high chair, a bib around his neck, several toys within his reach, and a spoonful of yogurt coming his way every 30 seconds. He wants our eyes on him at all times, he wants airplane noises and heartfelt "yum-yums!" and twirling spoons and strobe lights and confetti falling while he eats ...he needs us.
Repeat the previous paragraph at lunch and dinner and dessert time. He needs us.
Any time we get in the car- whether that is a two minute trip to Winco or a seven minute trip to church or a fifty-five minute trip to see friends out of town...Hayden needs us. It doesn't matter that he is fed and changed and has every toy imaginable within his tiny reach, or that he is flanked on both sides with adoring siblings who try so desperately to entertain him with songs and silly faces and endless games of peek-a-boo. He arches his back and squeezes his eyes shut and SCREAMS from the moment he is gingerly placed in his carseat until that last agonizing minute at the end of our journey, and before the car has come to a complete stop, his brothers are desperately unbuckling him and shoosh-shoosh-shooshing his frantic cries... he needs us.
And bedtimes are a whole other chapter in this story of Hayden's first year... Hayden needs us. He could be in the deadest of dead sleeps, completely exhausted and bathed and changed and passed out cold in his little footsie jammies, visions of sugar plums long dancing in his tiny bald head. But just TRY to oh-so-slowly deposit that snoring little man into the co-sleeper, carefully and quietly moving as if one wrong step could ruin everything (because it will), making sure the sound machine is set to rain and patting his back just right ...slower... and slower... and slower... And within 0.5 seconds of walking away from that sweetly sleeping angel, he bolts up in bed, stares in horror and lets out a hideous howl that can only be compared to something out of a horror movie...he needs us.
Hayden has wanted to be held 24/7 from the moment he was born. In fact, during my pregnancy, when he was a squirming, restless little ball of mush in my tummy, the only thing that would settle him down at two in the morning many times, was the feel of my hand, rubbing his tiny foot from outside the womb. I could find it fairly easily during that last eternal trimester - it was lodged firmly under my rib cage, as if to say : hello, Mama - don't forget about me down here. I would gently massage that little appendage until the tidal wave in my tummy subsided, thankful that my little indweller was asleep for the night, and praying he would stay that way for just a few more hours.
And to this day he loves to have his feet rubbed to go to sleep. If a part of him isn't actually touching me through the night, he isn't content. He's graduated from the co-sleeper to my side of the bed now, and every morning finds my darling boy snuggled tightly up beside me, burrowing deeper into my side as the dawn approaches. It's as if some inner alarm clock is going off inside of him, the one that is set to "Mommy's Awake" ... and there is no snooze button with Hayden.
He needs me.
But lest you think I am worried in the least about the level of need expressed so clearly by my eleventh child... I want to share about another very needy little baby.
He was clingy, he was fussy, and he wanted to be held 24/7. He slept in our bed forever, he hated his carseat because it meant he wasn't being held, he sat on our laps instead of the highchair at restaurants, he was a mommy's boy, he was a daddy's boy, he was whiney and fussy and demanding, and sometimes it felt like he was going to be attached to my side forever. I remember our first family Christmas photo with this baby - he was sitting on our laps screaming his head off while we all laughed and smiled for the camera. Afterwards Sam said we should just go with that picture, because it perfectly captured our first year with Caleb.
Oh, did I say Caleb ??
The boy who now brings me my tea every morning, who planted our garden this year, who bakes donuts and cupcakes and apple turnovers, who makes wontons and tortilla soup and smoothies, who decorates baby shower cakes and birthday cakes like something from a professional bakery? The kid who fixes dishwashers and assembles furniture and organizes messy garages and can find ANYTHING in our house if it's missing and cleans out my disgusting refrigerator on a regular basis and does my grocery shopping and makes me breakfast in bed and is the only person who Lily allows to shampoo her hair (including me!) and who invents things and solves things and is one of the best big brothers on the planet ? And if we go out of town and leave the kids and we want someone to remember everything- we don't tell the oldest kids, we tell him ?
Yes, I did indeed say- Caleb.
My extremely demanding, overly fussy, ultra clingy baby, morphed into the most attentive, loving, capable and independent young man, and his name is Caleb Benjamin.
And he turns fourteen today, which means in ten more years he'll probably be a millionaire. He's just that kind of a kid- you know he's going great places.
Happy happy HAPPY 14th birthday to the second most needy child in the Rice family. If you're any indication of what great things we have to look forward to with Hayden, the future looks bright indeed.