It has now been a week since my child, Cordelia Krizsan Vogel, was born. She is now the personification of infant charm and beauty. And her head doesn’t have that lumpy, fucked-up pear shape anymore.
She also has skills. Today, at the doctor’s office, to everyone’s amazement, she rolled over on her own. Many babies can’t do that until they’re two months old. And, every night, she can stay awake from midnight until 8 AM. I couldn’t do that until college.
How Evolution Fucks Up My Life
Our child spends several hours in the middle of the night screaming. Every night. I do not say this because it is in any way exceptional. It isn’t. I just mention it for purposes of background.
Now that I have a kid and talk to parents about it, I find that EVERYONE’S kid does this. Why didn’t anyone tell me? What was the big secret? And when I saw my friends’ kids, why were they so quiet and adorable? And why is my kid only adorable when other people are around so that they go “Oh, what an adorable child.”” and it’s hard not to say “Want her? She’s priced to move.”
Why is that?
At first I thought it was because she’s just a little suck-up. I suspected she would end up the sort of kid who reminds teacher that she forgot to give homework.
Then I realized that it must be evolution. It makes sense. Babies being quiet when non-parents are around has two obvious selective advantages:
i. It makes people who haven’t bred yet think that babies are actually (snicker) cute and (chuckle) nice, fooling them into breeding themselves. Thus the genome is spread. Suckers.
ii. In caveman days, when we were much less restrained than we are now, it was a good idea to be quiet around a stranger, since, if you were noisy and annoying, it made it that much more likely that that particular stranger would squish you with a rock.
The squeaky wheel gets greased.
Who Gets My Things When I Die?
Before Cordelia was born, my wife and I wrote a will. This is an amusing activity, and is highly recommended for everyone.
When you write your will, you get to play the “Who gets your kid?” game. Here’s how it works. The lawyer says “Who gets your kid when you die?” and you think hard and come up with an answer. Then the lawyer asks “Who gets your kid if they die?” And you answer. Then the lawyer asks “Who gets your kid if THEY die?” And you repeat this process until there is nobody left you can even bear the thought of giving your child to and you have to spend ten minutes wincing and pondering how your child’s life would be spent with your funny uncle who believes that all of the body’s ailments can be cured with magnets.
Eventually, after 15 minutes of the game, I asked “Look. Can’t I just say, if it gets to this point, that all of my child’s possessions will be stripped away and she must roam the Earth, friendless and alone, righting wrongs and fighting injustice, like Caine in Kung Fu?”
It turns out, you can’t put the words “righting wrongs and fighting injustice” in your will.
Also, while filling out the will, I got to have this conversation:
Me: “What is this space for?”
Lawyer: “You can specify what happens with your body after you die.”
Me: “So I can choose ‘Buried’ or ‘Cremated’.”
Me: “Can I choose ’Boiled’?”
Lawyer: “Yes. But only if, afterwards, you are buried or cremated.”
I realized that this is not technically correct. There are other options. I could be buried at sea. Or I could be sold to that artists who soaks cadavers in hot liquid plastic until they are preserved as a statue. A shiny, sexy statue. Either would kick ass.
But I didn’t push the issue. If I have learned anything from my short time in this world, it is this: Don’t get on your lawyer’s shit list.
A Philosophical Aside
When deciding whether to have children, I spent some time agonizing about whether I wanted to do so for a bad reason. Now, in the thick of the fight, I see the truth. There are no bad reasons to have children.
For there to be bad reasons to have children, there have to be good reasons to have children, and I can see clearly now that there are no good reasons to have children.
Actually, that’s not quite right. I can think of a bad reason to have children. You shouldn’t have a child in order to dry it out and sell it as an aphrodisiac for Asian businessmen.
Short of that, though, it doesn’t matter much either way.
Books Never Did Anyone A Damn Bit of Good
It is a well known fact that reading is never good for anything for anyone for any reason. It’s true. It’s been proven by science.
This is extra-true for books on parenting. Right now, I can’t give much advice to parents, but I can say this: Parenting books only exist to make you feel like shit.
Every parenting book is 20% actual true stuff based on science (e.g. change its diaper when it pisses itself, don’t shake the baby, don’t let it play with plastic bags) and 80% completely unsupported axe-grinding on the part of the author (e.g. don’t feed your child meat, don’t use a pacifier, don’t bind feet).
Watch out for the author’s own personal bitterness. In 500 pages of book, something will always slip through:
“Infants can have a wide variety of hair color, and those colors may not stay constant through their childhood. Contrary to popular myth, hair color has no bearing on a child’s personality, even if she has red hair like MY BITCH EX-WIFE.”
My advice to you: Get several books. When you get confused, if all of the books tell you to do the same thing, believe it. If they tell you to do completely different things, someone (if not everyone) is talking out their ass. Do what you want.
On the other hand, if your personal cherished parenting ideas aren’t covered in any of the books, you might want to rethink them. I have some very specific ideas about what would be best for my daughter’s well-being, but I won’t actually carry them out until I can find a book called “Your Love Flows Uphill: An Enema Journey To Child Wellness.”
How My Child’s Mind Is Developing
Being a new parent, I feel a great responsibility to delude myself into thinking that my two week old child is capable of actual thought.
Occasionally, she practices focusing her eyes, giving her a look that I can easily confuse with piercing intelligence. While struggling to control her facial muscles, she accidentally adopts expressions my mind interprets as smiles, or frowns, or looks of confusion. Sometimes I make faces and stick out my tongue at her, seeing if I can get her to imitate me, and, a short time later, she makes some random movement similar to what I did, making me to think she is copying me.
Based on all of this, I can say that my child is possibly smart. Of course, based on such evidence, I could say exactly the same thing about a sufficiently active poodle.
A Brief, Tender Vignette
A friend asked me if I “love” my child. I answered that I don’t know yet. I haven’t had time to feel much of anything, “love” or not. When I get a chance to take a breath, I’ll figure it out.
On the other hand, my daughter and I did have a moment the other night. It was late. She was in my lap, well into one of her all-night screaming and pinky-sucking sessions, when, just for a minute, she quieted down. She looked up. Her eyes focused on me. And her mouth twisted, for whatever reason, into a shape that looked a lot like a smile to her daddy.
I took her in my arms, lifted her, and held her close, overcome with a feeling of warmth, happiness, and optimism. At this point, my daughter spit a large globule of milk onto my chest, mixed with a good measure of mucus for texture.
Every moment I have which could be used as the punchline for a Baby Blues cartoon, a little bit of my soul shrivels up and dies.
But do I love her? Well, I don’t have what my wife refers to as “foo foo” feelings. No warm fuzzies. But I strongly suspect, if necessary, I’d get hit by a car for her.
And if anyone wants to take her to Asia, powder her, and use her as rhino horn substitute, they’ll have to pay me some SERIOUS folding money first.