Soon, our daughter Cordelia will be two months old. Another month. Another set of milestones. Soon, more weight to be brought to bear on daddy’s delicate back. Larger deposits of feces. More sentience. Teeth.
On the bright side, at my 10 year college reunion, I will get to brag that I have bred, thus lording my genetic, Darwinian superiority over the puny mortals. Huzzah!
Dawn of the Neglectomatic
We just got one of those electronic swing things. You know? Those things you put the baby in, and a little battery powered motor rocks it until it quiets down, simultaneously hypnotizing it into submission and churning the contents of its diapers into a frothing poo milkshake? Those things?
They’re great. It feels like cheating.
Whenever our little fusspot is fed, burped, changed, and otherwise cared for in every way the law requires, and she’s still fussing/whining/screaming/being heavy, we put her into the device one of our friends aptly named “The Neglectomatic.” And it rocks her worries away.
I now know exactly how long it takes for a thought to develop in our baby’s tiny, tiny brain: 1 minute. You can watch the process as she swings back and forth. The motion empties her brain of her concerns, and then you can watch them creep back, the new expression creeping over her face like the skin on a bowl of pudding, until she has fully decided what is bothering her. Then you can watch as the Neglectomatic shakes the thought out of her brain, like rolling a marble out of a hole in the bottom of a coffee can. And she’s sedate for another minute.
Eventually, something bothers her for real, and the machinery is not enough to prevent the howls. Then we take her out and see to her needs. Of course. But, as far as I’m concerned, if it’s not enough of a worry to exceed the distraction of the Neglectomatic, then mommy and daddy should get to do their own thing for a while.
Now We Have To Buy A Fucking Mobile
I can’t escape my overachieving yuppie suck-weasel nature. You know how, if you put a dollar in the bank and let interest on it compound, eventually (in a thousand years or so) it will be a massive fortune? I can’t help but feel that, if I do or say the right clever thing now, early in my daughter’s life, it will compound and increase, like a snowball rolling downhill, into brilliance later on. Or, conversely, if I don’t do enough during those precious moments of quiet alertness, instead doing something I want to do, like sleep or eat cheese, I will have, through my horrible inaction, cost my daughter a whole IQ point. Do this enough times, and she’ll wind up a slack-jawed, burger-flipping, sorority-pledging, bottle-blonde troglodyte who can use the word “Booger” without irony. And then I will have to reabsorb her for her protein.
And who wants that?
So it turns out, when she is lying in her crib, staring up at the ceiling, I have to hang something there which will stimulate her blank, gooey brainwad. It’s called a mobile. And I hate them.
If the selection at Target is any indication, mobiles cost about thirty bucks, are made of cheap plastic, play tinny versions of classical music, and look very colorful and interesting when looked at from the side (as opposed to from the bottom, the only angle the child will ever see it from). The only exception was the fuzzy all-pastel mobile, which doesn’t even look interesting to an adult. Or, at least, this adult.
So I am tempted to make my own mobile. The only problem here, besides my lack of artistic skill, time, and interest, is that a mobile has one other purpose. It’s there so the child can hang itself on it when it unexpectedly learns to stand in its crib.
So if my darling Cordelia is going to hang herself on something, it’s not going to be some shitty thing I threw together. No. My daughter deserves to meet a horrible and unexpected fate on the best educational device this world has to offer. And if that means dropping thirty bucks at Target, so be it.
Vogel’s First Law For Dealing With Infants:
“It is impossible to underestimate the cognitive ability of a one month old.”
I’m impatient. I am looking forward to the day when I can interact with my daughter as a new, happy human, as opposed to … to … to whatever the hell she is. A baby. Yeah, that’s it.
But she hasn’t even figured out that those pink things with all the little bits sticking out that occasionally cross her field of vision, what we grown-ups call “hands”, are actually parts of her body, which she can control. If she even has a notion that she has an actual “body,” a dubious prospect, considering her total inability to move it around.
And she doesn’t realize that things she can no longer see don’t exist. Which means that, to her, mommy and daddy are just occasional phenomena, like the wind and the rain, which appear and disappear. She can recognize the appearance of the mommy-thing and the daddy-thing, and even greet that appearance with a display of what I think might possibly be happiness, but when the mommy-thing and the daddy-thing are out of sight, her blank little brain no longer recognizes that they exist.
If she even remembers them. The memory capability of the one-month old is a very open question.
The practical upshot of all of this is that, when she’s lying in her crib and I’m checking to make sure she’s still alive, I have to make sure she doesn’t see me. Because, if she does, her little goo brain seems to have this chain of barely coherent baby thoughts:
“Bzzzzzzzzz ….” (This is the sound of her empty brain, looking up at the blank ceiling, where the mommy-thing and the daddy-thing have neglectfully failed to put a mobile/strangulation device.) “
!!!!! Daddy-thing has appeared! It exists again!”
“!!!!! Daddy-thing brings formula and carrying! Nutrients! Carrying!”
(OK. Baby is not dead. I can go back to my movie now.)
“!!!!!!!!! Daddy-thing has disappeared! No more food! No more carrying! Forever!”
“Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!”
In this case, “Hey!” is shouted aloud. It is the only word in Cordelia’s vocabulary. However, her pronunciation skills are poor, so it sounds like “Waaahhhhh!!! Waaahhhhh!!!”
But I know that she means “Hey.”
But if I’m careful and keep her from seeing me, I don’t exist, so she won’t know to require anything of me. And then I get to watch a 2 hour movie in less than 6 hours.
One More Thing About My Daughter’s Crying
When she gets REALLY upset, her cry sounds just like a dolphin who’s been possessed by Satan.
The Recipe For Sleep. And Sweet Neglect.
My daughter reliably sleeps 5-6 uninterrupted hours a night. Every night. It’s fabulous. Part of the reason, of course, is that we are lucky. But part of it is because of me, and my recipe of careful and pathological neglect.
Don’t get me wrong. I have not adopted the borderline sadistic “Let her lie in bed and cry until she passes out.” theory of parenting. I am never mean, never callous. But I am a terrible parent anyway. I’m sure of it. All of the Sears line of parenting books tell me so.
Here is how I do it, and the predicted long-term harm that will come to Cordelia because of it:
Step 1 – Get mommy to go to bed at 9:30 PM.
Reason – Mommy will just interfere. Let her rest instead so, later, she can cover for me while I sleep.
Harm to baby – Considerable. Mommy’s absence lets daddy have his free, sinister way.
Step 2 – As soon as baby gets hungry (usually around 10:30), pack her full of formula until she can’t stand any more. When she cries from then on, first see if she wants a little more formula.
Reason – Then it’ll take hours before hunger wakes her up again.
Harm to baby – Mind blowing. First, mother’s milk is the baby’s perfect food. I know this because it says it on the side of the bottle I’m using to feed her the formula.
Second, I am teaching her not only to always eat as much as she possibly can, but that, when she’s upset, she should eat first. Eventually, she’s going to end up as huge as any two people from a science fiction convention.
Step 3 – Around 11:30 PM, put the baby into a disposable diaper.
Reason – Keeps irritating and wakefulness causing urine far from baby’s delicate genitals.
Harm to baby – For once, none. The harm will come to future generations who have to clean up the landfills. Fuck them. Let the cockroaches that evolve after we’re gone deal with the diapers. I have my own problems.
Step 4 – Put a pacifier in her mouth.
Reason – Even when packed full of soy product and corn syrup solids (which is what the formula is mostly made of… ewww), my daughter will squeal if she doesn’t have anything to suck on. And she can’t suck on her hands, because she doesn’t realize she has them, and she can’t suck on my little finger, because it will be busy being attached to me.
Harm to baby – Considerable. I’m not sure why, but the parenting books make it very clear that anything which makes daddy’s life easier is abusive, at best.
Step 5 – At midnight, swaddle her (so the cute, spasmodic arm motions she makes when she sleeps don’t wake her up or, worse, knock the pacifier out of her mouth) and lay her down in her crib. Turn out lights.
Reason – So she can go to sleep.
Harm to baby – Likely death. According to Complete Baby and Child Care, by Dr. Miriam Stoppard, the crib’s mattress is supposed to have holes in it so that, if the baby rolls over, she doesn’t suffocate. My wife and I have one of those bizarre, retro mattresses which doesn’t have holes in it.
Step 6 – When baby cries once or twice, put the pacifier back into her mouth. (The pacifier falling out is the number one reason Cordelia ever cries.) If she cries again, pick her up until she stops. Then put her back down and put the pacifier back into her mouth.
I don’t know what to do if Step 6 doesn’t work out, because it’s never happened. I think the massive amounts of soy in her stomach weighs her down.
Harm to baby – Since I never actually let her be upset for more than a few moments, I don’t think there is immediate psychological harm. However, I am slowly programming her to believe that anyone who comforts her will only do so for a few minutes. This will probably result in her having a lot of disappointing affairs with married men.
And that’s all it takes. Equal amounts preparation, optimism, and lack of interest in the long-term harm. All I ask you to remember is two things:
i. It will not work for you,
ii. Any night now, it will not work for me either.
When that happens, I’ll see you in Hell.