It’s been a relaxing week here at parenting central. Thanks to the presence of my parents, the raising of my three month old daughter Cordelia has gone smoothly and easily. At least, that’s my best guess, as I have been absent for much of it.
I am very relaxed now, having partaken of these things the locals savages call “restaurants” and “movies.” These childfree ones are a strange people, with many delightful practices. And I will take my fill before I must return to my indoor pee-mopping lifestyle.
Handing Off to the Grandparents
This weekend, I was lucky to receive that one special blessing, that true and glorious treat that all parents of young sproglings lust after. My parents came to stay with us for a few days. It gives me a chance to make a transition. For a few days, instead of being a bad parent, I can be a bad son.
The moment my ‘rents come through the door, looking for their adorable little grandchild, I dump Cordelia in their outstretched hands. Then, in the best Wile. E. Coyote fashion, I run through the front door, leaving only a puff of smoke and a me-shaped hole behind.
Hopefully, my wife follows after me.
For the first 18 years of my life, my parents were authority figures who I used to get what I wanted. Then, after I left home, they became distant, friendly presences, available for happy holidays and subtle questioning regarding the availability of grandchildren. But, now that I am a parent too, my parents have finally adopted the true role nature reserved for them: authority figures who I use to get what I want.
And what I want is what any parent wants: three spare hours for dinner, a movie, a little bit of convo with the spousal unit. Please.
Oh, the conversations my wife, Mariann, and I have been having.
“And you are?”
“Jeff. And you?”
“Oh, yes. The one with the breasts. How’s that working out for you?”
“They are sore and useful. And how’s your penis doing?”
“It hasn’t caused anyone great suffering. Recently.”
I am a terrible son. My parents arrive, and I can’t get out of the house soon enough. Last weekend, I went to two plays and went out for two meals. I came home for a bit, and my parents asked me how I was, and I told them real quick while casting about with my eyes for an escape route. It’s exactly like my adolescence, except that then I didn’t leave them to clean up someone’s shit while I was gone. Of course, I might be forgetting about something.
But then again, they get something out of the deal too. A chance to rent a baby for the evening. A generally adorable and sweet (if dopey) girl, who doesn’t scream too much, and who has not yet had her personality warped by her parents. It makes me feel good to give them what they want so much. Then they won’t make me pay them back for college.
Everyone Is Circling the Wagons
On the other hand, having Cordelia’s grandparents around leaves me outnumbered three to one on the whole dopeyness issue. Wow. I’ll tell you. I post something on the Internet referring to your 3 month old baby as “dopey”, and everyone acts as if I’d been carrying her around on the streets at 2 AM, trying to trade her for a bus ticket and a used bong.
Well, let me check the Webster’s dictionary on my desk. Let’s see what it says “dopey” means. Hmm. “Sluggish or befuddled, as from the use of narcotics or alcohol.”
Well hell, she must be sluggish. She hasn’t moved around since we got her home. And if any word can be used to describe a 3 month old baby, it’s befuddled. When she knows that I still exist even when she can’t see me, and when she doesn’t completely freak out whenever I blow lightly on her face, I’ll deem her a little less fuddled.
But I give up. I’m outnumbered. Fine. She’s not dopey. When she looks at things, it is with a clear, piercing analytical intelligence which understands what she is seeing. And when she punches herself in the face trying to get her finger in her mouth, it’s because she is exploring her masochistic side. And she could repair an automotive transmission, if only she knew that the tools aren’t food.
No, sir. Dopey she is not. Now, if you’ll excuse me, she just shat herself, and I need to let her kick her ankles around in the feces while I try to get the diaper off.
Dawn of the Parent Nightmare
Many positive life experiences come with a cost, in the form of nightmares. You can’t go to school without being cursed with the dream where you have a final exam you haven’t studied for. You can’t act without the dream where you’re onstage and don’t know your lines. You can’t wear pants without having the dream where you aren’t wearing pants. You can’t be male without having the dream where the monsters steal your penis. And so on.
And, as I understand it, when you become a parent, you get the parent nightmare. Where you forget your kid, or lose it, or it suffers a Horrible Fate. The nightmare has visited me, and is never going away.
The dream I had last night was like this. Not making any of this up. I had just found out that my wife had been killed with saws while protesting logging. (Which is already really weird, since that is very unlike my wife. My wife is the sort of person who doesn’t like veal because it’s not cruel ENOUGH.) I was at a barbecue with my family. Cordelia was not feeling well (not sure exactly why), so, to keep her warm, I put her in the barbecue on low heat and put the lid on. I went away to do things. One of my uncle’s babies was extremely cold, so I picked it up to find a way to warm it. I remembered my baby and though, hey, maybe putting her in the barbecue wasn’t the greatest idea after all. I ran to the grill, lifted the lid, and saw what had happened. And I woke with a start, and that was pretty much it for sleep for that night.
I eagerly anticipate a long series of these sorts of dreams in the future. I am going to stop doing new, exciting things in my life, though. Otherwise, the nightmare overhead is going to keep me from every dreaming about things I want to be dreaming about. Like cute monsters who don’t steal my penis. Conversation About the Nightmare Me: “I hope I don’t have any more dreams like that.” Wife: “Well, at least you learned not to do that with the baby.” She’s right. I’ve learned this: don’t put the lid on.
An Experiment In Putting to Bed, and the Horrible Results
I have been getting our daughter to sleep for the last few months like this: First, I cram her full of food. Once she makes a sloshy noise when I shake her, I swaddle her really tightly. Once she looks like a sad little mummy, I put the pacifier in her mouth. Once she is being made artificially happy by a chunk of rubber, I set her down and turn off the lights. Badda bing. Sleeping baby.
But I started to think that this series of peculiar steps might not be necessary. I thought, since she can suck on her hands now, she might not need the pacifier, and since she’s three months old, she might not need the swaddling. Tried putting her to bed without either.
Inside of five minutes, she was crying. I found her trying to suck on her fingers. However, she was trying strenuously to jam her hand into her upper cheek, which was not leading in any way to her fingers being in her mouth. OK, that’s not working. So I put the pacifier in her mouth. Then she decided that she also wanted to be sucking on her hand. So she swung it up and punched herself in the eye. This is not conducive to getting to sleep.
And don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with my baby punching herself in the face. It teaches her a valuable lesson: don’t punch yourself in the face. But she’s not so bright. The last person she saw was me. Then someone hit her in the face. I can’t count on her not to add 2 and 2 to make 5. And then the baby punching incidents come up in hypnosis therapy, and off I go to Bad Daddy Jail.
So we’re back to the mummy-plugged-with-rubber sleep technique. I bring all this up because I want people to know one thing. When I call Cordelia “dopey”, it is not entirely an arbitrary judgment, free from all evaluation of actual evidence.
My Daughter, the Evil Temptress
I am pretty sure that this part is mainly a reflection of my parental bias. But I think that my baby is uncommonly cute. She is definitely not one of those ugly babies. She has all the right parts, in the proper proportions, and an occasional alert gaze that creates the impression that she doesn’t spent most of her waking time inconveniencing mommy and daddy.
What’s more, some social self-preservation gene in her little DNA makes her be exceptionally cute among strangers. The effect of this on people fills me with malicious glee. You can actually hear the women’s’ ovaries start to quiver, open, and expel eggs with little popping noises. The effect on guys is startlingly similar. After a long, loving look at our sprogling, I actually heard a woman mutter to her boyfriend “Don’t get too excited. You won’t get one for a while.”
When strangers ogled our child, it was tempting, at first, to go “No! Run! It’s a bait and switch! She’s tempting you! Get away before it’s too late!”
But now I just smile happily and say, “She’s an angel.” Let them learn on their own. Shared suffering is the best suffering.
A Brief Celebration
It has now been a month since I last rubbed any sort of soothing cream on my daughter’s genitals. Now, the healing can begin. MY healing.