As I help raise my little four month old, Cordelia, I sometimes think wistfully back to the time when she wasn’t awful.
Once, she was a quiet, happy, burbling baby, who loved life and stuffed animals and the 5-7 uninterrupted hours of quiet sleep she got every night. Then her cute, sharp little teeth started to push their way out through her gums and she turned into a pill. No, not just a pill. A fierce, primal little pill, like a fussy little dinosaur. A pillosaurus.
Now when she sleeps two uninterrupted hours, I do a little happy dance. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. If someone would have told me that having a baby is occasionally inconvenient, I’d never have had one.
When You Don’t Play Computer Games, It Makes the Baby Jesus Cry
Actually, I don’t get it the worst. My wife does. I stay up the first half of the night, when the baby sleeps sort of OK. She handles the second half of the night, when the baby fights with every bit of strength in her floppy body the cruel clutches of Sleep, that evil, life stealing Bitch-Goddess.
So, to make my wife less of a zombie, I started to stay up later, so that she could get more sleep. (Working at home has its points.) And the way I stay up later is to play computer games. And, at this point, I should point out that I am a lifelong computer game addict. So this development, while good for my wife, is very, very, very bad for me.
The worst thing that could possibly happen to me is to have staying up all night playing computer games become the kind, virtuous thing to do. This is like letting a jazz player live in a mall full of free heroin. It’s as if someone had told me when I was a teenager that, every time I jerked off, an African girl didn’t starve to death.
Before, when I looked up from a game to see the morning sun, I felt like a loser. Now, when this happens, I know that I am a Nice Man.
And I get my reward later, when my properly rested wife is feeling real friendly. If you know what I mean.
Another Good Reason To Keep Writing This Journal:
Someday, Cordelia will ask me “Was I a good baby?” If I were most parents, I’d have to give her a pained smile and say “Oh, of course you were. You were an angel.”
But now, instead, I can consult the documentation and say “Well, generally. But there was a bad spot in week five and another in week 37. And from weeks sixteen to eighteen inclusive, you were a little pillosaurus. Shame on you. Now go to bed.”
Intentionally Starving My Child For My Wife’s Benefit
When Cordelia gets difficult, I tend to treat her like I would a malfunctioning computer programming. I troubleshoot her, experimenting with different patterns of feeding her, giving her painkillers, walking her around, poking her with chopsticks, and other remedies, trying to find the right combination of stimuli which will turn her into a Good Baby. Or, at least, not a little shrieking wolverine.
For example, when I go to bed and leave the baby in my peacefully sleeping wife’s care, I want her to be content as possible. The longer Cordelia sleeps, the longer until she wakes up my wife, and the more friendly my wife is the next day, and the less I suffer. So I want to leave behind a pretty darn content baby.
That generally means that I need to pack the baby with as much food as possible before I go to bed. And that means I need to time her so that she is hungry when I go to bed, but not so hungry that she freaks out and screams and wakes my wife. So the hours before I go to bed are spent in a complicated dance of reassurance and neglect, feeding her just enough to sustain her, but not enough to satisfy her.
So, basically, I am underfeeding her to make my wife happy. I’m not sure how I bent my brain until it got to this point, but our baby is still a pudgy little lump of butter on the bone, so I’m not actually putting anyone in any danger.
This system, most nights, works pretty well. Or, at least, better than when I don’t do it. Treating her like a complicated little computer program does tend to leave out a lot of what you humans call “love”. However, I intend to learn how to express warmth and empathy very soon. I think there’s a chapter on it in one of my parenting books.
Two Legs Good. One Leg Bad.
Sometimes daddy and baby learn things together.
Our daughter is quite strong. Her legs have been able to fully support her weight for over a month now. I hold on to her hands to balance her and she stands proud, looking around from a height, letting her drool drip a greater distance and waiting for her knees to give way. For a short time, helping her stand, I thought she might be close to learning to walk.
Then baby and I learned that, to walk, it’s not enough to be able to support your weight on two legs. You need to be able to support your weight on one. Baby learned this when she was standing and tried lifting her left leg.
Her sudden and dramatic collapse was noted by both daddy and baby. Fortunately, daddy’s grip on her hands prevented loss of property or life.
Temper and Self Control
Recently, during a teething related fit of pique, I handed Cordelia a rattle to soothe her. She looked at me angrily, gripped the rattle, and flung it away. I love it when she reacts to things the way a reasonable human would. If I was mad and sitting in pee and you handed a rattle to me to make it better, I’d be pretty pissed too.
Of course, I was handing her the rattle because I was totally blowing her off. All of our parenting books says at what month she can eat and crawl and walk, but none of them say when the baby can figure out that you’re blowing it off. I think this is important information to have.
On the other hand, she still hasn’t learned that sometimes, when you flail your arms and legs around at random, they hit hard things and make you sad. But once Cordelia gets enough visits from Auntie Pain, and things will come together there too.
Sometimes You Just Wanna’ Pick On ‘Em.
Since Cordelia has been somewhat frustrating on occasion, I have been looking for ways to pick on her in a way that makes it seem like I am being a loving, careful parent.
For example, trying to feed her rice cereal is great. It’s about time for her to eat it. It ‘s good for her. And yet, trying to feed her with a spoon really bugs the heck out of her. She makes really cute frowny faces and spits and hisses and gets annoyed. This is currently my wife and my number one source of entertainment.
Also, parenting books say that we should be introducing her senses to new, interesting sensations. So, sometimes, I get my fingers wet and flick water onto her face. This really alarms her, but in a loving, educational way.
I told my wife, my benchmark for loving and caring for the baby, that I did this, to see what she thought. She said that she does it too sometimes. So now I know that it’s all right.
Some Parents Talk About Getting A Layette
I’m not sure what a layette is, but here’s my guess: it’s a lay you try to squeeze in while the baby is sleeping.
Everything Is All New and Shiny
If there’s anything that makes me think things are developing in my baby’s brain thing, it’s the way she looks around.
These days, when she’s in a new area, she looks around with this piercing gaze. It seems like she’s really trying to take in what things look like. And her rapt attention makes sense. When I see something new and interesting, I’ll stare at and really intensely admire it. Like a rhino, or a lovely sunset over the ocean, or an aerobics class.
For Cordelia, everything around her is new and interesting, so she stares at it in the same way. A chair, or her stroller, or the fat, hairy guy who keeps walking around the house with no shirt on. It’s all as glorious as a sunset.
Now I can keep the baby from crying for large periods of time by rotating her on my lap. Left, then straight, then right, then lift and over the shoulder. This scrolling view of mundane objects can keep her happily occupied for minutes at a time. Then her gums start hurting again, and it’s off for the drugs.