Our mighty nation has just celebrated Independence Day, which, for this new parent, means one thing. I got to take my five month old daughter Cordelia and let her listen to explosions for the first time. She dealt with the firecrackers and bottle rockets with relaxed dignity, up to the point where she completely lost her shit.
I also gave her a chance to spend time around her normal relatives. “Normal,” in this case, meaning “Don’t write whacked out shit about their own children and post it on the Internet.”
“Could I have some explosives to set off near my child?”
I am raising my child in western Washington state. The Suquamish Indian reservation is conveniently and centrally located here. The local Native American population is allowed to sell all manner of normally illegal fireworks, usually from wooden shacks along the highway that passes through their reservation. This creates a cherished local tradition: families go to the rez to buy sacks of small explosives to take home and set off near their children.
Of course, it is illegal to buy fireworks on the reservation and carry them off. But everyone does it anyway. This provides a useful and educational example to children which helps guide their choices when first exposed to marijuana.
Anyway, on the way to my grandparents’ house, passing through the Suquamish reservation, my wife and I stopped the car at one of the convenient wooden shacks, got out, and bought some small explosives, made in some Asian country or other with what experience has shown me is minimal concern for quality control. Then we took our baby and our new explosives and joined with my family, each member of which had brought explosives of his or her own. Then we all started eating pork ribs and drinking alcohol.
I could talk about little Cordelia’s surprisingly bland reaction to the firecrackers, but I still can’t get over what was written on the bag in which the fireworks were placed when I bought them (at the wooden shack along the highway in the Indian reservation). There was a list of safety suggestions given by a character named, I swear to God, Freddy Firework. The first one was:
“Always purchase fireworks from a reliable source.”
This brings two questions to my mind:
One. Is a wooden shack by the highway in the Indian reservation a “reliable source?”
Two. What on Earth would it take to NOT be a reliable source? A one-eyed gypsy named Stavros selling M-80s out of the trunk of his Plymouth?
I must consider said wooden shack to be a reliable source, however, since I did buy explosives there, and I did set them off near my child. It was necessary. Otherwise, how would she learn what July Fourth is all about?
How Can I Be So CRUEL!?!?
The holiday meant spending time around relatives, most of which have been reading the installments of this journal. So, of course, I got asked a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. Namely: “How can you write these things about your daughter? Won’t she hate you? Won’t she need years of therapy?”
My response to this, of course, is abject shame and remorse. I don’t know how I brought myself to reveal all the terribly private secrets I have about my daughter. For example, I have written that:
Cordelia, my 5 month old baby, occasionally cries and has difficulty going to sleep. (“You monster! How can you say such a thing!”)
She does not have control over her bodily waste, and sometimes pees and poos unexpectedly. Because of this, she wears a diaper. (“Gasp! How will she ever forgive you for revealing that?”)
Her brain has not yet developed very much. She can not walk or talk. (“You COCKSUCKER!”)
In fact, even though she is an advanced five months old, she has only the crudest control over her body. (“You have gone beyond the pale by revealing such information.”)
Sometimes, especially when teething or tired, she is fussy and moody. (“Aiiiyyyeee! My brain! It is exploding!”)
She is cute. (“KAPOW!”)
To be honest, I sort of hope that, one day, Cordelia will enjoy reading about what she was like when she was a baby. Like a photo album, but less crushingly dull. And if, somehow, I screw up and mistakenly raise a humorless little prig, well, then her anger at me for writing this will be my punishment.
Doing the Double Breath Check
Last week, my wife was stung on the cheek by a bee. This caused a very mild allergic reaction, and for one night in there, she was feeling a little constriction in her throat.
Fortunately, this happening fit very well into my schedule. Instead of going upstairs every hour or two to see if one girl was still breathing, I went upstairs to see if two girls were still breathing. It made me feel very efficient.
Daddy’s Face Is a Torment
Cordelia’s favorite activity is still looking around. Look right. Look left. Right. Left. Repeat until time to crap. It makes sense, since I suppose learning to see is the most important thing she will ever do. However, I can’t help but feel I’m being blown off when I hold her standing up in my lap facing me and she looks absolutely everywhere but at my face.
So I tried an experiment. Whenever she looked anywhere, I rotated her so she was staring at my face. She would start twisting her neck at alarming angles to try to look past me, but I kept her pointing straight at me.
Of course, she completely freaked. Whenever she looked at me, her little face scrunched up in terror, and she’s burst with bitter tears. And, for a few minutes, she was terrified whenever she caught a glimpse of me.
So I sure stopped doing that quick. Eventually, she will be overwhelmed with terror and resentment whenever she sees me. But that shouldn’t start for 13 more years.
Baby Chews the Paper
The daily New York Times is the great joy in my life. Even when my wife was in labor, I was still sneaking peeks to see what the editorial page was covering. It is my unhealthy habit.
So it brought joy to my heart to find that Cordelia is in love with the newspaper too. Of course, she is mainly interested in grabbing huge double handfuls of it and cramming it in her mouth, but still. It’s a good start. It makes daddy happy, and it makes Cordelia ecstatic, so it seems like the perfect activity.
And yet, Cordelia mouthing the newspaper until her chin is black with newsprint does make me feel very slightly ill at ease. First, of course, it’s not sanitary. I’m planning to buy an autoclave to sterilize the paper before it gets to her. I just hope that doesn’t make it less crinkly.
But then there is the problem of the ink. I think it is acceptable for a baby to eat a certain modest amount of ink of every day. My wife, however, disagrees.
This is why I think Babies ‘R’ Us should supplement the shoddily made, overpriced shit they normally distribute with a line of baby newspapers. It’s just like a regular newspaper, but with ink specially formulated to make babies happy and healthy. Then I can hold Cordelia in my lap and read one side of a page, while she moistens and shreds the other half. Just like I do now.
Oh, the Menial Jobs She Will Do
Our little vibrating bundle of pointless energy has been able to entirely support her weight with her legs for months. And now it is all she will do. She loves to stand. She can stand and look left and right and left and right, enjoying the good view the height gives her, until mommy and daddy’s arms give out.
I am not comfortable with the way Cordelia always wants to be standing. I feel that this habit only prepares her for certain jobs:
- Fast Food Order Take
- Traffic Cop
- Fast Food Preparer
- Perfume Counter Saleswoman
- Aerobics Instructor
See what I mean? Standing is bad. Standing is the enemy. Standers end up in bad jobs. I feel it is the responsibility of every parent to encourage a sitting future for their children. Encourage sitting. When you see your child on its feet, go “Stop that!” and jam a Nintendo controller in its soft, uncalloused hands.
As things stand, I am not doing well. I try to get her to sit in my lap, but she protests by making her whole body straight and rigid, like a little board. This is effective. I feel that already, at the tender age of five months, I have prepared her for only the most menial and grueling of lives. Maybe I’ll tell her that, if she stands up too much, birds will fly down and peck her head.