My baby daughter, Cordelia, is rounding out her sixth month of life with a series of small accomplishments. She can now sit up unassisted for several seconds at a time, especially if an amusing object or tasty bit of newspaper is put in front of her. She can now take food off a spoon with her mouth, snapping at it like a little turtle.
But I am not yet content. I will not feel secure, as a parent, until she can defend herself from a small nest of determined ants. As things stand, she still has no hope against ants.
The Smile Is Not Happiness
Some people trust the smile of a child. They are deluded.
Babies are pretty dumb and pretty helpless, but they are not inert. They will leverage every possible advantage they have to achieve their goal, which is usually to be picked up and fussed over.
Sure, our baby smiles when she is happy. Sometimes. Usually, she shows her happiness by being quiet. When she is unhappy, she doesn’t hesitate to break out in a chorus of squeals, grunts, and finally screams.
However, our baby has also been conditioned to smile when she wants to be picked up. For example. She had been lying in her crib for awhile and was starting to grunt. I walked in and looked at her. The moment she saw me, she busted out her most full, radiant smile, as if to say “Hooray! It’s daddy! The bestest daddy in the whole world! Just seeing him fills me with bliss!”
Normally, this display results in lots of cooing and fussing and attention. So, just out of curiosity, I waited silently, to see what she would do.
After a few seconds, she stopped smiling. She looked confused, and gave me a look which I chose to interpret as “What? What’s going on? Wasn’t that enough? That’s usually good for a tickle, at least.”
Then she tried again. She gave another glorious smile for a few seconds. Then she turned it off, stared at me, frowned, and waited.
This process repeated at least five times. I lost count. She smiled and waited for her reward, while I watched her quietly. If the smile means happiness, this makes no sense. I don’t think she was becoming deliriously happy for 3 second spurts alternating with periods of unexplainable angst. She was trying to get some joyous carrying action.
Anyway, I watched her instead. Eventually, she reverted to the behavior which always earns her instant attention: loud noises.
Of course, ever since, I’ve rewarded her for smiling. A good smile is always good for a little attention from daddy. Smiling and looking cute to get things from people is solid, productive behavior, and should be encouraged. If my baby knows how to manipulate me, I should not waste my time convincing myself she is doing otherwise. Instead, it is my responsibility as a parent to channel her innate manipulative instincts in profitable directions.
Poo Isn’t Gross, You Wimp.
Anybody who is grossed out by baby poo or who is scared of caring for and cleaning the infant ass is, I have decided, a wimp.
Here’s the thing. I, personally, every day or two, at around the same time of evening (though not so precise that you can set your watch by it), have to take a shit. I suspect that you are pretty much the same way. If not, eat more brown bread.
When this happens, I retire to the bathroom, close and securely lock the door, and go about my business. When I am done, I do not avert my eyes from the bowl like a blushing schoolgirl. I take a look in there and see what’s going on. And then, and here is the gruesome part, I get some toilet paper and wipe myself clean.
Again, I hope you are the same way.
My point, and that I do have one, is that having a baby does not really dramatically change one’s exposure to shit and the wiping of asses. Not having a baby would not magically free me from having to wipe an ass, and it’s no big deal. Even the most squeamish childless people do not break down into tears of disgust when they go to the bathroom.
In other words, dealing with infant feces is a change of quantity, not quality. You just have to deal with more of what you already deal with on a regular basis. So what?
Of course, I still really wish she wouldn’t kick her ankles in the stuff when I’m changing her. But, since I do not myself kick my ankles in my own waste, this opinion is permissible.
The Littlest Octopus
It does me no good to remember that, for all of the adjusting my wife and I have done, we’re still getting through the easy part of parenthood. Cordelia has been slimy and noisy so far, but basically inert. This means that, education-wise, my wife and I haven’t had to bring anything to the table. No teaching her how to add, or why not to play with matches, or that you shouldn’t stick the ice pick in the power socket.
Of course, I also suspect we should not be letting her get her hands on an ice pick.
We are now entering the stage where we can’t actually teach her anything, but we really want to. Among other things, she has started actively grabbing objects. And I don’t mean clumsily latching on to a big rattle we hold still in front of her at chest level. I mean grabbing for everything in reach. My glasses. A full cup of coffee. The wires of my computer. Mommy’s eyeball.
Carrying Cordelia right now is like dragging a strip of Velcro through a bag of cotton balls. After a few minutes, all sorts of crap is stuck to her.
The level of attention I have had to pay to her because of this alarms and disturbs me. After six months of being an emotionally needy satchel, Cordelia is assuming the endlessly inquisitive nature of the human baby. And this leads to behavior which is, to the neutral observer, indistinguishable from a suicide wish.
Jeff’s Disturbing Parenting Tip of the Week
“Sometimes, the only thing that separates a hungry, sleepy baby which won’t eat or sleep and a hungry, sleepy baby who will eat and then sleep is about 2-3 minutes of being left to scream.”
“Boy, mom. That one Muppet there is really skinny.”
The main punishment for having a child is exposure to children’s’ television for several years. Having my brains melted by the Teletubbies (or whatever worse thing comes after them) is the price I will pay. The alternative is constantly playing with and looking after the child instead of propping it up in front of the TV. I can’t do that, because it would kill me.
But all is not lost, interest-wise. The other day, one of the headlines in the paper was “Sesame Street To Introduce HIV-Positive Muppet.”
There are times when living in this world and time fills me with joy. This was definitely one of them. If only every time I read the paper I could see things which filled me with such delight.
Of course, the very, very first thought in my head was “How would a Muppet get HIV?” And the answer is, I think, obvious: needle drugs.
Of course, it’s possible that an infected Muppet donated felt at the local Felt Bank, and it was mixed in with other felt and infected the supply, and from there infected any Muppet it was sewed on to. Or maybe I’m overlooking the obvious. If a puppeteer stuck his hand up my ass every day, I’m sure I’d have problems too.
(FYI, before you get all heated up about all of this, they are mainly thinking about this for Sesame Street in South Africa. And if you know anything at all about the situation in Africa, this announcement makes a hell of a lot of sense. But anyway…)
Thinking unseemly thoughts about cute Muppets may seem inappropriate. I disagree. For me, it is the only way I can survive.