Halfway through my daughter Cordelia’s first year, I find I have very little to write about her. Because she is away. Thousands of miles away. Her mother has taken her for a week of seeing family, giving me a sweet, succulent week of freedom to leave me extra tormented when the shackles go on again.
So, for the last few days, I have rediscovered what it is like to be childfree. I can spend less than 6 hours watching a two hour movie. Or go out to nice restaurants, alone. Or sit staring at the walls wondering what to do to fill the evening. Or just sitting around, feeling time grind on, because I don’t have anything to do.
Eerily, spending a week without a child is also good for reminding you why you had one in the first place.
Of course, I’ve become horribly lonely. I have had to take drastic steps to recreate the parenting experience in Cordelia’s absence. Fortunately, simulating a baby is less difficult than you might think.
i. First, you need to be alerted/awakened at random, irritating times. Fortunately, our phone is constantly barraged by the calls of telemarketers, many times a day, morning, noon and night. Make the phone ring really loud and always run to answer it, and it’s almost like a baby. Plus, you get the bonus of speaking baby talk to the person who is trying to get you to change your long distance service.
ii. Always carrying around a heavy, inert little person was hard to simulate convincingly, until I had the good fortunate to buy a stuffed monkey at a flea market. It’s sort of mangy, and one of the glass eyes is missing, but it’s just about the right size and weight, and it’s clear that some taxidermist once loved it very much.
Of course, the looks I get when carrying the monkey are very different from the looks I get while carrying a baby. Fortunately, in my life, I have grown very good at convincing myself that horrified looks are actually looks of affection. This makes dates much easier. So this is no problem.
iii. Feeding is easy to simulate. Feeding a stuffed monkey baby food is about as productive and useful as feeding it to an baby. Cleaning is easier though, since I can use a hose.
iv. Finally, life just isn’t the same without having to wipe a really messy, icky ass once a day. So I’ve been eating lots and lots of fresh, ripe fruit.
Of course, I can only keep this up for so long. The stuffed monkey really wasn’t made for such heavy use (or repeated hosing). It’s kind of starting to mildew, and the hair is falling off in big clumps. I’m hoping it doesn’t decay too much. I’m counting on it to eventually save me the cost of a teddy bear. Or I could put a skirt on it and tell Cordelia that it’s a Barbie.
Cordelia got back (carried by her mother) before I wrote this. While she was gone, she got pudgier. She got a cute little baby tan. She learned a new mode of communication (Short, loud screams, repeated rapidly, from when she wakes up to when she falls asleep). And she learned to make a new noise!
The new noise is what I could best describe as a death rattle. It’s a ghastly tubercular wheeze. She loves making this noise, even though it freaks mommy and daddy out and makes them look in her throat for swallowed dimes.
Just what we needed: something to make the grandparents even more worried about our parenting.
Baby’s First Flying Experience
Trip to: A quiet little angel.
Trip back: A good four hour chance to practice short, loud screams, repeated rapidly. As I understand it, by the time the flight landed, half the passengers were ready to join Al-Qaeda.
The Thirty Year Rule
I have lots of parenting books, and they take great delight in telling me radically different things. You pick an opinion, and I got a book which says doing anything else will break my baby’s brain.
I’m supposed to have weaned her off the pacifier by now. Or not. I’m supposed to make her a vegetarian. Or not. You have to breast feed her for years. Or not. I’m not supposed to let her sleep with an old, stuffed monkey. Or… No, that one’s for sure.
Of course, there was much confusion. I grew weary, so I gave myself relief. This quiet week has given me the chance to ponder my number one rule for making all parenting decisions: “The Thirty Year Rule.” it goes like this:
“If deciding something one way or the other doesn’t have a clear, likely effect on what the kid will be like when she’s thirty, I can do whatever I want.”
So, for example, basic education. This makes a difference. No choice there. She has to learn to read. And we have to feed her. And, to give another example, circumcision has an actual effect on someone’s life when they’re thirty, so you have to think carefully about that decision. (Unless, of course, it’s a girl. Not having to think about circumcision is one of the primary advantages of having a girl.)
But pacifiers? I can do what I want. Hey, maybe infant pacifier use will make some difference (who knows what?) down the road when Cordelia turns 30. But I doubt it. Attachment parenting? Co-sleeping? Organic baby food? Playing Mozart? These things might make a difference when the kid is 30. In an infinite universe, everything is possible. But the effect is neither “likely”, nor “clear.” So who gives a shit? The kid will sleep in a crib, eat Gerbers processed apple goo, listen to Led Zeppelin, and LIKE IT!
And I can guess what you’re thinking now. Something along the lines of “Oh, that’s reasonable advice. You can get away with all sorts of things. As long, of course, as you make sure to use cloth diapers/carry it around in a sling until it’s 12/only dress it in clothes made of hemp/whatever stupid thing I’ve decided is the One True Secret of child-rearing, and makes the child healthy and a Mensa member and keeps away the SIDS.”
New parents, myself included, are twitchy, freaked out souls with the tendency to make dysfunctional mountains out of developmental molehills. I say, fuck it. Feed the kid. Dress it. Bathe it. Hug it. Beyond that, dowhatchawant. All those extras may be as likely to harm as help in the long run, anyway.
Disturbing News Delivered Long Distance
While away, Cordelia is in a house with dogs. At first, she was terrified of them. Then she became fascinated with them.
This means I have about eight years to get her to hate dogs again. Because I never went through an “I like dogs” phase, and I don’t think I will enter one when my little girl asks me for a puppy every 17 seconds.
Maybe I’ll distract her by buying her Barbies.
Now That They’re Back
Well, anyway, two days after the joy of freedom faded and the loneliness kicked in, my wife and baby returned. We came home from the airport. My wife got in bed and fell asleep. And Cordelia began a crying/fussing/squealing jag which has been continuing for 2 hours as I write this and shows no sign of stopping.
Actually, it wasn’t without interruption. Cordelia did stop long enough to say her very first words. They were “So you wanted me back, huh? How do you feel now, you JACKASS? Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”