As of this writing, my wife and I are still raising Cordelia, our eight month old daughter. It’s sort of grueling, thankless work at this point. My wife and I have pretty much exhausted the entertainment possibilities of a child that can’t actually do anything, and Cordelia stubbornly refuses to learn to do tricks for our benefit.
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth … blah, blah, blah.
Of course, my wife is still enthralled by the baby. She has no choice. She still has those residual birthing mommy hormones in her system. I, on the other hand, am still waiting for when I can teach her to play Nintendo. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t help with the parenting now. For example, today I bought a Nintendo.
More Thoughts On the Merciful Glories Of Television
I decided to get out my parenting books. I wanted fresh information about how much TV I should be showing my child. One book contained an excellent summary of this tricky and controversial topic:
“Television – When your tiny baby is being difficult and overly demanding of your attention, it is a good idea to take a break by placing it in front of the television for a while. I mean, have you seen how much attention those little vampires want to suck up? Plop that kid in front of the boob tube, before you go nuts. What are you waiting for? What are you, some kind of fuckin’ hippie Nader voter!?!?”
“Make sure that the TV is on.”
I’m sure we can all agree with this advice. I can’t remember exactly what book I found it in, but it was a thick one, and it had an index, so I’m sure it was right.
But the advice of this book whose name I have forgotten shouldn’t be necessary. This stuff is obviously true. Consider this. Today, my wife and I were “good parents”. We plopped the sprog in a stroller and walked it around a lake. She sat staring at stuff. And then we took her home, sat her upright in front of the TV, and played the Teletubbies. She sat staring at stuff.
At this point, my wife and my parental contribution pretty much boils down to giving Cordelia an amusing variety of things to stare at. So why is TV watching inherently a bad choice? In fact, the TV watching was better than the walk for two reasons. First, she was sitting up, which I guess is exercise for babies. Second, instead of breaking a sweat pushing her around, daddy got to relax in a more daddy-oriented way. Internet pornography, if you must know.
Also consider this: suppose the baby normally naps for an hour in the afternoon but, for whatever reason, one afternoon, she only sleeps a half hour. Well, sleep isn’t educational. She just lies there in the dark, eyes closed, not doing anything. A half hour of TV would develop her brain a LOT more than that! So, if she takes a short nap, not only is it OK to show her TV to make up the extra time, but I OWE it to her.
And, more importantly, if she sleeps a half hour less than usual, she OWES ME that half hour.
So what have we learned? That I should just show the baby TV every possible moment? Not necessarily. The proper parental attitude towards TV can best be summed up this way: The only time it is ever appropriate to show TV to a baby is when it would make things convenient for mommy and daddy.
The Teletubbies Take Control
The show disturbs the shit out of me, but Cordelia can’t get enough of it. Even when I pause it, she still stares fixedly at the screen. And if I turn off the TV, she keeps looking at it, just in case it comes back on.
I’m so proud of my little girl. Only eight months old, and she already has interests.
My Baby’s Toys Make Me Want To Twitch
Why are baby toys always decorated with such a nightmarish array of patterns and colors? They’re the most ghastly looking objects I’ve ever seen. They’re so garish that they actually make space warp around them, like the air above a fire. It gives me a headache to stare at them. I can’t look into Cordelia’s toybox without going into an epileptic seizure.
(Non-parent and not in the know? Find good examples of this horror at http://www.geniusbabies.com/evwhooz.html)
They are ugly objects that make my head hurt. And that’s me. A grown-up. I have over 30 years of experience looking at things. For a baby, who is still learning how to use her eyes and process information received through them, an object with such a riotous array of patterns and colors must be pure static.
Why is this? Why does every baby toy I own look like a migraine hallucination? Do people really feel that this makes them prettier to babies? Well, we have no idea what looks pretty or not pretty to babies. Babies have different eyes and different brains. If I could remember what my tastes were like when I was 5 months old, I would tell you.
However, I do know what is pretty to humans in general. When I bought my car, I selected it in a lovely monochrome shade of blue green. I did not ask them to paint the front third red with white stars, the middle in alternating yellow and purple stripes, and the back third in a chartreuse and black checkerboard pattern. That would look like shit. Do babies want to spend time around things that look like shit any more than adults do?
So I say, give the babies something lovely and monochrome every once in a while. Do them a favor. I can’t say for sure, but it really seems that Cordelia most prefers to stare at and play with objects that are SIMPLE. A white tube of hand cream. A wooden spoon. A metal fork.
She rapidly discards that freakish Dali-plus color samplers. I am so proud to have a baby with taste.
“Let’s Go See the Rival Baby!”
When I’m left to play with the baby, I don’t have a whole lot of material. I don’t have a knack for babies. “Playingfor me, generally involves handing the little girl a toy, watching as she disinterestedly throws it away, and then picking up that same toy and handing back to her. I can do peek-a-boo too, but it’s a struggle.
The one I can do that always delights her is taking her to see the Rival Baby. To play the Rival Baby game, I take her into the bathroom, turn on the light, and hold her in front of the mirror.
Then I saw “Look, honey! There’s the rival baby! Look how cute she is. Wave at the rival baby! Look at it smile! And look … there’s the Other Daddy. Look how much the Other Daddy enjoys the Rival Baby. You better watch out, or that Rival Baby will come after your job!” Cordelia laughs and giggles through all of this because, of course, she can’t speak English.
When she can speak English, the Rival Baby game will become even more useful, because I can use it to prepare her for real life. “Oh, look honey! There’s the Rival Baby! You’d better smile at that Rival baby, wave at her, giggle, make her think she’s your friend. Because someday, you’ll be competing against that Rival Baby for getting into college. And jobs. And boys. And, if things get really bad, food. And if the Rival Baby likes you enough, maybe you’ll have an edge up on her! You’ll need it, because look how cute she is! That’s a tough thing to compete against.”
After all, if I don’t try to prepare her for grown-up life, what sort of a parent am I?
When the Rival Baby Game Goes Wrong
Of course, I’m a loving parent and not a bad person. That’s why I wouldn’t ever say “And look how chubby the Rival Baby is. You should always try to be a tiny bit thinner than the Rival Baby.”
“Honey, please stop injuring the baby.”
Finally, on the subject of new tricks. When I put Cordelia in her car seat, there is a plastic buckle I have to snap shut in the middle of her chest. She has gotten very good at lurching forward and trying to put her lips and tongue into the buckle just as I am fastening it.
The first time she did this, she then looked up at me with an expression of infinite betrayal, as a drop of blood welled up pertly on her swollen lip. I learn fast. During her many subsequent attempts to damage herself in this fashion, I have pushed her lurching head back with a smooth thumb motion.
The worst thing about raising an infant is that, when they are dumb and hurt themselves, you don’t get the pure satisfaction of explaining how it was their fault.