Our baby daughter Cordelia is still alive. At the age of nine months, she is advancing in all the expected ways.
She is crawling better – she is now using her arms and legs to hoist her pudgy torso off of the floor. She is clapping better – she will now clap in response to us clapping. And she is watching TV better – when she sits and watches Teletubbies, if we put a pillow behind her, she will recline back to watch more comfortably.
She has also, with great difficulty, sat up on her own for the first time. I wasn’t in the room when it happened, but my mother obligingly shoved Cordelia back onto her back so that I could see.
The Festivale Parentale
As I write this chapter, my family and I are in the middle of what I have dubbed the Festivale Parentale. My parents are living in an RV in our driveway. My mother-in-law is staying in the guest room. Between the three of them, if I try very hard and run into just the right room at just the right time, I can catch a glimpse of my daughter.
My parents are staying with us for a week because my father is recovering from having his gall bladder removed. At least, that is what I have been told. As far as I know, the alleged surgery may just be a very clever ruse to enable them to stay near their only grandchild longer. All I can say is that I’m glad my dad only has two kidneys.
My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is a former professional nanny and is staying with us to keep the old work skills sharp. Thanks to her past, when she tells us what we’re doing wrong, she has a good deal of extra authority. It’s fine with me. You could tell me that babies are creatures from Mars who have come to steal all our soap, and, if you say it while changing my child’s shitty diaper, I’ll nod agreeably and run off to hide the bars of Irish Spring.
The best thing about grandparents is that their experience and enthusiasm enable them to play with the baby. They know how to do this. I still have not developed the ability to play with very, very small children. I’ll hand her a toy, and she’ll grab it and drop it and I’ll say “Well what do you want then?” and that’s it. I’m out of material.
Her grandparents, on the other hand, can toss around toys and get Cordelia involved and she’ll giggle and spontaneously learn to juggle and finally a grandmother will walk out of the room, looking pleased, and say “Cordelia knows how to count to three now.” to me. And I feel like a JACKASS.
“Awww! She Gave You a Love! I’ll Call 911.”
Grandparents see things differently than I do. Really, really differently.
Cordelia really hates having things near or against her face. Being kissed bugs her. She can defend herself, though. Sometimes, when I kiss her cheek, she turns her head, presses her forehead against my face and shoves. Surprisingly hard.
When she started doing this, my mother said “Awwww. She gave you a love.” This completely broke my brain.
And then my wife Mariann picked up Cordelia. Cordelia turned her head and smacked my wife a really good one in the nose with her forehead. As Mariann checked to make sure no cartilage had been damaged, my mother once again said “She gave you a love!”
What is that about?
Grandparents have the ability to read the most benign or beneficial motivations into any of our child’s actions. Because of that, I expect conversations like this soon:
“What a cute baby! I’d love to hold …”
“You may not want to get that close.”
“Ahhh! My eye! My eye!”
“Awwwww. She gave you a love with her fingernails.”
“I’ve never been in this much pain!”
“Let me give Cordelia a big kiss.”
“How cute! She gave you a forehead love.”
(15 minutes later) “We can take your teeth to the dentist to be put back in when we find them. I suspect they’ll turn up in your stool in a day or two.”
Taking This Process To Its Natural Conclusion
Based on my parents’ example, I have decided to read the best possible outcome into anything Cordelia does.
Action: Cordelia waves her arms around randomly.
Interpretation: “Oh, look! She’s playing pat-a-cake!”
Action: Cordelia picks up a block.
Interpretation: “She wants to give you a gift.”
Action: Cordelia tries to touch a hot oven.
Interpretation: “Come here, honey! Our little girl wants to cook us a fantastic seven course meal!”
Action: Cordelia tries to roll into the fireplace.
Interpretation: “Awwww! She wants to determine if her clothes are really fireproof! I bet she’ll grow up to be a certified safety engineer.”
It feels so nice to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Developing My New Career Writing Children’s Books
Sometimes, well-meaning relatives who know that I am writing a baby journal suggest that I write some children’s books.
Tellingly, nobody who has actually read some of my writing has ever suggested this.
But I am nothing if not accommodating, so I have developed a proposal for a series of books about “The Three Fluffy Bunnies”. These will be short and lovingly illustrated tomes which will both entertain children and teach them a number of lessons. They will detail the adventures of:
Peter Fluffytail: A happy go-lucky scamp whose curiosity and energy gets him in a variety of wild scrapes.
Susie Longear: The studious bunny, who wants ever so muchly to know everything about all the creatures and plants of Happyforest Glen.
Roger Grumpygus: A cranky rabbit who likes to sleep in his den all day, but whose rough exterior conceals a heart of goodness.
And these three lovable little bunny rabbits will have a number of adventures, carefully described and sold in book form, such as:
The Three Fluffy Bunnies and the Haunted Farm: The three bunnies discover a farmhouse that they are sure is haunted. The explore it and find that, actually, it’s just abandoned.
The Three Fluffy Bunnies and the Candy Factory: The three bunnies wander into a chocolate factory and find some candy. They eat it and become very ill. But then they get better. They resolve not to go back to the candy factory.
The Three Fluffy Bunnies and the Difficult Decision: The three bunnies have a hard time deciding whether to bake a cake. In the end, they decide to.
The Three Fluffy Bunnies Get It, But Good: The three fluffy bunnies are getting older now, and they feel strangely compelled to do what bunnies naturally do. A lot.
The Three Fluffy Bunnies Shiv Buggsy the Squirrel: In which we learn that all the good little animals of Happyforest Glen should know when to keep their mouths shut. If they know what’s good for them.
The Three Fluffy Bunnies Get It, But Good: Very similar to the fourth book in the series, but with a number of additional new characters.
The Three Fluffy Bunnies and the Lunchtime Surprise: Rabbits eat their own waste. They also, in extremis, eat their young. Come along with me, and we can all learn together.
Oh, but I do love those three fluffy bunnies so. Hope and dream with me, and perhaps I might someday be giving my Bunnies books five star ratings on amazon.com.