I’m sort of ashamed of how much more engaging I find my ten month old daughter Cordelia these days. I feel like it should not have taken actual evidence of a brain existing inside her skull to make me feel so warm towards her, but here we are.
I never found babies that likable to begin with. Having an actual, helpless, oozing infant around did not give me any evidence that my initial opinion was unjustified.
But now Cordelia is understanding (in a painfully limited way) some things I say. She can also say “Da Da”. I’m sure she doesn’t understand what it means. But, instead of going “DaDaDaDaDaDaDaDaeeeeeaaaahhhhhhhhhhh”, she says “Da. Da. (full stop)”. This is a big and endearing improvement.
Also, she stood up on her own. She only did it once, pulling herself up using her toy box. My wife didn’t see it actually happen. She just caught Cordelia standing. This creates the uneasy suspicion in my mind that Cordelia is capable of doing lots of interesting things, and she just stops whenever we’re around. She might not be dopey. She might just be really, really devious.
Anyway, she seems to be trying hard to meet me halfway on this whole father-daughter thing, so I feel I should be trying to bring something of my own to the table. I’m considering feeding her more sugar.
Our New Parental Low Point
So the other night, just after a late dinner, I had a sudden, overwhelming craving to go out to my favorite ice cream place. There was a problem, though. It was a fifteen minute drive away, and, if we went, we would be gone during Cordelia’s feeding time. The potential happiness of fulfilling my cravings would not survive being in a public place with a child suffering Noisy Infinite Woe.
So my wife, who is normally the fount of parental wisdom and sanity in our relationship, suggested that we go out and simply feed Cordelia ice cream for dinner.
It turns out that this works well. Very, very well. Dangerously well.
How Did Cordelia Like Ice Cream?
How well do you think?
The Awe-Inspiring Justification My Normally Responsible Wife Gave For Feeding Cordelia Ice Cream For Dinner
“Well it’s just like yogurt, only without the bacteria.”
Other Adventures In Feeding Cordelia Badly
The next night, we discovered that tiny bits of fortune cookie, rationed and carefully parceled out, will keep our daughter quietly happy during dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
Boy, and I thought the television was a dangerous temptation to the labor-saving parent.
Today’s Deduction About the Baby’s Thought Process
“She must not want to have any brothers and sisters. That’s why she tries to kick me in the testicles so often.”
“Hello, baby. Blah blah blah blah blah.”
As hard as it is to believe now, there was once a time when my wife Mariann and I didn’t have offspring. But our friends did. And, sometimes, as is the practice of childfree couples everywhere, we would make fun of our parent friends behind their backs.
Once, one couple we knew had their toddler over, and they insisted on speaking to it. A lot. In complex sentences in a quiet, reasonable tone. As in “Now, honey, you know that you aren’t supposed to jab forks into other peoples’ bodies unless they say that you can. Also, while I’m on the topic, you know mommy appreciates it when you don’t light matches you find. Please stop. Please stop. Stop. Stop. Please stop. Please stop. Please stop.”
And the toddler reacted exactly as if it was being spoken to in one of those parent voices from an old Peanuts special. “Mwah mwah, mwah mwah mwah, mwah mwah.” It continued to try to light matches with all body parts that weren’t holding forks.
Mariann and I thought this was HILARIOUS. We’d endlessly play the scene out ourselves, always ending by saying “WHO DID THEY THINK THEY WERE TALKING TO!?!?”
Things non-parents say about children can always be ignored freely.
The other day, when looking after my TEN MONTH OLD, I said, in all seriousness, “Now honey, you’ll have to be patient. I’ll take you out for a walk in a second, but I have to get stuff together first.” And then I said “WHO AM I TALKING TO!?!?”
Now, sometimes, other people say “Why are you saying those things to her? She can’t understand a word you’re saying.”
And I say “Yes, you’re right. She can’t understand. And she’ll go on not understanding, up until the day when she does.”
The Use Of Skinnerian Conditioning To Mold My Child’s Brain
Actually, she can understand now. She can understand one thing. Through repeated testing in controlled circumstances, I have determined that Cordelia understands “Pat-a-Cake.” When I say it, she starts clapping her hands.
Mariann feels that this is a pretty lame first thing for Cordelia to learn. I, on the other hand, am grasping desperately at any signs of non-infant personhood. So I have been trying to use positive reinforcement to train Cordelia and convince her that language has actual, practical uses.
So the family unit is out for lunch the other day, and it’s time for us to leave. I go over to Cordelia, in her high chair, and say “Pat-a-Cake.” I planned to pick her up when she clapped. It’s how I train her, you see, and I don’t want to just pick her up without making it a reward for something. I don’t want to waste a pick up, as my back won’t stand too much baby hoisting.
So anyway, she doesn’t clap. So I say “Pat-a-Cake,” and keep saying it, and Mariann asked what I was doing, and I explained that I was waiting for Cordelia to clap so I could reward her. And then, the next try, she clapped, and I picked her up, and she was happy.
At that point, I notice the three young people, probably college students, sitting at the next table staring at me with horror. It was as if, instead of having a perfectly reasonable education-based training session, I’d spilled some coke and used Cordelia’s hair to mop it up.
Anyway, I placed their look of censure in the bin in my mind I reserve for parenting feedback from non-parents.
So anyway, she can comprehend a word now. It’s not “Go boot up daddy’s computer.” But it’s a start.