Our ten month old daughter Cordelia continues to develop at great speed. Babies are great for that. Every day, her desperate quest for mobility moves visibly closer to completion.
A mere week ago, she was able to stand up only through a combination of anger, desperation, and dumb luck. Now she is standing up all the time, using anything within reach to support herself. It is now very hazardous to lie on the floor in our house, as one’s delicate body parts will be used by Cordelia to push herself up. My wife’s breasts, which are only now getting over the horrible trauma of breast feeding, have repeatedly found themselves used by our daughter in a much more painful and less dignified fashion.
Since babies have teeny, teeny brains, the whole standing-up thing has driven everything else out of Cordelia’s mind. Clapping her hands? Gone. Saying “Da da”? Gone. Now she is completely focused on movement and hoping against hope that somehow, when mommy and daddy are distracted for just a moment, she can climb into the refrigerator.
“Mom! Daddy Is Entrapping Me!”
Like many parents, I own a copy of the omnipresent tome “What To Expect the First Year.” And thus, like many parents, I religiously check the milestone lists at the beginning of the chapter for each month. I read what my baby “should be able to”, “Will probably be able to”, and “may even be able to” do, trying to gauge whether my little angel is dumb or not.
And I have watched with horror as my daughter went from a baby who could do just about everything on all the lists to someone who could barely hang on to the “probably be able to”. I started to suspect that the ever more difficult lists late at the end of the book were just a conspiracy to make parents feel like jackasses.
At least Cordelia has always managed everything in “Should be able to” section, the section where, if the baby can’t do it, you are advised to “check with the doctor.” This is the list with things like “Breathe” and “Blink.” And, after eight months or so, “Move.”
But now my most paranoid suspicions have turned out to be true. I looked at what Cordelia should be learning this month and found this in the “Should be able to” section: “understand word ‘no’ (but not always obey it)”.
Wow. This is bullshit in so many ways.
First, how the fuck am I supposed to check whether Cordelia understands “no” or not? I mean, it’s not like I’ll say “No.” and she’ll look up at me and say “Oh, I am sorry father. I had no idea that I was not supposed to stick my tongue in the power socket. I shalt remove it forthwith.”
Plus, she’s a baby. We ain’t talking laserlike focus here. She will stop doing anything she’s doing in a few seconds, whether I say anything or not.
Second, unlike pretty much any baby milestone (like sitting up), the word “no” is something we have to specifically teach to her. And how are we supposed to do that? She’s not some foul demonspawn or creature of pure evil. (Yet.) She doesn’t do anything bad. We haven’t had many reasons to say “No.” to her! What? Am I supposed to set up situations where she can be bad, just so I can tell her not to?
Anyway, this is exactly what I have been doing. All my bottles of liquor are still on their pre-parenthood shelf at floor level, so I occasionally let Cordelia see the booze. Interested, she crawls toward it. Then, at the last moment, I swoop down, say “No!”, pick her up, carry her away, and drop her in the corner.
It’s the baby equivalent of playing fetch with your dog and faking the throw.
It’s entrapment, plain and simple. Normally, I wouldn’t resort to this, but the book makes it very clear that Cordelia has two weeks to understand the word “no” (but not always obey it). And if I fail, the book says I have to take her to the doctor, and that is a pain in the ass and they’ll jab needles into her until it isn’t fun anymore.
Time For Her Dose of Vitamin T
Instead of the generally orderly teething progressing described by the books (four teeth every four months or so, progressing in an orderly fashion from front of mouth to back), Cordelia’s teeth are coming in in a bizarre, semi-random order, complete with unpredictable periods of pained, screaming fury. We had thought that her teeth weren’t coming in. It turns out they were, just farther back in, but we couldn’t tell because whenever I tried to check Cordelia objected and tried to scratch out my eyes.
(To me, one of the most disappointing things about babies is the way they refuse to meekly accept anything their parent decides is good for them. I assume this changes later on.)
Her teeth are coming in weirdly. If the current pattern holds, she’s going to have one tooth sprout out of her chin soon, and another appear up her nose. And that will suck, because if anyone has invented a teething ring you can jam up a baby’s nostril, I haven’t seen it for sale yet.
(But if it does exist, I’m sure Babies-R-Us has a really expensive, shitty one.)
Since she was in so much discomfort, we started giving her more pain vacations. That’s when I started to give her a shot of Baby Tylenol (or, as I call it, Vitamin T) before she went to sleep. The alternative is an all-natural, purely undrugged, organic baby who stayed quiet for a whole thirty minutes before completely freaking out.
But I am concerned. My wife is worried. Cordelia used to dread the coming of the Baby Tylenol, and the “Scrape the sticky goo off the face into her mouth with the dropper” game was one I was getting very good at.
But Cordelia has since developed a taste for Tylenol. It’s sort of creepy. She sees it coming, and her mouth springs wide open. When she can, she grabs the bottle and gnaws on it, no doubt trying to get that sweet red elixir to pour forth.
I know I come across as a very casual, unconcerned father, but there are limits. TV is one thing, but I don’t want to be raising a cute little ten month old druggie. If she wants to get her all crazy with mind-altering chemicals, well, that’s what college is for.
Her TV Watching Skills Improve
Cordelia still gets roughly one viewing of Teletubbies a day. I’ve only just observed how educational that show can be.
First, some background. The Teletubbies are these four cute, furry, insipid creatures who frolic and put on dresses and “love each other very much.” They also have televisions implanted in their stomachs. It is never adequately explained whether the TVs were placed there with elaborate surgery or are actually encoded in the creatures’ DNA.
Anyway, once each episode, this magical windmill spins, the air is filled with sparks like you see in your peripheral vision when you hyperventilate, and a little show appears on the one of the Teletubby’s TVs.
(This does not appear to cause the creature pain or distress. But, considering that even the lowly cell phone can cause brain tumors, those belly TVs can’t be doing any good.)
The belly show always depicts several live human children, doing something cute. They learn to count to three, or put rocks in a circle, or staple leaves to trees. And then the kids all wave at the camera and say “Bye bye!” and the show ends and, and this is the truly diabolical thing about this show, the Teletubbies say “Again! Again!” and the exact same film plays again.
Cordelia HATES the films of the kids. The comparatively dull appearance and antics of the actual children bores her little 10 month old brain silly. And this is where the education starts.
When the kids came on, Cordelia would always crawl off and do her own thing. Flip through books, play with toys, whatever. Then, when she hears the kids say “Bye bye!”, she’ll crawl back to the TV and start watching again. When the same kids come on again, Cordelia crawls off and plays until they say “Bye” again and then returns to her show.
It probably doesn’t sound like a lot to you, but such tiny victories and advances are the thing that make a parent’s life worthwhile. I’m not as proud as I’ll be when Cordelia figures out how to use a Fast Forward button, but I’m quite pleased.
One Other Way Babies Are Dopey
Cordelia hasn’t figured out that she can position her body to get a better view of the TV. She doesn’t realize it isn’t necessary to sit way off to the side and crane her neck in such an extreme way.
Poor, dopey baby.