Our ten month old daughter Cordelia is cute. So cute. I could tell you all the cute things she does. Or I would, if it wouldnt be so mind-numbingly boring that your eyes would spontaneously explode to protect your brain.
I will say, though, that when she wants attention, she crawls up to us and rams our shins with her head like a little rhino. And whenever daddy holds a latte, she tries to grab it out of his hands and sip it. And when we put her on the changing table, she tries as hard as she can to suicidally flip herself off. And …
Sorry about your eyes.
Children are boring. Especially other peoples’ children. Fortunately, some things are interesting. Like disease.
The Coming of Disease
Cordelia had her first cold over the weekend. Much to my relief, she seems to have inherited my constitution (Colds fade almost as soon as they have begun.) instead of my wife’s (Colds set up shop and run amuck in her system for weeks. In fact, if you listen carefully, you can hear the cheery, raspy sound of billions of hostile bacteria in her system laughing and mocking her).
Cordelia got over her cold in only two to three days. It really didn’t have a big effect. There were only two observable changes in her behavior:
First, she took more and longer naps. She slept a lot. This, I have to say, wasn’t so bad.
Second, her nose ran a bit. Booger formation was high. And occasionally she would sneeze and a big gout of snot would hang like an icicle from her nose. Several times, daddy had to do a leap and barehanded catch to grab the goo before it landed on our upholstery.
Looking back, when I weigh the advantages and the disadvantages, I have to say that Cordelia’s illness really worked out for us. If only it was possible to genetically engineer light, sleep-inducing colds and release them into the population at large. This would give all lucky enough to catch it a much needed, completely mandatory rest.
Why Do People Have Pets?
Having a baby makes me really, really wonder why anyone ever has pets?
Pets, like babies, are dirty noisy creatures who don’t really care about you and have empty minds and minimal bladder control. And yet, while my baby will most likely grow up and become interesting and eventually be around after I die to make sure my body gets properly buried instead of eaten by rats, a pet stays stupid for its whole, very short life, and then it dies and you have to mourn and dispose of it.
Babies and pets are both annoying responsibilities. Both wake you up in the middle of the night. Both require training. But babies have so many more advantages. First, babies help your genetic material stay in the great evolutionary game, and that’s pretty important. Let’s not forget the whole Goal Of All Life thing here. I wouldn’t have had children if I didn’t realize that I, on many levels, am just better than other people. The world needs more people like me, so I bred.
If I have a cat though, and the cat has kittens, then the world just has more cats. Who needs that?
In addition, babies, eventually, are capable of expressing some love towards their parents. On the other hand, it is now well established that the endearing behavior of dogs is simply an illusion generated by evolution to play on the emotions of gullible humans. And cats, of course, couldn’t care less whether you live or die as long as the food bowl stays full.
(I know these hard facts will irritate some people. These are probably the same people who are convinced that babies recognize, imitate, and care for their parents the moment the head clears the vulva. I picture such people as occasionally needing to be convinced the toaster doesn’t love them.)
Admittedly, babies are more work than pets. And, if you have a really bad day, you can be really mean to your pet without it eventually blabbing to a therapist. But I say, hey, if you’re going to spend a lot of time cleaning up something’s shit, it might as well be something that can someday clean up your shit in return.
One Admitted Advantage Of pets Over Children
You can have sex in front of your pets.
In fact, it can even add a little spice to the proceedings.
Scientifically Measuring Exactly How Irritating Your Child Is
So it turns out babies have personalities. Who knew?
A few decades ago, psychiatrists Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas developed a list of nine“Temperament Traits,” which can be used to analyze and quantify baby personalities.
Now, it’s OK to be scared here. I understand. Whenever the words“babies” and “psychiatrists” come up, the sentences “If you take this pill, those negative emotions will just fade away.” and “You think your mommy is a monster who wants to steal your penis.” can’t be far behind. But this particular theory makes some sense.
Babies have nine basic temperament traits. They are:
Approaching/Withdrawing: How much your child wants to engage in the dubiously rewarding activity of meeting new people.
Fast Adapting/Slow Adapting: How likely your kid is to be freaked out when you light a fire in the fireplace.
Low Intensity/High Intensity: How loud your kid screams when you light the fire.
High Persistence/Low Persistence: How hard the kid tries to crawl into the fireplace. Low Distractibility/High Distractibility: The degree to which you will have to struggle to keep your kid out of the fireplace.
Low Activity/High Activity: A measure of general wriggliness.
Positive Mood/Negative Mood: A measure of general bitchiness.
Predictable/Unpredictable: How likely your sex is to be interrupted by someone else’s screaming.
High Sensory Threshold/Low Sensory Threshold: The extent to which your child is upset by anything and everything around it.
This is my favorite part: Based on these nine measurements, a child can then be evaluated as an “Easy Child,” “Slow To Warm Up Child,” or a “Difficult Child.” (Or, as one web site memorably put it, a “mother-killer.”)
The book “The New Father – A Dad’s Guide To the First Year” goes a step farther, even providing a chart where you can rate your kid from 1 to 5 on each of the nine scales, tally the results, and see if you win. If you have a score of 1-9, it says “Congratulations! You can just coast for 18 years!” and if the score is 36-45, the book says “You should probably just put a pillow on it’s face.”
Ha ha! It doesn’t really say that. But it’s heavily implied.
The best thing about this scale is that each of the nine temperament traits has a “Good” direction and a “Bad” direction. This is the wonderful thing that science offers us. For Chess and Thomas, it’s not enough that babies are a big pain in the ass. They had to explicitly and rigorously break down all the specific ways in which your child can be a pain in the ass.