Now that my baby Cordelia is approaching the end of her eleventh month, she has been developing her ability to express negative opinions. While crying when she is upset is powerful and effective, it is also a very crude and inexact tool. To be a proper and fully rounded baby, she needs to be able to bitch in a wide variety of ways.
For example, for the first time, when we fed her something she didn’t like, she spat it out in a fine spray. She can now protest the loss of a toy with a long series of low, annoying whines instead of progressing directly to the scream. And, most importantly, she has learned that some people are strangers, and the only proper way to deal with a stranger is to totally freak out (for example, say, whenever mommy and daddy visit someone else’s house for actual human contact).
It’s called “stranger anxiety”. It starts when you are 1 year old and ends, if you are sensible, when you die. Some people bemoan the alienation of our society, the way we all live in our private homes and avoid our families and don’t know our neighbors. I, on the other hand, think that this is a GREAT way to live. The less time you spend interacting with other people, the less chance you have to realize how STUPID they are.
This is, I suspect, the core cause of “stranger anxiety.” It’s merely the child’s perfectly sensible hostile reaction to other humans. In a perfect world, one where every human being who didn’t actually give the child food or gifts was kept a minimum of a hundred feet away at all times, the child would never be forced to lose the blessed stranger anxiety, and the world would be a happier place.
The Proper Way To Drop the Baby
There are several rites of passage every parent must go through. The first time the kid keeps you awake all night. The first time its genitalia gets something gross on you. The first time you have to catch something foul with your bare hands to keep it off the rug.
Add to that list the first time you trip while carrying the baby.
Holding a baby makes you top heavy and reduces your visibility. Combine this with toys on the floor and baby gates to climb over, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to go ass over teakettle sooner or later.
(Speaking of baby gates, those things are a menace. A friend of ours has her toes taped up because she tripped climbing over a baby gate. Granted, they’re useful things. But they’re mainly a highly efficient vector for transferring injuries from babies to parents.)
My turn came last night. I was going over the gate, taking Cordelia to bed, when one of my grotesquely huge feet caught the top of the damn thing and over I went.
Now, when you’re falling, you don’t have a lot of time. You generally only have time between “Oops.” and “Wham!” to protect one person from falling. And, due to the gruesome and unsympathetic urges of evolution, that person is going to be your baby, not you.
It’s sad and painful, but true. Babies are fragile and valuable. Think about it this way. Carrying a baby is like carrying a rare, original, mint condition Millennium Falcon model, except that the baby is much harder to replace on EBay.
So I’m falling, and I’m doing my best to slow my fall by ramming my body against solid objects on the way down. The result was that Cordelia only actually dropped about a foot onto carpet. She was both unharmed and extremely pissed. I, on the other hand, somehow managed to sprain components of three out of four of my limbs. Which is a pretty good trick, when you think about it.
And I was lucky. I’ve heard nightmarish horror stories of broken bones and exploded kneecaps. Because when you trip while carrying the baby (and you WILL), you’re likely to end up MORE damaged than if you tripped while walking alone. While you’re airborne, you will make sure that you are the cushion the baby lands on. Your lizard brain won’t give you any choice in the matter.
So if you’re reading this to find good reasons not to have kids, that’s a good one right there. They sprain you.
More On Dropping
I have a friend who is a family therapist. His new patients have to fill out a form with background on the children involved, and the form asks whether the baby has ever been dropped.
I am assured that I would be surprised how many babies get dropped at some point in their infant career. A lot of the time, they leap off their changing tables. Other times, they just wriggle loose.
Lots of people do it. Almost nobody admits it, except in strictest confidentiality. And, I suspect, often not even then.
Sorry, Cordelia. I dropped you.
The Final Lasting Effect Of the Dropping Incident, Beside Me Having A Six Inch Wide Bruise On My Leg
I now approach baby gates much the same way WWI trench soldiers must have regarded No Man’s Land.
The Proper Way To Interact With An Eleven Month Old
Lately, my primary mode of interaction with Cordelia is to make stacks of blocks in front of her and let her knock them over.
All I do is make things for her to destroy. I feel like I’m training her to be a mad scientist.
The Perils of “Thinking About Things”
So I am watching, as I now often do, an episode of Teletubbies. It started inside the furry creatures’ hobbit hole, where the Noo-Noo, the intelligent vacuum cleaner that loyally serves them, hears them coming. It then flees and hides behind the stove.
Tinky-Winky, the first and largest Teletubby, enters. Its knees are very muddy. It looks concerned.
About a minute later, the next largest Teletubby enters. Its knees are also very muddy.
About a minute later, the next largest Teletubby enters. Once again, its knees are very muddy. Cut to the Noo-Noo, still hiding and rolling its eyes.
Finally, Po, the smallest Teletubby, enters. The entire front of its body is muddy.
The creatures proceed to cleanse each other with Tubby sponges, but I am no longer able to absorb any of what I am seeing. The first three come in with dirty knees, and the fourth with her front completely covered?
It doesn’t take a brainstorming session between Albert Einstein and John Holmes to figure out what was going on there.
No wonder the Noo-Noo was hiding and rolling its eyes. I would be too.
“Yeah, Children’s TV Can Seem Creepy. You’re Thinking About It Too Much.”
Exactly! I go into all of this because I have been told I shouldn’t think about these things so much. After all, thinking during shows for kids is a dangerous thing.
Because then you notice that Bert and Ernie have a very, well, suggestive living arrangement. And you start to wonder how a frog can mate with a pig. And you realize that, if you knew a middle-aged man who still lives alone and wants to introduce children to his “Land of Make Believe,” you might be more than a little concerned.
If you think about things, it’s creepy. But the alternative is WORSE. Not think about things? To Hell with that!
The day I stop recognizing the seething cesspool of barely concealed perversity and inter-species flirtation that is my daughter’s TV shows is the day parenthood has totally eaten my brain. I don’t want to see those shows the way a kid sees them. I don’t want to see anything like a kid anymore. I’ve done that already. It made me believe in Santa and stupid shit like that. I’m cynical and cranky, and I’ll stay that way, even if it means the Teletubbies keep terrifying me.
As long as Cordelia never sees me cringing, everything will be fine.
Everything will be just fine.