Our baby girl Cordelia is one week shy of her first birthday, and it’s like someone gave her smart pills or something. She’s showing real signs of brain activity. She can stand up unsupported for much longer. She can put her toy blocks back into their box and put the lid on the box. (Though, unfortunately, not always in that order.)
She still has a very short attention span. However, I feel that saying babies have short attention spans is unfair. Maybe they stop doing things quickly because the things they can do are so damn boring. If you had to spend time doing things babies do, you’d give up quickly too.
For example, I could not bring myself to play with blocks for more than, say, a minute. I am not very interested in sucking on a spoon. And, compared to me, Cordelia’s endurance when watching Sesame Street is positively heroic. So I guess, based on all that, my baby has a longer attention span than I do.
Descending Farther Into Being Parents
We just got a video camera.
Actually, my wife Mariann got it. I just stand a safe distance away and worry that I’ll knock it off of a table. That she was the one who bought it should make me feel like less of a sell-out, but it doesn’t.
Though Cordelia is young and her brain is tiny, she already has the uncanny ability to sense when she is filmed and, when she is, immediately stop doing anything interesting. We have already developed a formidable library of videos of our daughter staring at the camera. Off-camera, you can hear us pleading for Cordelia to do things.
If I died right this very moment and someday Cordelia looks at the tapes to try to divine what I was like, she would come to the conclusion that I was an ineffectual idiot who spent all my time begging for her to knock over a stack of blocks. The poor impression I am making on my hypothetical orphaned girl is starting to haunt my sleep.
Because the World Can Never Have Enough Baby
But it gets worse. Mariann has used the power of Macintosh to make DVDs out of our baby tapes. This will make Cordelia’s grandparents happy beyond words. They can put the disc in a machine and be rewarded with 15 grinding minutes of pure, uncut baby.
To me, it’s a great money-making opportunity. I’m thinking of doing a full press run of the DVDs and selling them for ten bucks each. They’re the perfect thing for anyone who wants to be stripped of the will to live. Some people build their suicide machine, hook themselves in, and just can’t bring themselves to push the red button. If they just spent enough time watching home movies of babies, I suspect that’s all it would take to push them to victory.
It’s ugly, but true. I mean, I’m her father. She’s my flesh and blood. I adore her. And yet I can only watch about five minutes of her staring back into the camera before I’m fast-forwarding looking for car chases.
Actually, there is one good bit on the tape. Mariann took Cordelia to the park, put her in a sandbox, and started filming her. She then discovered that Cordelia hates and fears sand. She wouldn’t touch the stuff. The ground was like a prison for her. The movie has one long shot of Cordelia looking off in the distance, seeing things she wanted to do, and being completely paralyzed and unable to move.
In addition to being very funny, it’s a marvelous visual metaphor for the whole parenting experience.
The Accumulated Wisdom Of My Life
I feel that I should record some poignant final video message to Cordelia, in which I pass my life’s wisdom on to her. I mean, I could be hit by a car any moment. Or I could succumb to the amusing, retro threat of anthrax. Or a shark could get me. And I feel I should tape something so that, when Cordelia is lonely and bereft, she can watch it and it will TOTALLY IMPROVE HER LIFE.
So I’ve been writing down all of the wisdom I have learned. Here’s what I got so far:
“Life is like a crap sandwich. The more bread you got, the less crap you gotta eat.”
“Go to bed with itchy butt, wake up with stinky finger.”
And that’s basically it. If Cordelia was a boy, I would also add the advice “Don’t boff freaky chicks.” I would hope that my son would be the first male in the history of humanity to obey this advice.
But as it is, I’m stuck. I don’t know enough. I’m thinking of creating a web site where people can submit potential hard-earned life wisdom to me. In the meantime, to create a inspirational legacy for Cordelia, I took Behind the Green Door on DVD, tucked it into a copy of Chicken Soup For the Soul, and called it a day.
My Hungarian Immigrant Wife’s Final Advice For the Baby
In the interest of fairness and equal time, I asked my wife what wisdom she would pass on to Cordelia:
“Don’t ever marry a Hungarian. (long pause) Or a European.”
“Don’t ever shave your pubic hair.”
Teaching Children Wisdom Is Stupid
When people are really reaching for a good reason to have children and they want to make themselves sound good, they often say they’re doing it to make the world a better place by passing on their values and wisdom. They’re going to give to the world a child raised RIGHT, to go out and fix the Wrong Things.
This is really the most selfish reason to have kids I can think of. It is basically saying “I will have children so they can go out and crush the children of those who dare to disagree with me.” Or, more accurately, “Children will finally provide me with a captive audience who will have no mental defenses when I inflict my crackpot ideas on them.”
For example, my father passed down his values to me. If there is anything I remember from childhood, it’s how even-handed my dad was about everything. Whenever I saw someone that I was sure was stupid or wrong and I wanted to spend some time going off on how awful they were, dad would shake his head and say something like “Now, Jeff. Some people are just that way, and I’m sure how they are makes sense to them. There’s nothing you can do about it.” It was maddening.
And yet, it infected me. While I talk a good game about wanting to visit flame and destruction on idiots, bigots, and anyone who ever bought a Prayer of Jabez book, deep down it takes a lot before I’ll genuinely look down on someone for something. And that really has its points.
So that’s probably what I will infect my daughter with. namely …
i. Other people may be stupid, but they’re stupid in a way that lets them get through life, so it’s probably ok as long as they don’t burn crosses or something.
ii. There’s no point in getting in arguments with people. Nobody ever ended an argument by saying “Oh my God! You are so right and I am so wrong! I will change my opinions right away! Thank you for taking the time to show me the error of my ways.”
I could do worse. Come to think of it, I’m sure I will.
A Final Thought On Passing Down the Wisdom of the Ages
Even a quick inspection of history reveals that things in the world get better when young people ignore the wisdom of their elders, not follow it. The constant removal of older people and creation of younger people is the mechanism through which Nature encourages progress.