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The Story About the Baby, Volume 20.

Our four-month-plus-a-little old girl, Cordelia, is a creature of wild mood swings. One week, she is a sleepless, finger gnawing little terror. The next, she is a little angel. Not the sort of bullshit angel with wings and a harp you see on Hallmark cards, but the sort of angel that lets mommy and daddy get a good night's sleep and doesn't vomit on us all the time.

Last week, terror. This week, angel. Read on, and I share with you my bliss.

Reverse Colic

Recently, Cordelia has suffered from reverse colic. This is a condition where, in mid-evening, the baby is extremely happy and playful for no apparent reason. Side effects of this rare and temporary condition are improved parental interest and an increase in poking by delighted strangers.

Yes, she's one happy baby. Happy to be tickled. Happy to see mommy and daddy. Happy to be worn as a hat. And when nighttime rolls around, she's happy to go right to sleep. Sometimes, she even achieves this state without healthy shots of baby Tylenol.

I think this signifies the end of teething. Or, at least, this round of teething. Her little pearly whites are almost in. But, as usual, I can't relax. Being as I am the father of Ha Ha Choo Choo Mood Swing Girl, all I can do is grimly record these events as a reference point to read back on nostalgically when she won't stop screaming. Like tomorrow. Or when she's thirteen.

My father, since I was wee, always thought that I was too "pessimistic". I don't like that term. I prefer "burnt out, hollow shell of a human being." But, these few days, I'm getting lots of sleep, and you can't argue with that.

Grabbing For Real

In a previous installment, I wrote that the baby had learned to reach and grab. Then, the next week, I wrote that she couldn't and it was just daddy's wishful thinking. Now, this time with feeling, she can definitely reach out and grab things. And I'm not just talking about pulling out double handfuls of daddy's chest hair.

When she's in her crib, she can see something out of her reach and contort, twist, and arch her whole little body to grab it. Once snared, she will, in a sea anemone-like motion, pull it back and insert it in her mouth, for information processing and nutrient withdrawal. The books call this "mouthing". I call it "the systematic moistening of every object in the house."

If a twist, back arch, and reach fails to secure the desired object, she will try again, and again, and again. Eventually, she succeeds and is rewarded with possession of an object. Thus, my baby is already, at the tender age of four months, learning her most valuable lesson. When you work harder, you get more things.

Eventually, this lesson can be applied to obtaining cars and DVD players. She probably won't want to jam them into her mouth. But she will be able to if she wants to.

Along these lines, I eventually intend to reward her with cash payments for good grades. Some frown on this procedure, saying it teaches children that the only reason to work hard is for comfort and financial gain, and that hard work for its own reward is for losers. Interestingly, this is exactly the lesson I want to teach her.

"Oh. I guess I'd better do some parenting."

So she's reaching out and grabbing for an object, and it's just a teeny bit out of her reach. She can touch it with her fingertips, but she's too clumsy to actually grab it. She tries two or three times, but fails, and she's starting to get frustrated. What do I do?

It's getting to the point where I actually have to start teachin' her shit. Whether it is how to use her hands, or how to talk, or what to do to a body to keep it from floating to the surface, I am going to be an active factor in her learning it. Which brings up the big question: how much do I help and how much do I let her fail?

Failure is important. It makes us try harder. I can't just go around always making things easier for her. But she's just a little wad of chub with a teeny forebrain. She needs all the help she can get. Thwarting her, while fun, seems sadistic.

So I let her take half a dozen passes at the object, until both she and I were sure that it was out of reach and she started to get pissed. Then I moved it a tiny bit closer. On the third try, she grabbed it, and brought it triumphantly to her mouth. Then I made a sound that was, to me, an encouraging cheer and was, to her, a loud, scary noise.

I want everything new to her to be a little bit tricky. That way, she'll learn. The only exception to this is computer games, where I will roundly kick her ass until she develops the skill to beat the old man. Because I will not be one of those sad fossils who can't beat an eight-year-old at a fair game of skill. If she can't take me out in a fair fight on Nintendo, she is not her father's daughter.

Decorations Are Very Important For the Development of Young Minds

OK, so an explanation. My parents were in the meat business for a very long time. During that time, they obtained a number of interesting objects. Then they moved to much smaller quarters, and some of those objects here handed over to me and my wife for safekeeping.

So if you ever enter the nursery and note that there are three large, steel meat hooks hanging in the closet next to the baby clothes, please be assured that there is nothing sinister going on.

Nothing You Can't Do On EBay

EBay is a marvelous web site. You can buy and sell just about anything there. Pez dispensers. Pornographic Atari cartridges. A house. (Actually, I didn't make up any of that. They made pornographic Atari cartridges. How could you not want to bring a child into a world filled with such ingeniousness?)

But EBay is very strict about certain things you can not sell there. You can't sell alcohol. You can't sell plants and seeds, or fireworks, or guns, or human organs. Porn is fine, of course, especially in Atari format. And surprisingly, you can buy and sell bits of baby.

Oh sure, it says you can't on the rules page. And most people believe this PR. But you just have to look in the right place. First, go into Collectables. Then Non-paper. Then Baby. And there you are.

For example, a ziploc bag of freshly shaved baby hair goes for about twenty bucks. I thought this was weird at first, until I found out that it is used to make the highest quality baby wigs. I don't know why you want to go onto EBay to buy a baby wig. But I imagine I'd want to get one after I shaved my baby's head.

You can also get sealed jars of baby drool, for teething babies who ran out of their own. I ordered two.

Fresh baby teeth are sold in lots of twenty, for youngsters of entrepreneurial bent blessed with a generous Tooth Fairy and parents who can't count.

So, if you need a few extra bucks and you're just storing that drool for your own uses, keep this in mind. I think I saw some good deals there. But try to keep it hush hush. We all got a good thing going here. I'm not sure why some Malaysian dude is paying top dollar for my daughter's nail clippings, but I'm cool with it as long as the checks clear.

Rock-A-Bye Baby.

A quick aside. Recent experience (and many a late evening acapella rendition) has made me realize what a wickedly funny song Rock-a-Bye Baby is. Especially the "bough breaks" bit.

If anything better expresses a parent's combination of love and loathing for a baby that refuses to sleep, I don't know about it.

A Way Being A Parent Reprograms Your Brain

Before, when a newborn baby was shown on a movie or TV show, I'd go "Oooh! How cute!" and not give it another thought.

Now, though, experience has made me observe two peculiar things about filmed births. First, the baby always comes out impossibly clean. Second, it comes out impossibly huge. Now, instead of "How cute!", I'm more likely to say something like "Oooh! How cu ... wait a second! It's a six-month-old! She gave birth to a six-month-old! Oh my God! She had it in her until the start of the sixth trimester! Look how big its head is! How did that thing fit out of her? It must have gutted her like a trout!!!!"

Turns out, when I say this, my non-parent friends could not possibly appreciate it more.


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