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The Story About the Baby, Volume 43.

Our baby daughter Cordelia turned ten months old today. She has been having a growth spurt in the brain region. Every day, she becomes visibly better at basic person things. She can pull herself up to her knees. She can achieve even higher crawling speeds. She will eat crackers when we hand them to her.

On the down side, all of the grandparents have left our house. Cordelia’s days of constant loving attention have come to an end, and the painful period of unspoiling her has begun. Cordelia is now left in the incapable hands of her biological mommy and daddy.

Well, OK. Mommy’s hands are capable. Daddy, not so much.

Unspoiling is a difficult process. It involves mommy and daddy leaving the child alone for a moment, and then being exposed to lots of loud, shrill noises. The amazing thing is how little time it takes for the screaming to settle into the background, to just join the ambient noise of the room. It’s sort of like Suffering Muzak.

On the bright side, Cordelia seems to have realized that she is stuck with us, and she has adjusted properly. She now bothers to smile at me when I enter the room. Even at ten months, she knows that a good prisoner sucks up to the jailers.

Jam Fleshy Tab A Into Canvas Slot B

Since my wife tends to take care of most of the day to day baby maintenance, Cordelia has largely been spared my ever dressing her. Considering how indifferent I am to the appearance and quality of the clothes I put on my own sorry self, this is a lucky break for her.

So I have only a few things to say about the whole, ugly process.

One.

I am not really a person who approves of velcro on shoes for kids. As far as I am concerned, the need to learn to tie your shoes is the only thing that keeps us from returning to the trees and throwing crap at each other.

That having been said, putting laces and not velcro straps on baby shoes is completely idiotic.

Two.

Baby clothes are always made with the soft, fuzzy, nice side on the outside, where mommy and daddy can feel it, instead of on the inside, against baby’s tender skin. Some sob-sisters have complained that this is not how it should be.

Bullshit. That is EXACTLY how is should be. If I’m going to lug this twenty pound lump of adorable wriggle-meat around, I am glad that someone is making the effort to make the experience as pleasant as possible for me.

Three.

No. Really. Putting laces on baby shoes is just DUMB.

Four.

Unless the baby is being taken out into cold weather, I have to be forced to put her into anything but pajamas. Pajamas are great. She’s in them when she wakes up, they’re warm, she can be put down to naps in them, she can be left in them when she wakes up from her naps, and she can be put to bed in them.

The question here is not “So when do I ever change her clothes?” The question here is “Why have I spent all this time changing my own clothes like a sucker.” I’d go to the mall right now and try to buy man-sized pajamas with the feet on, if I didn’t know that it would make people think I’m some sort of weird sex pervert.

Five.

I have not and will never look into any of my parenting books for advice on how to dress my child. I know how those things work. They’ll say things like “Infants should only be allowed to wear pants under strict supervision. Pants can suffocate children below the age of four. Do not let an unsupervised child wear pants, even for a moment!”

And I don’t need to read any of that, because I have enough to worry about just trying to get shoes on my kid without twisting her ankle.

Babies Are Not Happy

When my grandmother was staying with us, poking and examining her great-grandchild for the first time, she looked at Cordelia and said “She’s so happy! What a happy baby.”

Now, I hate to disagree with my grandmother. My grandmother was wonderful to me when I was young. She took me repeatedly to the mall, without fail. She bought me a number of Atari cartridges. She made brownies. She was first rate.

But I do not understand how it is possible to think that babies are happy. While I’m not sure we can truly understand the crude emotions in their undeveloped brains, I am quite confident that “happy” is not one of the words we should be using.

Look at it this way. Suppose you couldn’t walk. Couldn’t speak. Couldn’t understand anything going on around you. You were subject for the arbitrary whims of these giant, babbling creatures to obtain even your most basic needs. And whenever you took a pee, that fluid that started out so nice and warm and soothing always got cold and icky within minutes.

Sure doesn’t sound happy to me. Being a quadriplegic doesn’t necessarily prevent one from being a productive member of society, but it doesn’t strike me as a route to personal bliss either.

Well, you might say, baby’s brain are different, simpler instruments, and their helplessness doesn’t bother them like it does us. Well, GOOD! Thank goodness for that. It is only the simplicity of their minds that protects them from being driven mad by their helplessness!

And Hell yes, their helplessness bothers them. Watch a baby. Babies are not content creatures. Watch a baby struggle to learn to crawl, trying desperately to dig its fingers into the rug to drag itself a tiny bit forward. Look at how intently babies stare at things, concentrating on nothing but making sense of this world full of bizarre things, like gravity and televisions. Watch how fanatically infants grab and mouth everything in sight, using their hands and mouth to the point of fetishism because they’re the only body parts they can actually control.

Nothing works and learns like a baby. And nobody who is truly content, I don’t care how old it is (or what species it is) works that hard.

Babies can be happy during those brief, fleeting moments of intense, parental affection. But most of the time, they just want to be able to get their own damn food, thank you.

Oh, Wait. I’m Breaking the Rules.

Sorry. Forgot myself for a second there. Parents aren’t supposed to talk like that. Let me try again.

Babies are so happy! Especially our cutesy wootsy pudding pie!

Goo.

Developing Other Life Skills

Cordelia has started to occasionally jam her finger down her throat. The gagging noises she then makes are good for attracting instant and thorough dual-parent attention.

I’ll set aside the bulimia issue for the moment. I don’t really think Cordelia will start being bulimic in a serious way until she starts getting into Barbie.

No, this worries me because I am afraid we will condition Cordelia to jam her finger down her throat whenever she wants attention. We have enough shit to explain to the grandparents without having to sort through that one.

But don’t get me wrong. I think that it is important for babies to jam their fingers down their throats occasionally. It teaches a valuable lesson. Namely: Don’t do that.

Daddy’s Getting Into Barbie

Thinking about Barbie filled me with an instant and overwhelming compulsion to go to the Barbie web site (Make sure your monitor can display the color pink. http://www.barbie.com). Once there, I learned two things.

The first thing I learned was that, to enjoy the Barbie web site, I had to seek out and install new software. Barbie’s head and upper torso actually popped up to tell me this. Barbie also suggested that I get my parents help, though, in my experience, asking my parents to track down, download, install and configure Shockwave would make their heads implode.

So now I know that Mattel is right. Barbie really is a good learning influence on young girls. For example, today, Barbie tried to force me to learn how to reconfigure my web browser.

Once I bypassed all of the error messages and abuse (written, of course, in hot pink letters), I managed to reach the online store, where I found for sale “MERMAID FANTASY™ BARBIE® Doll” And that was where I learned the second thing: years of subjecting myself to the Internet have forever warped the way my brain reacts when exposed to the words “Mermaid Fantasy”.

This Week’s Greatest Trauma

My web browser was dissed by Barbie.


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