The end of the semester is upon us. I am finally finishing up my dissertation proposal, I have a class presentation on Wednesday I've almost started thinking about, d.w. is trying to salvage a term paper group-written with some appallingly underachieving undergrads, and she's about to put in some very long hours in the studio finishing a mixed-media work for another class.
Oh wait, don't we have a baby at home or something?
Yes, yes we do. And thankfully he plays well by himself. But sometimes the pull of Tivo is simply too much, and we have to put on Sesame Street or March of the Penguins so we can get just a little more work done. And he just loves those damn penguins.
I'm afraid we're bad people. No, I'm confident we're bad people. Next thing you know it'll be Ritalin and behavior modification.
I'll be a good dad when the semester ends. I promise.
[By the way, you might want to check out the latest addition to A Compendium of All Knowledge Related to the Rearing of Offspring. At least if you like reading about diapers.]
So we were driving down to Des Moines today to spend a beautiful fall Saturday doing beautiful fall Saturday things, when traffic on the interstate came to a complete and abrupt halt. After a minute or so, I saw necks craning out of cars. Then idling engines turning off. Then car doors opening and people getting out to take a look. There was an accident ahead, it seemed, and no clear way through.
All with a sleep-deprived, irritable baby in the backseat.
We finally resigned ourselves to the situation when a medivac helicopter landed in the highway just ahead of us. Chins was mercifully released from bondage and we all piled out of the car, figuring that if we were going to be stuck there, we might as well enjoy the sunshine. But what do you do for what ended up being close to an hour on the side of the interstate with a short-tempered baby to entertain?
Well, if you're lucky (as we turned out to be), you will have accidentally left some books in the car. Chins and d.w. spent quite a while feeling the lamb's thick wooly coat and tickling the dog's furry tummy. He's been absolutely obsessed with books recently, wanting us to read the same ones over and over and over again. Of course, not even fuzzy books can sustain Chins forever.
So he humored me for a little while walking through the grass, listening to me drone on about the prairie. Luckily for us (or me, at least) we were stopped along a stretch of interstate that has been the focus of extensive prairie restoration efforts. As a result, Chins got a lesson on big bluestem, smooth brome, and various goldenrods.
His response? "Yeah, grass is cool and all Dad, but more importantly, how does it taste?"
Sorry to be gone so long (my brain having taken a vacation from all creativity, inspiration, and wit), especially because Chins and I have been having some serious adventures together recently on days d.w. is in class. They are adventures for me anyway, dipping my toes into the world of stay-at-home parents a couple of days a week.
I must say it is a welcome change from the stress and constant pressure of grad school...did I mention my prelim's are next semester and I know nothing at all about science? That the past 22 years of schooling (dear god...) have stewed my brain to a gelatinous grey mass? That my major professor and all my committee members are going to discover that I'm a fraud? A giant phony destined to be run out of town in shame?
But that's another post. Sorry.
As I was saying, I've been venturing into a world heretofore known only to those brave souls strong enough to make a career of raising their children. It's a world at once both comfortable and intimidating, where you must simultaneously trust your instincts yet learn to overcome them when necessary. It's enough to drive an evolutionary biologist crazy.
We've been hitting up library story time as often as we can, which for a sahd noob like me is the crucible to end all crucibles. We arrive early so Chins can crawl around and play with the other kids (i.e., slobber on their toys and try to yank out their hair). This leaves me standing with the other parents in a ring around our children, like so many gambling addicts ringing a cockfight. It is then that I feel it most strongly: the ridiculous judgments of small, small people.
"Well, he certainly is a chubby one, isn't he?"
"Oh, you let him come here without shoes on?"
"Is he chewing on that toy? I would never let my Aiden/Caiden/Brayden/Jayden/Hayden/Zayden do something like that."
But I can take it. It's a funny thing; I used to get really hung up on what other people thought of me. I suppose I still do about some things. But when it comes to Chins, I don't give a rat's ass what anyone else thinks. I just breathe, listen to my instincts, and when I look into those big green eyes I know I'm doing OK.
OK, so right when I finally had the dad thing down, deftly changing blown-out diapers, instinctively curing boredom with a perfectly-timed stroller ride around the block, and masterfully inducing midday sleep in a rambunctious baby, all of a sudden (or, more likely, thanks to a two-month absence) I no longer know my son. What do I mean? Well, I'll tell you.
Now he crawls away just as I peel a funk-encrusted diaper from his little bum, leaving a horrific trail of...residue...in his wake. (An aside: I am now a firm believer that introducing solids should wait until kids are properly potty-trained. Or better yet high school. I am generally not a squeamish person, but those diapers — eww...just eww.) I used to prefer diapers with snaps, but now I've come to realize that velcro is a lot faster to secure when the object of your diapering is racing away from you at a feverish clip. Except they only work when he also wears pants. After all, nothing is more fun than undoing the velcro tabs on one's diaper in the middle of the living room rug.
My boredom-curing instincts have also all gone to hell. When Chins gets tired of what he's doing, he simply crawls over to something else. Usually an electrical cord, bit of trash, or one of the cats' tails. This has thrown me for such a loop that I totally forget all my mad parenting skills, and it isn't until d.w. gently shoves us out the front door that I remember "oh yeah — walks."
But the napping! It used to be so easy! I would lay Chins down in the middle of the bed with his favorite blanket and walk away, a couple of hours later hearing the gurgling and cooing of a baby talking to his Blankie. How sweet. How nice.
But now? NOW?! No, of course it can't be like that anymore. Now I have to sit there rocking a squirming, body-straightening baby who screams at the top of his lungs like I'm feeding him feet-first to a pack of ravenous squirrels. Then, once he finally wears himself out and falls into a peaceful slumber, he wakes up mere minutes after I lay him gently in his crib with his blanket, ready to get up and start playing again. Sigh.
So there you have it. I've completely lost my touch. But I'm sure I'll hit my stride again, most likely just in time to be away for all of next summer...
That's right, after a LONG two months I'm finally heading west to spend the rest of the summer with d.w. and Chins. Apparently he decided to wait until I wasn't around to:
Well, maybe not that last one, but I wouldn't be surprised if he figured it out by tomorrow. He's always been kinda brainy that way.
But maybe I'm a tad biased...
Spotted by Christian and Megan on a French grocery store shelf. Nothing like a heaping bowl of Choco Crack first thing in the morning, you know?
Must be because French children spend their time playing stick-and-hoop and chasing balloons around cobblestone streets...
I was going to write a post about the conversations d.w. and I have been having on the "Santa Question", but I decided I just can't top the terrific post recently penned by the intimidatingly well-spoken Her Bad Mother. Regarding whether Santa Claus is a "lie":
When I teach the story of the noble lie (which appears in Plato’s Republic) to my undergraduate students, they usually respond, initially, with indignation. It’s a lie, they say. It is meant to deceive, and deception is bad. Yes, I say, deception is bad. But not all fiction is deceptive. I remind them of origin stories, the story of the Garden of Eden and of the Fall (which, forgive me, I do not regard as plainly factual); I remind them of fables and myths; I remind them of the stories that we tell children, stories that we use for the purposes of teaching.
Stories like that of Santa, which, I think, teaches something about generosity and goodness and the idea that all children deserve to be (even if they are not in fact) loved. That the best way to celebrate Christmas is to give gifts without the expectation of reciprocation, to quietly slip a little happiness into the stockings of others.
Thanks, HBM. Another conflict avoided thanks to the power of rational thinking.
I swore I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't succumb to the tempting convenience and ease of just sticking my kid in a swinging, blinking, music-playing Neglect-o-Matic (or "baby crack", as d.w. lovingly puts it), rather than actually holding him, while singing and talking and swaying.
I was just so sure about it. This was something I simply WOULD NOT DO.
But then I realized that sometimes, just sometimes, I have to put on socks. Or change a lightbulb. Or rediscover my own personal space.
At least I draw the line at the music. Tinny, Fisher Price muzak has absolutely no business contaminating my aural experience. Period.
d.w. and I have both managed to become fairly adept at doing household chores while wearing the little dude in a wrap, but we've both come to accept that once in a while, it's ok to put him down. It doesn't make us bad parents, and it doesn't mean Chins is destined for many years of therapy (well, from this at least).
But it is a little creepy how his consciousness seems to exist on an entirely different plane when he fixates on those weird little plastic fish. Reason enough not to sit him there any longer than we have to.
Actually, sometimes I just need to put him down because he's a 13-pound(!), 24-inch-long(!) one month old(!). Yes, he is now officially off the charts. Today Sheryl (d.w.'s fabulous nurse-midwife, who we've kept on for pediatric care) pegged him somewhere considerably north of the 99th percentile for weight and length. And that means he gets rather heavy after a while, especially when he can only sort of hold up his (gigantic) head, and generally just feels like a giant larva curled up there.
So we've finally accepted we can't simply "stay the course" in the war on baby crack. I guess we'll have to be happy fighting baby crack to a draw. But we're not losing — call it a phased redeployment of child-rearing priorities.
Ok. Thanks to the diligent efforts of d.w.'s and my various sets of parents (oh, those wacky modern families, you know), we finally have one room finished in our little experiment in perpetual home remodeling. And our little hatchling will be happy to know that his room was the first to cross the finish line, his impending arrival adding that sense of urgency critical to getting over that little wall you hit at about 93% completion. So let's take a little tour, shall we?
OK, for a little context we'll start with the big picture. Here is our house. One of the benefits of living in a place like Iowa, besides the creepily friendly populace, is that a cute little house with all the original woodwork (the flipside being all the original wiring) costs less than a college education. In case you're wondering, yes, that is a sea kayak. And yes, the nearest ocean is a couple of thousand miles away. And yes, it's just a little pathetic that I take it out on old quarries and reservoirs. But I'm getting off topic. Let's look at the hatchling's room.
Both d.w. and I agreed very early on that there would be a few ground rules for the baby's room. No teddy bear wallpaper border. No frilly furniture. No pastel colors. And for god's sake, no plastic crap. It was a long, hard slog, but I think we came out ok. I will admit we became a little bit obsessive about the whole thing, but with the fervor of true believers we stuck to our principles, even when descending into the design-god-forsaken bowels of Babies-R-Us.
So there you have it. Our quest completed, we can now sit back and patiently await the hatchling's arrival, confident in the power of clean lines and primary colors to soothe and succor an infant's ills.
Yeah, not too convincing, am I...
With only a few weeks left, "patient" and "confident" are probably not the first words I would choose to describe myself. "Deer in the headlights" is probably more appropriate: