Monday, August 29, 2005

Sittin' pretty

First, there was neck control. Then, there was rolling over. Now, we have mastered sitting up. Yes, indeedy, my child, at 7 ½ months of age, is now able to sit up unassisted fairly well. I know that for everyone else’s savant children, this happened at 6, 5, maybe even 4 months old, but allow me my celebrations where I can take them, okay?

In other Gross Motor Skill news, I suspect that earlier today he also managed to get up on all fours, but I can’t be sure it wasn’t a fluke. I mean, he can get his knees up underneath himself with great dexterity (which would make him one step closer to mobility if he could crawl on his face), and he has been doing these girly-push-up arm-calisthenic-things for months, but putting the whole hands-and-knees bit together has proved to be somewhat beyond his considerable abilities for right now.

Which is fine with me, because I cannot tell you how much I enjoy the whole Sitting Baby Effect. It just makes things so much more interesting for all of us. For us, it means a dramatic decrease in screeching, since he can sit and play with things for several minutes without being frustrated by the annoyances that plagued him when he was tummy-bound, like having to constantly work his biceps like some meathead from the gym just to get a visual read on the cats. For him, it’s like his whole field of vision just increased by about 300%. Plus he can now use both hands to fiddle with a toy or grab for something. Evidently, being able to approach the world two-handed is not to be underestimated: I expect him to announce any day now that texture is the theme for Fall 2005, as he has finally discovered that carpet feels different from sand which feels different from grass which, inexplicably, feels different from the cats’ sisal scratching post. I wore a silk skirt the other day, and he couldn’t get over how it felt. He kept rubbing his hands all over it—it was kind of like being at the movies with a frisky (if somewhat small-handed) date.

The only bad thing about the Sitting Baby Effect is that it sometimes evaporates for no known reason. Today we were shopping (and by shopping, I mean “sitting in front of the full-length mirror in the store while other people shopped around us”) and I don’t know if he was just jazzed by the sight of the cute baby in the glass, but he kept listing to one side and was so distracted that he’d forget to catch himself and just kind of keel over. Ah, narcissism, you’ve foiled us again. He also tends to bobble if he’s really tired and naturally, falling over is much more traumatic when one is tired. Most of the time, if he does crash, we can play it off by saying “What? No, no, you’ve been just laying there on your back the whole time.” And he’ll kind of look sheepishly at us like “Well, yeah, right. I knew that. I was just seeing if you were paying attention.” But when he’s tired, falling over is akin to losing a limb in a combine accident or something: there’s wailing, there’s sobbing, there’s gnashing of teeth.

But for right now, simply sitting is a wonderful thing—not least because it hasn’t yet been accompanied by the lust for mobility. I don’t know if this is because most things in his world come to him (us, the cats, his toys) or what, but I for one do not long for the days where he will decide getting across the floor is of supreme importance. I just want him to be able to hang on to the contemplative act of Just Sitting a bit longer.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Funny bunnies

What is it with bunnies and children’s books from the 40s?? Do you know what I’m talking about? We have the required smattering of classic children’s books, which we read to Heavy D (his 80s-throwback moniker) on a regular basis: Pat the Bunny, The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon. I love these books—apparently Goodnight Moon was my own favorite when I was a kid. But what’s with all the bunnies? I’ve been toying with explanations all day and had pretty much narrowed it down to the fact that bunnies must stand for something related to the Cold War (white bunnies have pink eyes, and during the Cold War everybody called Russians “pinko commies,” right?) or were a vehicle for spreading Aryan-nation-type propaganda (look, all the bunnies are pure white—-all of ‘em. That’s all I’m saying.) But I finally came to the conclusion that those explanations actually suggest something even more insidious—like that people with an MA in English should not be left alone all day with children’s books.

So even if you don’t buy my classic-children’s-books -as-social-commentary theory, these texts are pretty darn strange by today’s standards. For those of you who have been living in an underground bunker since, say, 1939, let me tell you what I mean: the plot in Goodnight Moon, for instance, is riddled with a number of strange events: one goes through the “great green room” with the narrator, saying goodnight to everything (socks, clocks, kittens, mittens, bears on chairs, etc.), and there’s a point where one says goodnight to nobody. That’s right, you say “Goodnight, nobody.” There’s nobody there, but you’re wishing that lack of a person good night. It gets better. You then say goodnight to air. You also say goodnight to a bowl of mush. Which apparently you need, since you must have a terrible case of the munchies after smoking whatever made you say goodnight to a. nobody and b. air.

In addition, something about these books turns my husband and me, who believe ourselves to be fairly mature 32-year-olds, into Mike Myers-esque 17-year-old boys (minus the flatulence jokes, of course). In The Runaway Bunny, the little bunny tells his mother all these different things he’s going to turn into, and she always counters with what she will turn into in order to catch up with him, and so then of course he says he’ll turn into something else. The bit in question is when said small bunny says he is going to turn into a sailboat and sail away from the mother bunny and she replies that she will turn into the wind and blow the little sailboat where she wants him to go. Well, the bunny’s next line is “‘If you become the wind and blow me,’” and I must say that even though I know this line isn’t meant as a double entendre, I can still barely suppress my urge to have the bunny continue by saying “then I will have you arrested for touching me in my swimsuit area! For the sake of all that’s holy, woman, this is a family show!” Usually I am able to restrain myself and simply read the line that’s written, which is that the bunny will then join the circus or whatever.

My husband has a similar reaction to Pat the Bunny. In this story, which is known as a “touch-and-feel book” (a tagline which I feel amps up the ick-factor considerably), one first observes Judy patting the bunny and then is invited to do the same: “Now YOU pat the bunny.” If my husband manages to get through this part without snapping “I don’t want to touch your bunny. The son-of-a-b*tch bit me,” then he always loses it on the next page, where the reader is invited to play peek-a-boo with Paul by lifting a cloth to reveal Paul’s smiling face underneath. Invariably, my husband reads “Now YOU play peek-a-boo with Paul,” and then whines “But I don’t want to play peek-a-boo with Paul. It makes my tummy feel funny.”

The really sad thing is that these books have clearly been fine for the generations of kids who treasured them and are obviously dear to us or we wouldn’t be reading them to our son, and yet they inspire this infantile sense of humor anyway. What will this teach our son? Will he get thrown out of kindergarten for raising his hand and asking why the teacher left out the part about the mother bunny getting a mandatory 10-20 years for seducing a minor? Will he just make jokes out of everything and find nothing sacred? Or will be just be comforted to know that when he reads his children modern classics like Olivia or Guess How Much I Love You? and finds something socially obsolete in it, that he can laugh at it and still make it a family favorite?

Who knows. Maybe all he will learn is that an advanced degree in English can’t trump a sick sense of humor and that both often buy you more trouble than they’re worth.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Baby Talk II

So I promised a post in which I would discuss those folks who Idly Chat with our Babies. My main beef, I guess, is that I have noticed that people think they can say ANYTHING to you through your baby! I know I’ve mentioned the way adults communicate through children before, but I’ve started to see the uglier side of it. Like my friend said her mother-in-law told her child Jack, “tell your mommy you want something good to eat,” because I guess M-I-L doesn’t like breastfeeding and wanted to start the kid on solids. Oh sure, nothing makes me want to start my baby on rice cereal more than passive-aggressive communication tactics!

And of course I’ve mentioned that Davis gets “oh, you’re just HUGE” or “you’re such a chunker!” all the time. I can only imagine what I’d do if someone came up to me and squeaked “My GOODness, chubbikins, what do you weigh now??” And people feel the need to remind you and your child of his very few, very minute flaws: “oh, your face is all scratched, poor baby.” As if I either didn’t notice from being around him all day or better yet, as if I did notice and am actually sanctioning his condition, like I’ve given him my old disposable razors to use as chew toys.

But my absolute favorite is “Ooooh, somebody’s stinky! Did you go poo-poo?” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to yell THAT upon walking into a Wal-Mart bathroom. Actually, maybe that would help ease some of the new-mom anxiety: simply start saying to adults all the things you really think, but do it in a squeaky, cutesy voice so they either think you’re nuts or that you don’t really mean it.

But of course, I am guilty of this very same proclivity. I use Davis to talk to other people, usually my husband. In my defense, it’s usually to compliment my husband on something: “Bug, you better thank daddy for washing your diapers—he’s our hero!” or “Don’t you want to start sleeping through the night? Mommy and daddy haven’t had any special mommy and daddy alone-time in weeks!”

And of course there is the related activity of narrating for your child, which is a special thrill. We actually had a lot of practice at this before the arrival of the Bugzilla (one of Davis’s many nicknames—any manifestation of “bug” will do); we have cats for whom we ventriloquated quite frequently. May I confess? We still do this; our tabby, M, is particularly disdainful of the Small Screechy Human and she usually brings this fact up about 78 times a day: “WHAT is it doing now? Did it seriously just slob on my fur? I just washed that, for Cripe’s sake!” and “Oh, ow, kid, not the ears! Those are attached!”

Narrating for Davis, however, is even funnier since his short-term memory is considerably worse: “Hey, it’s the Belly Button Book! Have you read this? It looks great.” At this point, the child chews on said book for a few minutes before tossing it away (everything in his world is both taste-able and disposable), only to register sheer joy and surprise when it is re-introduced five minutes later. “The Belly Button Book? No, it doesn’t sound familiar. Give it here. And don’t tell me how it ends—it looks interesting!”

The narration can also be a coping mechanism for us. Sometimes, for example, it will happen that he’s gritching or crying and we take too long to figure out what he wants, and we narrate for him as he deals with the Bumbling Big-heads. Like we’ll change his diaper, and he’s still crying, as if he’s saying (we think), “Nope, not it. You’re not even warm, kids.” Then we’ll try to put him down for a nap—still crying. By now he’s frustrated, so his response is more like “No, no, NO! Sheesh! I am surrounded by idiots!” Eventually it dawns on us that oh yeah, he might be hungry, and by the time we finally feed him, he’ll have this totally injured look on his face that says something like “I wish they had given me to people who actually like babies.”

I guess all this talking-through-baby stuff is just another attempt of the insecure to be heard. Maybe it’s a subconscious way of reminding ourselves that soon enough, Davis will be able to speak for himself and have all the perspectives and opinions that are part and parcel of being one of the primates blessed with a voice. I mean, presumably the hope is that he’ll be able to do all his own narration, and while I look forward to that day, I also still want to savor his current reliance on us (however misguided that might be) to speak for him. Because from what I hear, it’s too soon that kids either don’t want you to speak for them or worse, don’t want to talk to you at all.

Oh well, at least we'll always have the cats. We can make them say whatever we want.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Has it really been almost a month?

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last posted. In my defense, I did warn everybody that I might supernova out after an initial flurry of postings, and it seems I did. There just hasn’t been much that felt post-worthy lately. We did take the highly lauded First Grandchild (also known as His Highness Davis A., First Nephew, and the Boy Wonder) on a whirlwind tour of North Carolina, where he has a substantial fan base. He was incredibly well-received: hotel marquees announced his presence, radio stations had contests to see who got to have breakfast with him in a limo, and traffic stopped whenever his entourage was in sight (okay, so it was just me and Jay with him in our purple Escort wagon, but hey, he’s a champagne superstar on a beer budget). He has recently had a great deal of trouble getting around, however, as his grandmothers, Bee-bee and Gramma, are firmly wrapped around his little finger. But what’s an adorable, exceedingly charming and incredibly intelligent young man to do?

He has also joined the world of the toothed mammals. Tooth #1 came in just before the trip and tooth #2, apparently a much more shy and retiring type, threatens to make its appearance any day now. It’s so strange seeing that tooth—I keep thinking he’s been eating lint off the carpet or something. I just am not used to the whole tooth thing; my friend’s kid Sam got his first tooth when he was like 4 months old, and I lived in paranoia for weeks after, thinking any day now, Davis was going to get teeth and my breast would suddenly start looking like a steak to him—you know the way the Roadrunner would sometimes look like a ham to Wile E. Coyote? And so of course the week after Sam got his first tooth, Davis got one of his recurring breastfeeding blisters on the middle of his top lip. I had been calling this phenomenon his Egg Tooth, since he looked a little like a dinosaur ready to peck his way out of a shell, but I stopped, thinking it might get the dentition spirits all riled up and bring the choppers out before I was ready. So I’m still getting used to the whole thing. I have been bitten a few times, but the last time I yelped so loudly that it scared him and he started to cry. I don’t know if it served to remind him of the breasts’ superior position in this relationship (as in, ‘don’t bite the boob that feeds you’), but he’s been most gentle with them ever since.

Also, I have come to the stunning realization that I really, really hate crying.

I know, I know, nobody goes out and buys XM satellite radio just so they can have the crying station on all the time, but most people with babies are much better about slogging through a few beastly crying spells than I am. I just really hate it. It makes me crazy, especially when I’m doing all my best stuff and it’s having zero effect. I have learned not to take it personally, which is kind of a difficult thing to do when you’re as self-absorbed as I am. I have never wanted to hurt my child, but there have been times when my voice was louder than it needed to be, even to be heard over said crying. It makes me feel horrid, but there you have it: my mom genes came without the crying-desensitizing option. I guess it’s not a totally bad thing—it makes me sensitive to my son’s needs and lets him know he’s being heard, but I really hope my inability to let him fuss for long won’t end up making him a total hardcore brat. I guess we’ll see. People keep saying I’ll get to the point where I won’t care and I’ll let him cry, and hey, maybe I will. But if I don’t, I don’t, and I’ve learned not to beat myself up about it. That’s what other people are for, right?

Okay, well, that's it for this post. I have some more thoughts on the uglier side of People Who Idly Chat with Your Baby, but that's another post for another night.