Wednesday, September 30, 2009

100% Squishing

            A year ago today I didn’t have a baby. The little munchkin was born 363 days ago, and was destined to change my world forever. Today I was looking in the mirror at work, and noticed the black rings under my eyes. Certainly not a youthful look. Michelle was telling me recently about just how exhausted she can get, and it makes me realize:
            I think we’ve aged a lot over this last year.
            I wonder if this is why it seems a lot of parents are fuddy-duddies. They don’t go out. They seem more mellow. They’re more conservative. More careful. They build up the comfort of their home rather than adventuring into the wild beyond.
            It’s tiring having kids. The constant alertness required of us, especially at night, wears down the system so that the effort and extra costs associated with attempting anything other than cocooning in the little protective shelter of our home is too demanding and draining to seem worth the bother most of the time.
            We do get out. Don’t get me wrong. We’ve hiked and sailed, danced and swung from jungle gyms. Traveled by car, by plane, by boat, by bus. We’ve been to the zoo, the aquarium, the petting farm, the county fair, the local park with ducks and dogs. We’ve swum in oceans, lakes, rivers, hot springs, pools, and down water slides. Yes, as I think about it, even with a baby we most certainly do get out, but it’s in an utterly different form than what we used to do.
            When I look at this past year, it seems to me that we’ve squished a couple of years of living into it. We’ve squished 100% of my daughter’s life into it. And although it’s true that we’ve curtailed an awful lot from what we would have done without our little Sweatpea, it strikes me that we’ve experienced a heck of a lot more.
            It’s been an important year. One I don’t think I’ll easily forget. Even though my daughter probably won’t remember a single thing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Squealia and the First Toothbrush

            The plunge into fatherhood took me literally into the water over the weekend. We drove out to a nearby hot springs complete with baby-swim-diapers and plunked our daughter into the warm swimming pool where she splashed and interrupted the quiet soaking of the other patrons with happy squeals. Ah, Squealia, still our little screamer.
            The last time we drove her out to the hot springs she was barely a month old, and never touched the water. What a significant difference! I marveled at how much she’s grown in such a short time. And she keeps making new steps constantly.
            She’s had a number of graduations over the last week. First, and most important, we’ve changed her car seat to the one-year-old forward-facing deluxe model. Now I can simply tilt the rear-view mirror and look straight into her smiling face. Every time she sees me staring at her in the backseat she breaks into a huge grin.
            “Hi, my Sweetie!” I’ll say to her.
            “Aaaaaah!” she’ll squeal in delight.
            I’m most certain that she’s utterly thrilled at this transportation development, but the thing she’s most enjoyed this last week is the introduction of a toothbrush.
            All these months she’s always marveled every time I brush my teeth, and tries grabbing at my toothbrush eagerly. When she does grab it, she’ll put the other end in her mouth and stare at me with the other end of the toothbrush in my mouth a mere six inches away. Priceless.
            So there I was buying her a massive box of diapers when I walked past the toothbrush section of the store, and I thought, “Hey, it’s time!” So I bought the “Tigger” brush and later that day I pulled it out of the box.
            “Look, Celia! A toothbrush that’s all yours!”
            She squealed happily and latched onto it. After giving her a few minutes of playing with the brush, and chewing on every last inch, I tried prying it from her fingers and using it to brush her teeth. No such luck.
            As soon as I pulled the toothbrush out of her little fingers her face turned scarlet red and she burst into humongous wails. “Okay, okay, here’s your toothbrush back. Here you go, Sweetie.”
            With the toothbrush back in her hands, Celia quieted instantly.
            The rest of the day, the toothbrush was never far from her side. She might place it down to play with another toy, but quickly scooped it up again. In fact, she even took it to the bath with her, and later she brought it with her to bed.
            Needless to say, this morning, I had to use my own toothbrush to brush her teeth, rather than hers. I wonder if I should buy another one? One for brushing her teeth, and one for her to hold onto…? My daughter, the toothbrush-aholic.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Growing Belly and Shrinking Window

            All day I tried figuring out when I could get some exercise. My first attempt was before work, but my mind was such a puddle I couldn’t quite get off the carpet as my daughter crawled all over me.
            At work I caught myself daydreaming about playing soccer. The guys in the neighborhood would be playing that evening, and it would be so simple to slip on over there… I stopped myself before it would become too painful. I haven’t played in weeks, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to change that because Michelle would want me on baby duty.
            By the time work was done I knew what I’d do. As soon as I would arrive home, I’d take my lovely little bundle of joy, strap her into the baby jogger and run around the local lake with doggy park. It was a perfect plan. I’d get the daughter out of Michelle’s hair, plus get my exercise and get out while the weather’s still nice.
            Unfortunately, on the drive home it became clear rather quickly that Michelle had other ideas.
            “I want you to cook dinner tonight,” she said.
            “Sure, we can cook tonight,” I replied.
            “No,” she paused. “I said you.”
            “Of course,” I replied with a faltering grin. Somehow I knew my plans were losing their stability.
            When I walked in the house Michelle handed the baby to me. “Celia!” I greeted her with a smile.
            “You need to start cooking for her right away. She’s tired.”
            I turned to Celia, “Do you want to go to the park? Should we go to see the doggies?”
            Michelle said, “You need to get groceries and cook first. It’s getting late.”
            I quickly bundled up the baby, packed her in her new one-year-old car seat, and scuttled off to the supermarket. By the time I was home and cooking, Celia and I had spent over an hour together and I could see my window slipping.
            “She needs to eat now,” Michelle said.
            “Okay.”
            I set aside a portion for Celia while I continued cooking the rest. Michelle fed Celia, then gave her a bath as I finished cooking and cleaned up the kitchen. By the time I’d finished cleaning, it was time to read Celia a few bedtime stories.
            After Celia finally fell asleep, Michelle took a deep breath, looked at me and said, “Let’s open a bottle of wine tonight.”
            At that point I knew any exercise hopes were shattered. I lit a candle and we had a pleasant dinner. By the time we finished, a friend stopped by, who we fed, then three more friends, and with them lots of distractions.
            Of course, this morning I didn’t manage to peel myself off of the carpet, and at this very moment I sit and look at my growing belly with frustration.
            There’s no question that ever since I’ve had a baby, my world seems to be expanding. Yes, one can definitely say that having children is a growing experience.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Parenting in the Age of Science Fiction

            I’ve been away on business for the last few days. You’d think that traveling would mean I’d get a better night sleep than at home, with the absence of my late-night loud little lass, but my hotel bed wasn’t the most comfortable, which meant a fair share of tossing, turning, and tender muscles. So, I got back from the trip more tired than I would have liked, conked out at 7:30pm last night, then woke up for an hour and went back to sleep for the rest of the night.
            It was nice to get away, but in all honesty I missed my two ladies, and in those moments where I didn’t have anything I “needed” to do, it felt weird to actually have my own space. Funny, how I used to take for granted my own space, then I lost it almost entirely with the baby, only to get into this mode where I don’t expect space and get almost shocked when I’ve got it.
            The interesting moment for me was when I called Michelle and we set up the video chat. There I was, looking my daughter in the eye as I spoke with them. “Hi my sweetie!” I called out.
            Celia crawled out of Michelle’s lap, onto the desk and reached up to the screen to try to give me a big kiss. It was so sweet, I smiled from ear to ear and said, “Oh my darling! I love you!” She grinned and looked back at Michelle for affirmation. Michelle and I chatted a bit, then we waved goodbye.
            After the computer was turned off I shook my head in disbelief. What we just did was science fiction when I was a kid, and here Celia is going to just take it for granted. To her, this is just what you do when your dad goes on his business trips. You video with him so you can see him.
            In all honesty, I feel like the whole parenting job is going to be tougher than it was a generation ago. Don’t get me wrong, all the most important stuff is still timeless; showing love, teaching boundaries, feeding and clothing and playing. These are the timeless truths of our lives that will never change. Languages may change, but the fact that we need to teach them to our children remains the same. Clothing styles may change, but we still need warm clothing in cold weather, and light clothing in hot weather.
            But the information age has brought a new dynamic into things that my parents never had to think about. We individually have access to more information, media, and images in this very moment than ever before in the history of humanity. You can’t walk outside in a city without being bombarded with images and messages, let alone listen to the radio or watch television.
            This is a different era. And I wonder what sort of protection and wisdom I need to pass along to my daughter to guide her through this. I myself always turn off the radio when the advertising is on, and rarely watch TV. It’s such a small thing, and even so I’m still wide open to a constant barrage of information from every angle. It keeps coming and coming until I’m so over-saturated I pay less attention to everything. My daughter is already swimming in this sea of messages and information. If I don’t intervene she’ll probably learn to treat information rather casually.
            I want her to cherish intellectual items. I’m sure we won’t achieve anywhere near the level of appreciation people had for a good book or piece of music a hundred years ago, because I’m nowhere near that myself, but I want her to at least appreciate a song she hears before moving on to the next one, or the book, movie, article, or educational lesson. I can just imagine the new temptation, with television images flitting past more quickly than ever, to simply suck all this “stuff” in to the point of not really observing or appreciating any of it.
            I want her to be drawn to write poetry. To sing a new song. To read and to discuss the things she’s been exposed to, rather than letting them slide off of her. This may be the greatest challenge her generation will face. I hope I’m up to the parenting challenge to lead her into it. Only time will tell.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Food Fiasco

            When I arrived home Michelle handed the baby to me and said, “You need to feed her and give her a bath before she goes to bed. She’s hungry and filthy.” She waved goodbye and went out the door with her friend. I looked at Celia, who gave me a grin.
            “Okay, Sweetheart. Let’s find dinner!”
            I rummaged through the fridge and found her some vegetables and tofu, then toasted her some bread with cream cheese. Truth is, I wanted her to eat quickly, so we could go for a run. “Let’s eat!” I said to her excitedly as I plopped two pieces of tofu on her high chair.
            Now, I don’t know what was going through her little mind, but within moments she made an utter, complete mess of herself. Food everywhere. On her face. All over her bib. Her shirt. Her pants. The floor. Her hair. Even some on me!
            Two minutes into the insane eating fiasco I looked at her, with a huge glob of cream cheese sitting between her nose and upper lip, and felt somewhat shell-shocked as I thought, “What the heck is happening here?”
            In all honesty, I think she was purposefully trying to get herself as dirty as possible. Yes, she was hungry and ate a lot, but she was literally rubbing the food everywhere. She would take a fist-full of food and stuff some into her mouth, then, whatever was left in her little fist she’d shake in her hand, rub somewhere, then throw on the floor.
            I sat there with an open mouth for awhile. “Is this truly my daughter?” I asked aloud.
            When she started to squirm I knew our time in the high chair was limited. I stripped her naked and put her over the kitchen sink to rinse her off. She gurgled happily and gave me a big smile, as if to say, ‘Wasn’t that fun, Dad?” Hmm. Fun for whom?
            I seriously hope this frenzied food phase doesn’t last. The first time it’s kind of funny, the second time it’s still endearing, but if she makes a culinary disaster at every meal, I’m sure it will take it’s toll. Yes, I can pick up food off the floor and re-feed it to her (I admit I ended up doing this), but can the washing machine really handle three entire outfits a day? I know she’s a girl, but how many outfits is she supposed to wear in one day, anyway?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Cuteness Is a Dangerous Weapon

             More steps. She’s not fully confident yet, but moving along. And with it, she’s become more needy.
            What a pain all of that ultra-neediness is! She gets herself worked up to the point where she wants to be in physical contact with you or she cries. What a shift from her usual independent psyche! I suppose I should just look at this as yet another stage, and be patient with it. It’s funny, because as she’s grown older and become more mature I’ve been able to relax in certain ways with her, but needed to become more watchful in others.
            She’s been doing this very cute thing with our boundaries. One of the cat toys is a little mouse with a tiny bell on its tail. The cat loves it, and will play with it constantly. Because the cat goes crazy about it, Celia wants to get her little paws on it as well. This is all fine and dandy, until she puts it in her mouth. At that point, I have to draw the boundary, because if she gnaws off the bell, she could choke on it (plus, who wants their kid chewing on a cat toy? Eww!).
            The first time she put it in her mouth, I said, “Tay-Tay. Not for the mouth. Play with it in your hands, baby.”
            She smiled and played with it nicely for a bit, then looked at me with the most adorable grin and put it up to her mouth again.
            “Tay-tay,” I said. And she lowered it again.
            Once again, she played with it, swinging it around for the cat to watch, then looked over at me with a big grin and put it up to her mouth again.
            I couldn’t help but smile. What a cutie! Is this how she’s going to break my boundaries? Oh, if so, I am already destabilized, because she’s just so darn adorable, how can I do something to make her cry?
            But, in the end, I went through the routine once again, and once again she lowered it, only to raise it again with a big grin. After about the seventh time, I finally took it away from her, and of course she bawled her eyes out, but only for about eight seconds. It’s like she knew that would be the consequence, and she cried just to show she didn’t like it, but since she expected it, she didn’t dwell on it.
            Later, this morning, she came across the toy again, and we went through the entire routine all over again. Again, I was so delighted with her adorable and charming way of breaking my rules. Again, I had to take it away in the end, and she cried for about eight seconds.
            My little girl is growing up. She’ll be one in a few weeks. Already, I’ve found myself looking at women differently these days. I see them as they used to be as babies, and think about how they were parented. It’s quite an odd experience, and I suppose all a part of the fatherhood package. It seems like I’m growing in odd and new ways I hadn’t expected.
            Maybe with every step Celia takes, I’m taking a step too?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When Do You Stop Calling Them Babies?

            My baby is practically walking now. She’s confident on her feet, and can take a handful of steps at a time. She can also go down the slide by herself. Yes, it is indeed a bit scary for a new parent.
            Many parents have told me, “There’s no rush for your kid to walk,” and I’m starting to realize why. The kid’s going to walk soon enough, why open that can of worms sooner than you need to? When they do start walking it ushers in a whole new era of parenthood. In an instant the child moves from walking to running, and then from running to running into things, and of course all the accompanying concussions, bruises, and bleeding. Parents suddenly must become super heroes, able to prevent crash-collisions with a single leap, able to keep an eye on their children even when they’re at their busiest, able to prevent the unpreventable.
            A friend recently asked me, “When do you stop calling them babies?”
            I thought about it a second, then said, “It’s when they start walking. They become toddlers.”
            Not that I really know. I was just thinking of which room you take your kids to during church. There’s the “Nursing Room” for babies, followed by the “Toddler Room” for the rampaging walkers, and finally the “Classrooms” for kids who can talk.
            I’m afraid that when Celia’s a bit more confident on her feet, she’ll find ways to slip away from us. She definitely is an exploratory-type kid. In all honesty, it can be daunting at times thinking about it. Already Michelle is getting really tired, I can tell. Yesterday, before we went to bed, I told her she needs to figure out how to take a break from baby duties during the day. Swap with friends. Drop off Celia somewhere. Whatever it takes. It’s not just a lack of sleep, but being constantly aware and on the guard that can tire a person out.
            I just hope Celia is the type of kid who has relatively few major accidents and wanders into strange territory as little as possible.
            Well, whatever she’s like, we’ll soon find out. There’s no stopping this kid from growing. So… onward to the next stage! (I’ll have to go find a nifty superhero outfit)

Monday, September 14, 2009

No! No! No!

            “No! No! No!”
            It’s amazing to me how much I hear these words in relation to kids. Everywhere I go, I hear this. Friends’ houses. Playgrounds. The beach.
            If it’s not a straightforward one-word “No” with babies, it’s a variation for older kids. At the beach I watched this family of four walking past. The boy, who was probably around eight or nine, lifted a used tampon he’d found on the beach to his dad and said, so all of us could hear, “Dad, what is this?”
            Michelle and I looked at each other and grinned. I concocted in my mind what I would give as a response. How do you explain in as innocuous a way as possible to a nine-year-old boy, what a woman’s hygienic item is? I awaited to hear the father’s response.
            “Drop that!” he scolded his son. “Don’t touch anything.”
            I was shocked. This? This was his solution to a significant learning opportunity?! The boy lowered his head as he dropped the tampon and kept walking. Then, he went over to explore some seaweed.
            “What do they teach you in school?!” the father scolded. “Don’t touch that! Come over here!”
            The boy begrudgingly went to his father’s side, and most certainly piled up heaps of resentment, as I’m certain I would have. What a pity!
            I hear this kind of negative, limiting language everywhere, even among friends. We took Celia to a one-year birthday party (the second of many, I’m sure), and one young woman there took a liking to Celia. I smiled as I watched them interact. She was quite shy, not speaking with anyone else at the party, and when Celia came up to her, she smiled sheepishly. Celia instantly took a liking to her and started crawling up onto her lap.
            I continued to smile. I love seeing people light up when my daughter gets a hold of them.
            But then, an interesting thing happened. Celia reached up for her glasses. At that point, I heard somewhere around a dozen “No”s from her. All with a smile, and all done nicely, but still, they were most certainly negative language.
            And did it stop Celia from taking off her glasses? Of course not! In fact, Celia took them off twice in the whole process, which of course gave me even more course to smile. But when Celia finally tired of the little game and moved on, I simply shook my head. This young woman could have had such a fun game of it, teaching Celia how to play with her without touching her glasses, and instead she basically just told Celia what was off-limits. That was it. No fun. No positives. Just the negatives.
            It’s unbelievable to me how much negativity most children must grow up with. It’s somehow human nature, I think, to want to tell our kids not to do certain things. Of course, we need to set their boundaries, and I do this daily with Celia. But I try my best to use positive language wherever possible.
            We created “Tay-Tay” to say to her when something’s off limits (which is not only a better alternative to “No,” but I often smile when I say it). I also try to say things like, “This is not for baby. Let’s play over here instead with this!”
            When I say stuff like that, she has all sorts of positive options while at the same time learning an important boundary. I’d say it’s pretty effective! And frankly, I’d like to reserve “No” for the serious stuff. Sharp things. Hot things. Dangerous things. Let’s face it, when Daddy says “No,” we want to make sure Baby will listen.
            So let’s stop throwing the word around thoughtlessly and start using “Tay-Tay!” Why not? We’ll look goofy, but hey, our kids will love us for it down the road, and let’s face it, anyone who gets down to the kids’ level and parents well looks kind of goofy to me. We could even make it a new movement: Goofy Parents of Happy Children. If someone starts it, count me in!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Being a Jerk

            Not the best weekend we’ve had so far, that’s for sure. Both Saturday and Sunday I woke up upset. The baby has been screaming at night again. Something’s gotta change or I’m gonna break.
            She’s just too close to the bed, so when she wails it can shoot through to the core of your being, and when it continues it can seriously penetrate the soul with negative vibrations. At 3am this morning I was so upset -- we’d already had one scream-fest, so that when the baby started screaming again and Michelle started feeding her I snapped.
            “Why are you feeding her!? You’re teaching her that she needs food to sleep! This is why she’s having so much trouble!!!”
            I was exasperated, and definitely unfriendly. Michelle told me we’d talk about it in the morning. I tossed and turned and didn’t sleep well. It’s hard to sleep when you feel so much anger.
            The next morning, church was good for me, especially the time of confession, and in between things I went downstairs and found Michelle in the kids’ room. “Hi.” I said.
            “You know, you can be a jerk sometimes,” she said.
            “Are you giving me permission, or describing me?” I asked.
            She smiled.
            “Yeah, I know,” I said. “I’m sorry I was so impatient with you.”
            After church a friend came up to me and said, “So I hear you yelled at your wife last night.”
            “My goodness, what a small church! Word travels fast around here…” I replied with a smile.
            She smiled back, “Me and my husband were arguing once a few blocks from the church when someone from the church saw us. I suppose it’s better that these kinds of things aren’t kept secret anyway.”
            “True. True,” I replied and thought about that. It’s really true, isn’t it. These are the kinds of moments that every human being tries to cover up. It’s embarrassing to be a jerk, especially when you’re a part of a church.
            Something about church, I think, makes people try to cover up their failings. It’s like deep down we think we’re supposed to be better people because we’re a part of a community that’s trying to make a better situation of their lives. But that’s really the opposite of what Jesus was all about. He was more into saying, “Look, you guys are jerks. And God still loves you. So admit it to each other and God will work quicker to change you for the better.”
            Something like that, anyway. I think there’s some real wisdom in that. If we cover things up, we allow it to fester and turn into something even uglier. If we expose things right away, we’re allowed to heal rather quickly. And that’s what we all really desire to do, isn’t it?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Teethifier

            Michelle got Celia a new type of pacifier called a “teethifier.” Basically, it’s a double-pronged soother with thick lumpy balls on each end. An interesting concept.
            So I was sitting on the front porch with Celia, and she crawled away leaving her teethifier. I picked it up. Interesting shape. Bright flagrant yellow. I touched it and felt its texture. I wondered what it would be like on the gums, so I put it in my mouth and tried chewing my gums on it. Seemed pretty effective, but then again, I’ve got all my teeth, so it was hard to tell.
            Then the baby started playing with the cat through the mail slot. It was quite hilarious. The cat wanted out, so it kept peeping through the slit, and Celia shrieked with delight every time she caught a glimpse of the kitten.
            I turned around as two gentlemen walked past. They had a certain “different” look about them I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and I watched them for a moment. One of them turned to look at me, shrugged his shoulders and laughed.
            I thought, “What the heck was that about? Did they think I was some weirdo too?”
            But then I realized that I had this teethifier dangling out of my mouth, and I laughed as well. Yes, maybe I am some sort of weirdo, if that’s the natural progression of having kids. I’ve found that I’ve been crawling around on the floor more often. I’m making all sorts of animal sounds almost daily. I sing in public a lot more. And now, apparently, I suck on teethifiers on the front porch as I watch the passersby.
            Yep. Definitely more of a weirdo.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cutest Girl in the World

            All day now I’ve had a tune in my head. It’s the one I wrote for Celia while we were at the cabin on the lake, called “The Cutest Girl in the World.” It’s a fun little ditty, but the part I like the best is that I recorded it on the fly (as usual), with Celia in my lap, and the whole song through she’s “singing” along.
            “Aah, aah, ahh, ahh. Daa, daa, daa, daa. Aahh, aah, aahh, ahhh!”
            Makes me smile every time I think of it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cut the Rope!

            Ah, the long weekend!
            I am so thankful to be working at a job that honors things like stat holidays, because: Boy do I ever appreciate them! I went sailing with two good buddies while Michelle took Celia to the Island to see a friend. What a splendid time! Good company. Good adventure. Good food.
            On our first day, the weather was so rough, we had gale-level gusts and two meter swells. For those of you who don’t sail, it was only a thirty-foot boat, and that’s a lot of weather for a little boat. We actually tried putting up the jib (the smaller sail in front), while I was at the helm, and the boat started to tip dangerously, taking in water on the side.
            “Cut the rope!” my buddy who owns the boat called out. That was one of those fantastic moments for me. The kind of moment where I suddenly felt like I was inside a movie or book. Where Tale of Adventure meets Real Life. My other friend leaped onto the knot where my friend was pointing and cut the sail loose quickly. In the end, not a big deal at all, but in the moment we all certainly felt a healthy dose of adrenaline pounding through our bodies.
            When I got home late last night and finally saw my daughter, I was so delighted to see her; so thankful to have her in my life, I surprised myself. Same with my wife, actually. A bit of distance does marvels to help us realize how precious our loved ones are.
            A good college friend of mine had a stillborn yesterday. I feel so many things when I think of her; sadness, shock, care, and thankfulness. That last one is the key. I’m so thankful for what we do have. She has two wonderful healthy kids, and I have one. That’s such a gift. We have to stop and appreciate that.
            In fact, I’m going to stop and do that right now.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Head Band

            When I got home from work yesterday my daughter was wearing a head band. It was such a little thing, but it hit me full on: she’s getting older! It may be laughable, but I was shocked.
            Not that the reasoning is shocking; she has enough hair now to need to keep it out of her face. The shocking thing was when I thought to myself, “She’s going to make that leap from ‘cute’ to ‘beautiful’ in no time. And from there, it’s just a hop skip and a jump to go from ‘beautiful’ to ‘sexy’! Egads! My daughter’s growing up!”
            Okay, okay, she’s still a baby. But I am utterly amazed at how quickly all of this is happening.
            Some friends came by after she went to bed and we hung out over a few late-night drinks catching up, when the baby started to fuss. Michelle told our friends to come up and see the baby, because it had been a few months. When they saw her they were shocked. “She’s huge!” one of them said.
            Celia kept looking over at my buddy with a big grin. His wife said, “Why does she like you so much?” He danced and sang for her, and Celia clapped in delight. In fact, Celia was so happy, when it was finally time for them to leave, they kissed her and said, “Good-night,” and instantly Celia broke into wails.
            “What did I do? Did I hurt her?” my friend asked.
            “No. She just doesn’t want you to go,” I said.
            We left and I felt amazement again. How quickly this time passes. Before we know it, we’ll blink and she’ll be in school. She’s already less than a month away from her first birthday. It won’t be long before I’m pulling out the shotgun to scare off all the horny boys.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Traffic

            Before I got off work Michelle called and said, “Pick up some good chocolate.”
            Yes, it was one of those days, and I was more than happy to do as told. I stopped by and not only bought some extra nice chocolate, I picked up a decent bottle of port for after dinner. I had the whole evening worked out. I’d go straight home, give her the chocolate, then take her to the gym to exercise while I hung out with the baby and looked at rain jackets (I’m going to need one for a sailing trip this weekend). I was particularly looking forward to hanging out with the baby. It’d been a long and tiring day, and something about her unblemished charm was beckoning me.
            Then, I turned onto the highway only to discover… a parking lot. Nobody moving even an inch. I quickly turned on the traffic radio station only to have my fears affirmed—a huge cement truck blocking the bridge. I wasn’t going to arrive home anytime soon.
            So, I called Michelle and broke her the bad news as I drove through some local roads to see if a closer on-ramp would be better. No luck.
            “I guess I’ll see you in a few hours,” I said to her.
            She took a deep breath and said, “Okay.”
            We chatted for a bit, then she had to deal with the baby so we hung up. I drove through local roads to the mall and did some rain jacket shopping, then to another store for a return. I kept checking in on the traffic, but it continued to sound ugly till two hours later.
            By the time I arrived home, the baby was already in her crib. And I couldn’t stand it. I so wanted to see her that, even though she was just starting to wind down, I went in to say goodnight.
            As soon as I entered the room she started to scream. “Get me out of here! I want to see my Dad!” At least, that’s what I imagined her screams were saying.
            Michelle said, “Oh, just take her out. Spend some time with her. She’ll probably sleep better anyway.”
            Believe it or not, it really made my day to be able to spend a little time with her, even if just to read a book and look at her for a bit. She instantly stopped crying when I pulled her out of the crib, and when I did later put her down to bed, she only fussed for a couple of minutes.
            And I didn’t hardly fuss at all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Privilege and Toothbrush Routines

            She's exactly eleven months today.
            I suppose all the ways she's developing and growing are pretty standard, and could be looked up in some website somewhere. But that's not the point.
            The fact is, they're new to me. Every time my baby shows a new inkling for something, a little more development, takes that extra step (she's up to three now), I feel a tremendous amount of parental wonder and pride. This kid is truly miraculous.
            I had one of those moments yesterday as I was holding her, where I felt this tremendous sense of privilege and wonder that I am nurturing a new soul into this world. This morning, when we did our little toothbrush routine, where she grabs my toothbrush while I'm scrubbing away and sticks the other end in her mouth, I was looking into her eyes at six inches apart and felt this overwhelming love for the little kid. What a delightful person she is.
            I think sometimes I get too wrapped up in the physical duties of parenting to take these moments as I ought to. I get tired, play with her, read to her, change her diapers, feed her, give her a bath, but it's elusive sometimes to find that moment of looking right into the eyes and seeing her soul. That's probably even more important than all the other physical needs. It nourishes us both in ways far deeper and far more significant.
            More important than the rubber duckies, warm socks, organic jars of baby grub, and photographs. The moments of deeper connection are what truly hold us together.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Snark-Monster and Tickle Tackles

            Okay, so I was snarky yesterday.
            I guess it was a combo of tiredness and irritation with so many things, piling up. I was overly critical of Michelle, who was probably more tired than even I was. When I got home from work, after a few dances with Celia, I slumped into a chair in the living room and started criticizing her. Yeah, not such a good plan.
            Michelle defended herself at first, then asked me how long I was going to be critical, and then said, "Okay, it's time for tickle tackle!"
            She pulled me onto the carpet and started tickling ferociously. I just let her do it, and started laughing and smiling. And, of course, I realized what a putz I was.
            After a few shrieks Celia joined the fray, which is definitely the best way to go about the whole tickle tackle routine. Bringing a baby into the mess really adds a wonderful spark. She crawled all over me helping Michelle tickle me. Then I tickled back, and they both laughed with me. It was one big tickle mess.
            So, I dropped all the criticisms in the end. After the tickle tirade I hung out with my baby till dinner, then gave her a nice bath, read her stories, and Michelle put her to bed while I cleaned the kitchen. By the time we sat down to discuss things, I was in a different frame of mind. A much kinder, gentler frame of mind.
            It sucks that we have to go through these ups and downs, but then again, I suppose that's all a part of parenting, as it is a part of normal life. It just seems like the ups and downs are a lot more extreme when you have babies.
            The grouchies come out more often when you haven't slept enough, and the giggles come out a lot more when you've got such an innocent joyful soul hanging around. And then of course, there's the grossies, but I guess that's a whole nother topic of discussion.