Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father's Day, Family Reunions, and Other F'in Things....

So Father's Day was this last Sunday (duh.) It was an interesting experience; never having been rewarded on a holiday for anything not related to my birth, a religion, or an educational feat. Just kinda "Hey, you're a dad now, so woot, here you go."


And that's that. Presents were odd, too. I don't mean odd in the "Hey look, you got a singing fish for your wall" odd, just a category of present I've never gotten before. I got largely functionally useless, highly sentimental stuff. And like many other things relating to Dad-dom, no one ever explained this phenomenon to me, so I was caught by surprise. You, however, poor schlub-of-a-guy, get the skinny. Most dudes always mock the dad on Father's day. He gets socks, lame pictures of bubble-headed people, maybe a tie. Poor bastard, that's your reward for diapers and driving lessons? Better you than me, lameass.

Here's the thing: Yesterday, I got a mug with Lucas's picture on it. BIG-ass mug. Never used a mug that size before in my life. Probably never will. Got a picture of me holding kiddo in a nice frame. Got a little plaque thing of Lucas's birth info and some pictures. Functionally, none of this stuff has any value to a highly functional dude. At that point, I was bemused and pleased. Felt kinda sheepish. Then I unearthed the "grand finale" present, as it were. The humdinger. It was a picture book - pictures of me and kiddo, from the day he was born. Under them, Amy had selected quotes she thought I would like, and I have to admit, she did one first-class job. I'll completely deny showing any emotion about all this - 'cause, y'know, I'm a dude, and I only cry when John Wayne dies, yo - but it was one hell of a gesture. Then I realized what all the dads who blushed and grinned and hemmed and hawwed were really blushing about: not that they'd gotten those "lameass" gifts.

That, well, they really kinda like 'em. Those gifts are a reminder of a sentiment: YOU ARE DAD. And for most guys, that's kind of a "Well..uh...damn. Cool. Check that out" kind of mindset. Here you are with this really cool, hard, demanding, sometimes rewarding job - and Father's Day is basically the ultimate affirmation that you sir, DO NOT SUCK, at this dad thing. No dad will ever admit to their child that they wonder about this question, but every dad, from dad-of-newborn to dad-of-high-school-student, wonders about this question, and wonders about it frequently. "Do I suck at this dad thing?" Father's Day is the big clue-in that you are doing something right. Now I know why moms push the kids to make those cheesy pictures on Father's day. Take the time, make the fuss - Dads need to hear "You don't suck at this" once in awhile. If I'm any indication - and I may or may not be - we don't really know for sure, and it's never a bad thing to hear.

So, relative of Amy's getting married in a few days. Eh, fine, whatever, marriage is good - but it means we're taking the dog and the kid (seven weeks short two days) on a 10 hour roadtrip. Dog's done the trip before - wasn't thrilled, but weathered it well. I do wonder how she'll feel about her movement space cut by a third with the baby seat in the back, but not much to be done about it. Going ten hours with the lil' dude should be interesting, though. More interesting will be the far side of the trip. See, Amy's extended family has never met me. (They should consider themselves lucky, sez me.) I not being the most social critter you'll ever meet has never found this to be a particularly big loss. Amy's excited, though. She wants to show off both the hubby (slumming? You decide) and the kid. I figure I'll use the kid as a personal defense device to avoid conversation and just smile a lot. She's very proud of both. I'm obviously very proud of my kiddo, but it's more of a quiet pride - which for me is a bit odd, I guess. I'm usually quite loud about those things which I feel pride in when the occasion strikes, but my kid just makes me want to smile and keep it to myself. Not really sure why.

The trip itself makes me grumble and scowl, but that's not unusual. The only part that actually worries me a little is that I'll be taking the trip back sans wife and child - they're staying in NM longer than I am. It occurs to me that I've actually never been away from the kiddo for any extended period of time - a standard workday being the longest. Not really terribly keen on that, and I suspect I'm going to start feeling it a bit profoundly by the time they return. Normally I savor the peace and quiet of Amy's trips home; don't get me wrong, I love my wife, but I've still got a pretty antisocial hermit nature that has to be satisfied once or twice a year. Now, I suspect the lack of random sighs, sneezes, coos, gurgles, and fusses will probably make the house seem downright creepy. I still very much do my own things, but I'm used to a certain soundtrack now that might be missing. More of that "parenthood taming the man" kinda thing, I suppose.

Eh. Whatever. I'll still throw a party, scratch myself, and generally stay up too late and too loud while they're gone. If you're local, c'mon down. :P

-MT out

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Babies Don't Come With Instructions - or Even Warning Labels

Short entry, but I've been meaning to get around to this one for awhile.

Thing about babies: you can watch television shows. You can see movies. You can even see movies about babies and discover that yes, diapers do indeed suck, and yes, odd-hours-of-the-night do happen. (Neither are nearly so bad as current parents will tell prospective parents, by the way, but that's territory we covered in this blog months ago.) There are, however, a million little things that go on in the world-o'-baby that aren't mentioned, at least to dads, that can seriously weird you out. Here's a short sample:

Your child is NOT inhabited by demons: Babies do a lot of the sleeping thing, obviously. In theory, you ought to know this, even pre-birth. What you don't know is that sleeping babies are a little....weird. It's not uncommon for them to make a wide variety of noises - even small-scale "distress" noises - while completely asleep and resting comfortably. It is also entirely possible the kid's eyes will open, and you'll discover his eyes are completely rolled up. His eyelids will flicker a few times and then close again. Believe it or not, this is NOT, repeat NOT, cause to go seeking holy water and a Catholic priest. This is normal - if a little strange to behold. Slightly less odd, but also noticeable: kiddo, when sleeping, is rather likely to change his breathing patterns a bit - or even a lot - from very slow to very rapid and back again. Also not cause for panic.

(Note that if the child begins speaking in Latin, gets red flashy eyes, or rotates his head 360 degrees, this IS in fact a sign your child is inhabited by demons, and you should immediately seek the services of said priest.)

Yes, you are in range: Girl kids are a little less dangerous, but boy kids are friggin ninjas. All babies have two projectiles at their disposal, and boys have a third. When kiddo has just been fed, and you are doing the burping thing, USE A FRIGGIN BURP RAG. Burping often involves a minor-to-moderate portion of the main course being returned to sender (or burper, if not same) with absolutely no warning. Seriously. No facial expression change, no squeak, no twitch. Just "hi dad, eat this!" and whammo, out the yap it comes. Most of the time, it will go straight down or only slightly forward... but don't make the mistake of peering at your kid face to face while burping or shortly before/after. (Also, bouncy games with kiddo immediately before/after burping, you might as well lay a tarp down, y'know?) Projectile number two is at the opposite end-o-baby: that'd be the fecal dispenser. Baby poop is often of a very watery consistency - which means that, under pressure, like any other liquid, you can get a bit of distance on exit. Keep the changing table pointed ALONG the wall, not TOWARDS the wall. Fecal wall art is not fun to clean. Keeping the old diaper in at least a blocking position until the new diaper is ready is also rather prudent.

Fellas, those with sons also have the dangers of the front-mounted water cannon. And THAT sucker is a high-use weapon, as we know. Just like you, cold air tends to make things cringe, and in junior's case, it tends to make things expel. The water pressure there is actually pretty impressive. Junior's water cannon can't quite match dad's, but two feet up is very doable - and if dad is, say, hanging out right over that area while he's doing the diaper-changing thing... well, hope your mouth is closed, slick. Tip there is to take a wipe or some other absorbent/blocking object and make sure the pee shooter (hah, I actually got to use that correctly, that rocks) is covered and deflected. Also, let's not be squeamish, fellas - do yer kid a favor and make sure that when it's covered/deflected, it's pointing down... or the poor guy's gonna unleash right in his own face, and you can be sure that'll come back in counseling session bills in fifteen years.

Your kid = dirty fighter: and no, this time I'm not talking about diapers. When dealing with angry babies, watch yourself. No joke, man. For one thing, especially in the early stages, they lack the strength to control their head. Unfortunately, just like every other human, when they're angry - say, for diaper, food, or burping - they get stronger. (Babies can stand when angry if you're holding them - just lack the balance to stay that way. Seriously. Mine is amazed by it and calms down briefly, which causes his legs to buckle, and he sits down again, gets annoyed - rinse and repeat. Great way to buy time for mom to get the diaper or bottle.) Anyhow, in this case, the kid - now angry - DOES have the strength to control his head... but he lacks the control. Think of a drunk guy on ice skates surrounded by booze - he'll head in a direction with a lot of vigor and no control. Baby's the same way - kiddo is probably looking for food or relief and that head will whip around with some force... and lemme tell you, baby's forehead plus your collarbone, or cheek, is actually pretty painful. So when kid is upset, mind that - and if the head starts moving, orient your body such that it's hard for the head to get a lot of clearance for whompage, or keep a hand up there. Also, to a lesser extent, watch the limbs. Baby's fingers and hands also flail around a lot early on, and they're more than small enough to go straight into your eye, nose, mouth, whatever. To steal a line from the Blue Oyster Cult and mangle it, don't fear the squeaker - but recognize the squeaker, when annoyed, can take it out on you, and have your guard up. Hehe.

Oh, and one other thing. Dads, BEFORE your kid is born, look up this word. Get pictures, too. Be prepared:


Scar you for life.

-MT out.