Thursday, July 30, 2009

Things I Understand I Never Did Before

So Lucas is three months old now. Well, nearly. Not so much has changed in the last month, and we've settled into our routines pretty well by now. In the last week or two, he's started getting a LOT more verbal. He makes this hooting "oooh" sound, quite a bit. that anyone other than Amy or I might find annoying, but we find tremendously funny - especially when he gets excited and enthusiastic and it becomes "OOOH!" and occasionally "OOO-waaahhooo" and other variations when he starts smiling and twisting his mouth around. In fact, we were mildly embarrassed at a local restaurant the other night 'cause well, kiddo ain't quiet when he's making noise - family trait - and while we found it amusing, we had no doubt the other dining patrons probably did not. So I guess I'm starting to understand those parents who have the noisy kids but never seem to want to restrain them, or do so half-heartedly. Your heart really isn't in it; you love those expressions of emotion and LIFE from your lil' dude.

Here's a few other things that lately I've come to understand, even if not directly yet, that I never had tolerance for before now:

"My Little Johnny would NEVER (insert action here)"

Let me tell you... as a teacher there are few things that cause more eye-rolling at parent conferences (when the parent isn't watching, of course) than the blind insistence of a parent that their child is simply INCAPABLE of such a deed! While I still have no sympathy for the blindness that this attitude represents, I'm starting to see its roots. Looking at my lil' Lucas-dude, it's tough to imagine him doing anything wrong. At this point, obviously, everything he does is blameless. Babies don't even have a morality, nevermind one they can be judged on. As they grow into toddlers, they probably only get the weakest sense of right and wrong, and only if you work hard at it. "Don't hit, don't take" and so on - and I suspect compliance here is more a case of "avoidance of punishment" than any higher view. (That most of the world never gets past this level of morality is a point I could discuss at length, but that's for another time.)

It's easy to imagine that a parent's perception of a child never changes - people don't like to examine their own thinking processes, as a rule - and so that "Johnny never does wrong" mentality sticks....and sticks....and suddenly Johnny is in the 8th grade, and that mentality - which was understandable and correct when Johnny was a toddler - is now allowing Johnny to use his parents as enablers for all kinds of hideous actions. (Not to mention the fact that Johnny has learned that lying to his parents works and therefore is okay.)

Eh. I rant. That was not my intention. My intention was simply this: while I do not encourage that point of view and I sincerely hope I never fall victim to it, some small part of me acknowledges that people who think their kids are perfect may not be entirely insane in how they got there.

Parents Who Let Their Kids Sleep In the Same Bed With Them

This is another one I never really bought into. For the record, I still don't: to my way of thinking, it ruins the kid's ability to develop self-reliance and self-confidence, and only encourages a repetition of the problem. Frankly, once the kid's asleep, you've got one of the few occasions in the day where parents can pursue their own social agendas, and I mean hey, those opportunities are few and far between, or so I hear - so why you gonna let a little nose-dripper soil your sheets instead of sticking to their own? I've seen enough of my own kid sleeping to know he's a friggin kung-fu expert in his sleep. Fellas, seriously: can you imagine a little kid dealing you out a jimmykick WHILE YOU ARE ASLEEP? With that small, deadly-sharp foot?

Enough to give you nightmares for a year.

Having said that, watching the little dude sleep in his little crib and then walking across the house to my own bed, I'll admit that a time or two I've wished he were a bit closer, just to wake up and look upon in the wee hours of the night. Obviously at his current size, it would be a lot more dangerous for HIM than for ME to sleep in bed with mom and dad. Lemme tell you, his mom's got some flying elbows as it is in her sleep, and dad ain't exactly known for waking up at the sound of one hand clapping. Probably squish the little dude into a pancake and never know it if mom didn't muay-thai him into the next life on her own.

The urge to have him nearby and protect him, though, is a strong one. Sometimes when I go to bed, I wonder if I could get to Lucas's room fast enough if someone broke in - it would require going through the center of the house, and that means attracting unwanted attention in case of a burgalar or what not. Doesn't make me terribly happy. So I can pretty easily see a sick kid, or a kid with a nightmare who came running to mom and dad, getting comforted. And I can see - just from the relatively mild manner in which Lucas can express distress right now - a very strong urge to do anything, absolutely ANYTHING, to console, comfort, and protect your child. After having seen Lucas screaming in genuine terror and dismay (he had a nightmare once that was a real doozy, woke up screaming bloody murder) I totally get why parents dive into burning buildings/lift cars off kids/etc/etc. The urge to protect children before you have them - when they're in genuine distress and not being annoying - is mildly strong. We've all felt it. The urge to protect children AFTER you've had one borders on unbreakable hypnotic compulsion. I can only imagine Amy must feel it twenty times stronger with her direct hormonal and personal connection.

So, eh. I dunno. At the moment, I'm still very much against kids-in-the-bed. But I used to be completely against epidurals, too.

"You Just Make Do With Less Sleep"

"HA!" Said I. "Purest unadulterated bulshevik!" said I. Many things I can claim to be, but one-who-goes-without-sleep is assuredly not on the list. I needs my eight hours - I can skip a few once in awhile, but I NEEDS MY EIGHT HOURS.

...or at least, I did. It's not that you're less tired. By no means - having a kid around does not magically give you endurance you lacked before. Quite the opposite. Kids are friggin tiring. It's not that you need less; you probably need more. It's that you CARE less. At least three times a day I wish for more sleep (okay, I lie. I nap. I get almost what I need. Amy, though, probably does not. I used to not, though, and I write from that perspective and from the assumption that not everyone has a super-amazing wife.) but when I don't get the sleep and I feel myself starting to stress, I go look at the little dude. Seriously. I remind myself why it is I'm tired - and that he's worth it. He grins at me and bunches his hands up from the excitement of smiling, or he "OOHs" at me and clearly wants to be picked up. (Clearly. Really. I can tell and it's not just what I want, honest.)

I have no doubt that as he gets older and - let's face it - more annoying, there may be times that playing with my kid/being around my kid is NOT an instant pick-me-up. In fact, he may be a genuine downer-and-a-half. For now, though, it's not that I'm less tired - I just care less about BEING tired. It's like, well, spending a night in exceptionally fine and engaging company and going to work the next day particularly fatigued but not caring about it, if you'll excuse the comparison. It's not that you're NOT tired - it's that the tired simply isn't the highest thing on your mind.

(Caveat: after the fourth or fifth day, you start caring again. Heh.)

So I can't say that I'm sympathetic to the troubles of the world now, or anything daft like that. It is possible, though, that - as I listen to my son cooing and burping (how the hell does a body that small MAKE a NOISE like THAT?!) in the other room, that I won't be quite so cold towards a parent who can't imagine HOW their son cheated on a test.

World understanding through child-rearing? Stranger things have happened.

-MT out.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Religion, Revisited

I'm not a particularly open man when it comes to my religious views. I tend to give very abbreviated explanations of my feelings on the subject, both because - perhaps arrogantly - I find most people's views on the subject to be extremely dogmatic and ill-considered (often in the face of commonly, bluntly accepted general fact) and because such discussions tend very often to result in one or more parties becoming offended by my religious-but-not-like-yours views. I also think it's a bit arrogant of people in general to presume knowledge of something they really can't know anything about beyond what they believe, and worse, to force their beliefs (however strong they may be) on someone else's unconfirmed, strongly held beliefs. It's just a bad scene.

Semi-rant over: Starting this morning and extending through tomorrow night, I've been through and am going to experience two religious events. And as is the nature of this blog for expectant fathers, gentlemen, I shall attempt to prepare you for events to come.

The first experience has redefined for me the concept of Hell. Different movies have portrayed the subject in different and interesting fashions - What Dreams May Come has a particularly unusual and fascinating version, for example. There's almost always lots of fire and brimstone, dead bodies thrashing around, maybe some moaning and grasping hands. I'll take that any day (if I must, mind you) over what I got today. Kiddo went in for his first round of immunization shots. Now fellas, if you're like me, you probably ran into some rusty metal once or twice growing up, and probably got to experience a Tetanus booster shot. You may recall that aforementioned shot didn't feel particularly good, but the stiff and sore muscle was worse.

Yeah. Kiddo got FIVE shots today - three in one leg, two in the other. And I can tell you from experience when he accidentally headbutts ol' dad, my pain tolerance is a tanker-load greater than his. Mind you, I didn't actually see this event. Wife thought it best I not attend, and given how I handled the silver nitrate in his eyes moments after his birth, I went along with her thinking. So I missed out on round one, and the baby aspirin that dulled the pain thereafter. Kiddo came home, both wife and kiddo were sleepy, wife grabbed some shuteye. Kiddo grabbed shuteye and generally mellowed, as kiddo is likely to do.

Then kiddo's pain meds wore off, and dad didn't quite realize what was going on - or that more pain meds were an option. It took me thirty minutes of trying everything I could think of to calm kiddo down - and during that time, as the meds wore more and more off and his pain increased, the screaming just got worse...and worse...and worse. Red-faced wailing is a pretty fair description, and this from a baby whose idea of fussing tends to be a pouty lip and a louder-than-average whimper. Being new to the dad thing and not knowing many dads, I don't know how unusual I am in this regard, but it's safe to say I'd rather get dental surgery done with a crowbar and hammer than listen to my kid in pain. There are few sounds as debilitating and emasculating as that of your child, who it is your job to guard and protect. (YOUR job, bubba, she feeds it, you protect it - might well be in this modern era we share both jobs, but the ten-thousand-year-old-hardwiring doesn't give a damn.) Yes, I *know* the shots are good for him longterm. Yes, I *know* he won't remember any of it. I'm fully aware that nearly every baby in every first world country gets these shots. Guys, I'm telling you, when you're holding kiddo, who's looking at you with wide eyes, twisted face, and "WHY CANT YOU HELP ME" written all over his features... you don't give a sweet shit about anything other than making the pain stop. It's more than a little internally twisting. Make sure you get a VERY good night's sleep the night before the shots - because kiddo is going to be hard on you that day.

So finally, giving in and waking Amy - something I had to do, because her sleep is more precious than gold - she grabbed the meds and solved the problem. Minutes later, kid's calm and googling and grinning again. Simple fix, over and done. Score another point in the "Dad is a Cro-Magnon primitive jackass" column for not thinking to ask about that option before she went to bed. (Hey, stuff works eight hours or twelve hours at a time for me. That's the best excuse I got.) Make sure you know how to give the kid the meds and when it's okay to do so - don't learn my lesson the hard way.

And speaking of Cro-Magnon primitive jackass, Amy's birthday is tomorrow. (Here comes religious event number two!)

Or at least, I'm hoping another religious event occurs - because I'll need divine intercession to avoid being in deep and severe doggy doo for my complete lack of birthday preparation tomorrow. Historically, I've done one bang-up job with birthdays. Surprise party one year, specially delivered breakfast-birthday-surprise another year... I don't do too bad at this thing. I usually think over what I'm going to do, then about a week beforehand, I get things rolling. Problem is that this year, the week beforehand, I was on vacation in New Mexico with the wife and kid. (Which, by the by, did not suck. NM in the summer actually has some appeal to it, and I tend to prefer snowy climates.) That tended to disrupt my usual habits - and then coming back, kiddo here tends to do the same. I find myself with one present, and a lame plan: take the wife to dinner. She insists aforementioned plan is fine, but this does absolutely nothing to assuage my guilt at failing to live up to my own standard. Morale of the story: whatever your usual standard of "Do stuff for the wife on her birthday" is, make sure you get started on it a lot sooner than usual.

(And if you don't do anything, get off your hind end, you schmuck, that woman is/will be/just carried yer friggin kid around, for crying out loud.)

Not the easiest week. Not the most enjoyable blog to write. Really not looking forward to day two in "how to suck at being a dad/husband." I'm sure the wife will refute both things, but we guys know different about the standards we hold ourselves to when no one's watching. Meh. To end on a good note:

Lucas now is quite expressive a lot of the time - his vocabulary of random and varied sounds is extending rapidly. While none of the sounds resemble speech yet, certain sounds occur repeatedly and often on the same kinds of occasions: he's attempting to communicate via sound. In a way, you might even say he's succeeding. It's fascinating to watch his cognitive skills develop. I find myself wondering what his first words will be. As long as they're not "Cro-Magnon dumbass" I'll call it a win.

-MT out.