Mother's Visit, and Two Kinds of Grandparents
So anyone who's read this thing more than once or twice probably knows that my mother and I have a strange, somewhat difficult relationship. That's kind of like saying "Lincoln didn't have the best day at the Ford Theatre." I try very hard to be a man of decent character, though, and so despite the distance, I promised my mother she'd get to meet her grandson as soon as possible.
As fate would have it, we were able to get her a plane ticket out to our neck of the woods relatively recently. Now thanks to the visitations by Amy's parents previously - they found the means to come out on their own - I've been able to confidently say that grandparents, fall into two categories: those parents who are supportive, offer cautionary advice, and try to bulwark you ( the rarer variety) and those people who seem to make it their goal in life to tear you down, convince you that only dire days are ahead, and wish to dance cheerily upon the grave of your hopes and dreams to the tune of "Woe is me, woe is me." The resemblance to the same behaviors in advice-givers during pregnancy is remarkable.
To no one's surprise, my mother is one of the second category. Some choice comments she made at various points in our visit:
Comment 1:"Daycare is just a place where kids go to stay sick all the time." Why thanks, Mom, very warming. What would you like us to do, sell our house and move into an apartment so that Amy can stay home with the boy? Oh wait - our rent would be about the same as our mortgage, so that's no solution. Since we can't change the situation, thanks SO MUCH for reminding us that no daycare, no matter how great, is so wonderful as a parent home. While you're at it, let's bemoan world hunger and political corruption, too. Nothing like making people feel bad about what they can't change to give you a moral high ground, no sir.
Comment 2: "Abuterol? Ugh. They won't even use that stuff on animals." Ah, great the wisdom of Professor Profound strikes again. Yes, somehow, your drug-addled sixty-year old mind that had a child thirty years ago - and raised quite poorly - is superior to multiple up-to-date minds of modern medicine, all of whom have handled Lucas's illness before and done so with great success. Somehow, even though the FDA, countless pharmacists and doctors ALL have no problem with the meds and it's been in use for years, YOU, madame, are the authority and can pronounce with a holier-than-thou 'tude that the medicine is dangerous for our child. Perhaps next you can produce the cure for cancer and sneer at we simpletons who could not possibly have understood your greatness. Let's just pronounce the parents unfit and send the kid home with you, oh master of parenting. Oh wait, the last kid they left with you came out with psychological issues and a broken nose. Oops.
And so on. I could easily continue, but that kind of ranting gets boring to the reader, no doubt. The moral of this subsection story is this: If you are lucky, and you have a parent who is nothing but supportive, make darn sure they know you appreciate them. Make a point of specifically naming and praising that behavior. People like to hear they're appreciated. If you are unlucky, and have a parent who is doing nothing but trying to make you second-guess your parenting skills and decisions, remember that 1: if they were the perfect parent, you'd agree with them, because they raised you, right?, and 2: being a successful parent once gives you experience, not expertise. It's very possible your own situation is different and they aren't recognizing that. Trust your instincts - humans have been raised that way and survived the ordeal for thousands of years.
Speaking of surviving ordeals...
Lucas, Meet Gravity. Gravity, Meet Lucas
Along about three months ago, Lucas started mastering a lot more of his bodily capabilities. Walking, crawling, and such were still a ways off (more on that later) but he HAD learned that he could produce significant force by pushing on things hard, and that sometimes the force even moved him. Sadly, what daddy hadn't learned was that this, unmonitored, can be a recipe for disaster.
It was a pleasant enough afternoon; I had picked up the wee fellow, Amy having other duties to handle, and returned home. Having been changed, cleaned, and fed, I sat down on the couch next to my son (also cleaned, changed, fed, but not quite in the same manner) for our usual afternoon pasttime: me to dork around on the X-Box, him to sit on the couch, watch the pretty pictures, and play with his toys. And so we began, and life was good. At some point in the proceedings, Lucas had dropped one of his toys and over the edge of the couch it went, but this was not in and of itself unusual. Out of the corner of my eye, I verified that Lucas was sitting back against the couch and that was that.
Or so I thought. Lucas managed to get a leg under himself, and he shoved off the back of the couch with all the might in his considerable 25-lb-baby frame. Small rockets have launched less swiftly. From the corner of my enemy-slaughtering eye I glanced and OH DEAR GOD HES GOING OVER THE EDGE OF THE
...wham. Lucas lands, top-of-head-first, on the floor directly below the couch, and then promptly topples the rest of the way over, landing face up with a thud, staring at me with a look of shock that very rapidly changed to pain, fear, and outrage.
Scooping my kid up, thoughts flashed through my head in rapid succession:
1- You are now a failure as a parent. You have let your child come to REAL harm in your care.
2- Your child now has brain damage, and will no longer be your genius superior one day, in fact, you'll be feeding him - you, not your wife, you slackass inattentive bastard - until your dying day, at which time you'll be given a super-cheap funeral (all you deserve) so that they can afford his caretaker.
3- No matter what you do, you will never forget or forgive yourself for this moment.
4- .....what do you tell Amy?
The last thought stopped me cold. At the moment, I was still spending all my time consoling Lucas, who was still having a mighty holler about the experience. After a minute or so, his upset ended, and he began playing with a toy he enjoyed, and I started to calm down. He was whipping his head back and forth, looking at the world, and I actually got a small smile out of him. Okay, so he's not immediately injured (but oh god what if he has some internal injury I don't know about that's getting worse) and now I have to figure out what to do about Amy.
Okay fellas. As the dust settled, here's the advice I offer for when, NOT if, your kid eventually manages to whomp themselves pretty good:
- The kid IS going to holler a bit. If, however, the kid returns to normal behavior and functions (head moves both ways, nothing's hypersensitive to the touch, isn't acting suddenly tired, isn't puking, isn't bleeding, etc) then chances are very good, kid's fine. Babies are durable. They have to be in order to be raised by clumsy ogres like us.
- Yes, you will feel really bad. You will remember it for a very long time. Understand, though, that it is physically impossible for any parent to spend every waking moment watching their child without going barmy and needing changing themselves. So, eventually, SOMETHING is going to happen. If it happens daily, yeah, you suck at life. If it happens once in a few months, okay, accept your imperfections and move on with your day. You are not a failure as a parent. You are human. Move on.
- Be honest with the significant other. Do not change the story, modify it to remove blame on yourself, downplay the injury or the incident in any way. Downplaying the injury will get found out in short order and make you look exceptionally lame. Modifying the story to remove blame will make you feel guilty, and chances are - since Mommy knows baby best - she's going to see any place the story seems unlikely, and will then assume you have modified it for some exceptionally foul reason, multiplying blame rapidly. It may be that she will be angry with you for the incident. Here's an unfortunate fact: she probably has a right to be. Humans make mistakes, but that doesn't make mistakes okay. Own up to your screwup, accept that you do in fact have something to make up for, and do so. If she has the wisdom to recognize that accidents happen and reaffirms her faith in you as a parent, buy her flowers and thank her for being a great wife. Most will not do so.
And oh yeah, lying to/deceiving your significant other about your kid opens all kinds of bad doors, sets all kinds of bad precedents, and is just tremendously bad juju. Blame yourself when the kid lies baldly to you in ten years if you're modelling the behavior for the kid before they can even walk and talk. At the risk of sounding preachy, open communication about EVERYTHING, not just kiddo, is definitely the right idea when married. You're going to be in very stressful situations with the chica who resides in the house with you for a LONG time. Far better that the two of you understand each other's good and bad points, for better or worse (yeah, sounds familiar, I know) before you get into the situation where you'll set each other off. Talk to the lady. It's important. Now.
So as Lucas is now approaching the one year mark (dood. Eleven months and a week. Zounds.) I occasionally have to fight off a certain tendency in myself to compare Lucas to his classmates. I say "fight off" because the comparisons DO happen - you just have to learn to take no stock in them. Lucas, you see, is now "Behind the curve" in some ways. He's eleven months, and although he can sit, scoot, roll, grab, imitate and babble, there's no crawling going on. He can stand holding on to things, but there's no walking - even briefly - going on either.
Now you'll note I quoted the phrase "behind the curve." The reason for this is that the curve itself is something of a misused idea. Apparently (you never see this in the movies) some babies just never crawl. They're totally not keen on the idea, they don't see the parents ever doing it, so they just never learn. Lucas appeared at first to be one of these, but he pops up on all fours now often enough that he'll probably start trucking around soon. Also, larger babies have a distinct tendency to take longer to do stuff. In a way, this makes sense. It's easier to learn to drive a bike than a motorcycle, a scooter than an 18-wheeler. Lucas has a lot of chunk, so he's throwing a lot around when he tries to balance and what not. And let's face it: how many healthy adults do you know who are incapable of walking and talking normally? They all figure it out sooner or later.
Thing is that, intellectually, I get all of the above. Realistically, there's this thing in my bloodstream called testosterone. And as any woman can attest and we fellas know far too well, testosterone poisoning can make you get a little weird in the head. Like, say, mentally being competitive about your kid compared to other kids in the class who are already pulling themselves up and walking, tripping and going straight into a crawl, and then walking again. This little skinny twirp's practically ready to dance the rumba, and the best my kid can do is to sit and spin? Seriously? Great job on raising the class dunce, dad.
(Side note: is this where the preconception that "big = dumb" actually starts? Does the notion that strength and size directly relate to being dumb begin all the way back with bigger babies take longer to coordinate themselves?)
So anyhow. Dad, tip time:
- Don't mention your concerns to mom. For one, she may or may not be thinking it herself and surely doesn't want YOUR paranoid ruminations on the subject making her worries worse, jerk.
- Don't mention your concerns to mom. Even if she's not thinking it, you're still a jerk: have some faith in your kid and some patience, huh? Quit being competitive. Jerk.
(Yeah, whatever, we're jerks, they married us anyhow, so they got what they got. They can deal. Yes, I just said communicate with your wife, but there's a difference between communication and badgering her with those terrors which are commonplace to all parents. Mention it once, endure the tongue lashing that will commence, and then be done with it.)
- Try not - as best your hormones allow - to do the kid-comparison thing. It really doesn't matter, after all. Even if you are competitive: is the quarterback of the football team the kid who walked first? Does anyone even know or care? Would you seriously be concerned if a kid learning a new sport didn't progress as fast as another kid on day one? Not so much. All kids eventually start crawling and walking, and when they do, you're going to get a lot less sleep and a lot more broken household items. Don't be in such a rush to lose even more free time and fragile items. While chasing an energetic toddler around may be good for the waistline, it's probably highly destructive to your freetime. Enjoy the non-mobile phase while it lasts.
...and that about gets me up to date, I'd say.
I'll try to keep this thing a bit more up to date. (Yeah, I've never said that before.) But in this case, I think I've made a change or two that might make it worthwhile.
Now if only I could come up with a way to turn this into a book and make money on it, no?
Until next time.