The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘parent’

Dad Strategies, aka Dadegies, Issue #1

Recently I dropped my son off at daycare for his first day there EVER. Woah! First let me say that my wife and I are spoiled: he didn’t start daycare til he was just over 7 months old (fantastic), and the daycare seems to be great.

But.

Leading up to this, in the past month or so, our son had begun to show little hints of ‘stranger danger’ signs … Meaning he might look askance or be a little worried or uncomfortable if someone new was to hold him. This had created in me a real dread over his first day. The night before his first day the closest approximation for what I felt was akin to knowing you would be breaking up with someone. Yes, it was the right thing to do, and yes, it was good for everyone, but in the short-term … woe is you, woe is me.

I knew, and know, that my son is likely to roll with this change better than I am. But the morning was a fun one.

Driving to the daycare was short, we’re only about 10 minutes from there. And from the daycare to my work it’s another 10. I talked to the kiddo about his day with occasional abrupt changes of topic.

  • ‘We’ll get there, say hi to the other kiddos, say hi to your teacher, and then dad will … leave.’ (Change of topic.)
  • ‘Oh look at the mountains! They have so much pretty snow! Maybe we should just call in sick and bail on this?’ (Change of topic.)
  • ‘One day you’re going to come home from school and you’re going to tell us all about your day and that’ll be so fun! … Or if it’s a bad one we’ll get ice cream.’ (Change of topic.)
  • ‘Ok buddy, let’s talk about what dad will think about to keep himself from crying after … Anyway, we could think about cats playing with a ball of yarn. What? Why is that what popped into my head? Instead, dad could think about dinosaurs! Cool stuff, huh?’

I was genuinely surprised after so many almost-starts with crying that I didn’t shed a single tear with the drop off. I think figuring out the logistics distracted me, and a few things had gone a little wonky. (Where do I put the car seat? HOW DID THIS MILK SPILL FROM THIS STUPID BOTTLE? Ew gross, get that runny nose baby away from my baby.) Overall, the drop-off … happened.

Dad Strategy number 1? I feel like I should have one given the name of this post. Hmmm. Here it is: cry, don’t cry, whatever, it’s all good, just don’t stare your child in the face while handing him to someone while crying (that was a worry).

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The Carousel of New Parenthood

I’m casting side glances toward my son in his swing, full of fear and dare I say hope? No. Because I have no hope. The theme, dear future self, of month 5 (by which I mean starting at 4 and ending when he turned 5 months) … is sleep.

Sleep. What do you talk about when both parents are awake at 3:23 am? Sleep. You talk about his sleep. You ask, ‘when did you last feed him?’ And the mrs. responds, ‘like 10 minutes ago …’ then you sigh and get up to dance the kiddo back to sleep and she says, ‘wait! No! I haven’t fed him since midnight.’ Then if you weren’t so sleep you’d smile, but instead you just plop back into bed and thank the good Lord for the fact that only women have a milk supply.

(And now he is glancing at me. I just looked up and I saw his little eyes staring right at me. Oh dear.)

It has been a huge month in terms of sleep development for us. Here’s the rundown, as far as I remember.

***

We hadn’t been anxious to do any ‘sleep training’ because his poor stomach had been a nightmare. But with that a little more under control we decided to start making progress on the sleep front.

First up, we started putting him down for naps in his swing. Prior to this his naps were on one of us. Cozy? You bet. Productivity inhibiting? Most certainly. Helpful for his ability to sleep without a warm body and a heartbeat to listen to? Perhaps not. This effort started on a weekend and at first resulted in quick wake ups. He’d be put gently, oh so so gently, into the swing and I’d sit down glance at my wife and smile and then a look of terror would cross her eyes followed quickly by a smile. The kiddos eyes were open, and he was grinning at seeing dear mama.

But in a short order, before the end of the weekend, he took a nap in the swing for over an hour. OVER AN HOUR! Do you know how long it had been since both my wife and I had been able to just be still at the same time? It was glorious.

From there we took an adventurous next step – naps in his own room! Well, friends, it felt like freedom (after it took hold). Such freedom.

But then it stopped. The progress vanished like that. My wife began holding him for naps again but no, that won’t do either. If you wanted him to nap for more than thirty minutes you needed to do more than just hold him – you also need to walk around bouncing gently. I have done this a few times (yesterday I danced gently for 2 hours while holding him in the bjorne). Great nap, painful shoulders. My wife found a blog post from a woman who experienced the same thing. We had so many things in common it was great to read – especially since she mentioned the nap woes were temporary.

Our son, and the fellow bloggers kiddo, were going through a big development jump. Suddenly way more chatty and tons of extra movement. This blogger talked about how the kiddo was so invested in being awake because there is so much to experience! Well, how can we fault our smily, quick to be fussy, overly tired, chatty, kick-punch champ baby for wanting to be awake when his parents are just so fun?

There really is comfort in seeing others having gone through the same pain, talked about it, and mentioned that it ended.

***

At night he was still inclined to need a lot of effort to get a nap in, but his bedtime routine was great … mom would feed him, I’d walk around holding him while humming and he’d pass out after some period of ‘hey dad! Let’s hang out! Hey dad? Hey dad! Hey dad! … Dad. Dad? … zzzzzz’

(Another live update – after ten minutes of intense, creepy staring he knocked back out for fifteen minutes. And then I heard a little noise and sure enough, we have eyes. I’m now intently staring at my computer. Meanwhile my wife is texting me from the basement wondering when the coast is clear for her to use the bathroom. The tiny tyrant rules all.)

Fast forward to about a week ago and my wife wants us to take a next step in the nighttime sleep department. It’s wise, and the right thing to do, but I don’t want to rock the boat. But what is parenthood (in my limited experience) if not a series of never-ending opportunities to feel comfortable for a moment only to realize this is exactly when things are needing to change?

The plan was to put the boy in bed at night … while he was still awake! Revolutionary! This is a modification of a plan we read about online where you would put the kiddo down drowsy but awake, he/she would begin to cry, you wait a minute, pick the kiddo up, put them down as soon as they stop crying. My wife was all for this. I responded, “he’s a BABY! Let’s do BABY STEPS!” (This made her wonder if she is going to be the one to punish the kiddo because I’m a softie. I think we will both have our areas.)

I had been cheating (unknowingly) and laying him down asleep. In my mind, ‘very drowsy’ is what he was after being asleep for a few minutes. Honest! This is how it would go in my mind – he falls asleep, you put him down, the movement wakes him up, he glances around, thinks ‘eh I’ll cry later’ and then boom he’s out. We did our first actual putting him down awake last night and it took a while, but after many pick-up put-downs he finally honked out for real. We celebrated by eating ice cream in bed. It was glorious.

***

Oh yeah and other stuff happened this month, too. He is grabbing stuff much better with his hands (reaching out to grab things). He is finally getting a better head of hair (not yet at birth level but close). He GIGGLED! MY GOD. How could I have forgotten that? Ok, sure, no one else would recognize this as a giggle … it’s a whisper of a giggle. Instead of a big grin you get a big grin and a … gurgle? Some happy guttural noise? How do you describe it? Anyway, it is my new motivating factor in life. One day he made this noise while sitting on my belly when I sat up making funny noises. This meant I ended up doing sit-ups for giggles. How weird is that?

140910083846_1_900x600Speaking of sit-ups – the child is making me fitter, I think. He’s the only workout I get, and my arms have benefited from his maybe 15 pound body.

Another fan favorite is ‘tree sloth’ mode. I have my arm under his belly, his legs on either side, his arms randomly pulling at my wrist, and he gnaws on my finger like a champ. It is essentially the world’s most adorable curl. I like to pretend that I am diseased and he is just some form of flesh eating bacteria that is growing on me. (My wife is perpetually delighted by my charm.)

***

As my wife said recently, ‘the pool of love is deep and intense.’ It has been a month of struggles and triumphs (as every month has been). Thus the title – parenthood truly is a carousel ride of ups and downs, and often, somehow, a smile throughout the ups and downs.

Ok well this blog post is so long no one except me will ever read it.

(And for completeness. He has been asleep for an hour! Thank the fickle God of Naps and Greying of the Hairs. Is this the sign of him re-embracing naps, or a random gift to toy with my heart? Time will tell.)

Is the Fog Beginning to Lift?

The kiddo is approaching 3 months of life, so it’s time for an update from the rambling, scrambling, tired, wired, and foggy brain of dear old pops. Aka, me.

My sister had told me about a book she read that mentioned that the first 3 months of life are almost like a fourth trimester, where they are so dependent on you that you’d almost think ‘why didn’t you keep cooking?’ Although, the physical ramifications of that would be dire. With that in mind, my wife and I thought, ‘so what’s that mean for us?’ With him being almost 2 months early, does that mean a 5 month long ‘fourth trimester?’

One positive note is that him being early really throws off any thought of tracking him against the ‘normal’ milestones. From a book I have read some of (note to self: get back to that after this post) it has information like, ‘at this age, you can expect your baby to be doing … you can be delighted if your baby is doing … and you can be over the moon if your baby is doing …’ But with preemies, you go based on the ‘adjusted age’ or how many days old he/she is after their due date. Our kiddo is almost 3 months old real age, alost 1 month old adjusted age. This has resulted in a hodgepodge of behavior that is sometimes older than his adjusted age, sometimes not. And when you combine that with the fact that every baby is different anyway it almost makes you think it’s pointless to try and track and compare every little thing. Pft. Like that’ll happen. What else will I do with my time but to be equal doses of proud and afraid?

I have been on the receiving and giving end of this – the instant calm. It feels like such a compliment when the kiddo is fussy, angry, crying, upset, you name it … and then I take over holding him and a calm washes over him. That’s pretty wonderful. To be fair, I think it’s often a change of scenery that does the trick for him, so I really shouldn’t take that much pleasure in it. But it’s great. (And when I hand him over and he calms … well fine, I didn’t want to calm you anyway!)

There is a distinct baby clothes market for those who have yet to change or dress an upset baby. My wife and I bought into this market before his arrival, and I think clothing manufacturer’s know what they’re doing. That outfit that is absurdly cute? Probably impossible to put on or take off without your child making you think he or she is going through a hellish torture session only Dante could dream up. There are outfits that are enjoyable, and not tortuous, and each parent probably has their own preference (learned after a few weeks) for what type they prefer.

Lately he has begun to give occasional ‘social smiles.’ For those of you not in the baby know, it’s like this. There is the ‘gassy’ smile (that’s what people say, no one knows why babies occasionally smile) that can happen right away (I think?) but it’s not a conscious choice. AND, the smile is not a full face smile, it’s more like the mouth just moves … you don’t see it around their eyes. Later, the baby might experience something, or look at you, and give a ‘social smile’ which is an ACTUAL, I CHOSE THIS SMILE FOR YOU kind of smile. It’s magical. My parents were in town recently and Sunday morning I got up with him at 6 am, I picked him up and he gave me a big smile for I don’t know how long. 30 seconds? A minute? It was long enough that my wife was able to get back from the bathroom and see too. It was magical. And then, last week on Wednesday, I got home from work, picked up the kiddo from my wife and BOOM, he gave me a little smile. I don’t know what it is to be addicted to drugs, but I can’t wait for my next dose of a little smile.

Speaking of random rewards, the kid can be like a video game. You just grind, and grind, change diaper, feed, dance, change diaper, ask him why why why are you still crying what is wronnnnnng?, dance, attempt to feed, get an angry look, dance more, pace, wrap him up tigheter, dance, finally feed, burp, dance, etc. And randomly in the mix of all that you may see a little smile, a glimmer of hope, and you think YES, more of that! Video games are designed to give random rewards, with random weights to how big a reward it is, and as you play more the rewards are spaced out more so you just keep grinding, and grinding … But, you know, instead of a new fictional gun or armor it’s a smile. From my son. Which is pretty glorious.

Those random rewards are the rays of light through the fog that is being tired, being wary, and being tested by the tiny screaming controller of your life. Nature, well done. A baby’s cry is a whip cracking motivator that’ll spring you into action. Or, if the cries continue, sometimes lead you to put the kiddo down, take off your hoody (he’s a toaster) take a deep breath, and pick him back up to try again.

Wish us luck.

Sincerely,
A Dad Who Thinks He Has Original Thoughts But Countless Centuries Have Thought Variations of the Same Thing

Thoughts From a 4am Rocking Chair Session

  • A child’s cry is magical – what else sends someone into a panic and flurry of activity so well? I can picture some sales person or ad executive having a child and thinking, “how can I recreate this for my upcoming ford f150 campaign? If only people could hear the ad, freak out and run to their nearest dealership in an emotional panic!”
  • I like to pretend I’m an overworked waiter at a restaurant and the chef has gone nuts and only makes one dish – milk. Then I have to talk up the milk, it’s organic, it’s fresh, the milk supplier is treated well, etc. My son may grow up crazy, but he’ll be creative and crazy?
  • The sight of tiny snaps will cause my tremors of fear even when I’m old
  • Maybe some kids don’t want to listen to music from their parents generation because their parents sang terrible versions of it, off key, lacking rhythm, and with words changed to sing about poop and pleading with their child to not cry. Then, years later, mom or dad says, ‘hey I loved this song when I was your age’ and the child instinctively clenches and begins to scream.
  • Is my son’s urine in a league for evil?
    • It does escape whenever it has the chance. Diaper gone … MOVE MOVE MOVE.

A Concerned Parent

When Balthasar was eleven, his adored pet cat, Mitsou, ran away. He made forty ink drawings detailing his memories of the animal and his fruitless search for her. In the last, he stands alone, crying.

The New Yorker (Google search of ‘Balthus Mitsou’)

 

Honey,

I want to go ahead and write down some thoughts I have about our son. If, at the end of this, I decide I have said some things that are worth your time to read – this paper will still be sitting on my desk.

I am worried about our dear Balthasar. He made it clear that he wanted a cat, and when I suggested a fish because it would be easier to keep he strongly objected. I maintained that a fish would be a good introduction to owning a pet, because, as I recall myself saying, “if they die it’s no big deal, and they can’t run away.” I am not saying this to point out that I was right, but just as a way for you to recognize that this letter has some credibility. As we discussed, I didn’t say some phrase like, “I was right.” I am just trying to establish my legitimacy as a source of sound thinking.

The point of this is not about me, but about our son. He really needs a hobby. Have you been in his room this week? It’s getting weird. He was at thirty-two drawings of, as he described it, “the world’s most desperate situation outside a Russian winter.” It’s poetic, which I like, but it’s also a tad melodramatic. How could we have such a child? I am an art historian and you are a painter … Our child, at a vibrant eleven years, should be the very picture of level-headed, honest, and plain-speaking grace.

Am I perhaps pushing him too hard? Could I be at fault in this? Maybe I should cut down on symbolic dinners. Two nights ago he told me he would not like any water with his dinner, but instead red wine, because he felt that the muddied colors represented his tortured soul. “Papa, water would represent an epiphany … But I am without the clarity necessary for such an event. I fear that life is confusing, and only by freezing it do I feel the delights of an epiphany. But, by freezing it I am only lying to myself, I am creating a false sense of enlightenment.” Of course, by saying this, he had actually ended up justifying the case for him having water with dinner. Because of the layers of confusion this was causing – clarity only in stating that he felt he had no clarity – I was forced to boil a shoe in red wine and feed that to him for dinner. Is this bad parenting?

No, I stand by that action. Self-doubt in an artist can be beautiful, representative of what people feel … Self-doubt in a parent is damaging. I must continue to stride forward with the same gusto as always.

And for you, my sentiments are the same. Our son, despite our best intentions, has taken on this flair for the sensational from who knows where.

One request though, would you ask your poet lover to mentor our son in poetry? I really do think he has a knack for it.

Yours,
Erich

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