The Days Of Firsts

For the new parent, life is filled with various "firsts." There is the first smile, the first walk around the block, the first pamper blowout. The firsts are endless.

It's sort of like how annoying people in love can sometimes be — first dates, first kisses, flora flattened in reference books . . . the whole thing. Except with a kid, the mundane is pushed to the forefront like you wouldn't believe. I've already talked about first movies, first bottle returns and first opportunities to flee (not taken). Well, we added several more firsts this past week.

One big one: First plane trip. We were very excited about this and of course somewhat nervous. What if the plane tumbled out of the sky? This of course meant that we were experiencing another new first: First completely irrational fear of all-out tragedy; I think the only way to get over this one is to get the fuck out of your house — and your head. Easier said than done, but the more "risks" you take, the easier it is to gloss over the idea that anything is particularly risky. In this way, I'm looking forward to our first bungee jump, single-engine airplane ride and K2 ascent.

The only tricky thing about plane rides is to make sure a baby is feeding at takeoff and landing. It's just like when you chew gum: the jaw movement of nursing pops a child's ears. Taking off from JFK can be problematic when a plane is number 48 for takeoff or some such thing, which makes it tough to figure out when to start nursing. Fortunately we timed it right and Animal didn't seem to mind that he was hurtling through the air seven miles above the earth at 500 miles per hour.

Infant Fine Motor Skills

Another thing: Changing an infant in an airplane bathroom is actually not as difficult as you might believe. Well, maybe you're a pro and you can fix an all-out blowout in a Greyhound bus without having to use a drop of Purell; I'm not that person. Yet. But I never realized there are changing tables above those dinky airplane vacuum toilets. I think we did OK; I still don't see any signs of E. coli or hepatitis, so I'm assuming "mission accomplished."

The only time anything was amiss was when Animal was shocked out of sleep by the cabin lights and PA after the plane came to a complete stop and began wailing. Still, we were proud when Jen heard someone a few rows back exclaim that he/she didn't even realize there was a baby sitting there.

While away, we had our first real sitdown meal; it went fine. We had our first taxi ride; no problem; I even took a picture of the driver's badge and medallion number so we could remember him.

And we had our first baseball game. That was pretty special to me and only gets more special the more I think about it. Not to get all Kevin Costner on you, but there's something about this. Yes, he was asleep for long stretches of the action and no, I don't think three-month-olds can fully comprehend the concept of a sacrifice fly, but it felt good to expose him to . . . a meaningless early season game? No, in my mind I'll keep it Kevin Costner. All of us sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" to him during the seventh inning stretch. Pretty big stuff, in my mind.

Did Uncle Goober make a "My First Game" sign? Did I hold that sign over our heads during every half inning? Was I jazzed to see us on the Jumbotron? Is Mom checking with the front office to see if they have a picture of the Jumbotron? Did I record the game to see if Fox showed us? Did I watch the entire game on double speed?

Suffice it to say, the answer to all of these questions is "yes." And yet, the coolest thing for me was holding Animal on my lap thinking that one day Jen would teach him to keep score, one day he'd see something extraordinary, one night he'd root for the other team to win just to get home, some day he might root for the Mets to spite us, maybe some day he'd go fetch beer for the two of us . . . stuff like that.

And we stayed for the whole game. It was a short game, mind you, and like I said, he was asleep for long stretches of time, but the feeling — to paraphrase Mark Grace — was pretty big league.

One thing we learned — and if you have an infant and are planning to travel, or have yet to have an infant and might still like to travel if you have one, this might be useful: An infant's internal clock doesn't really change like an adult's does. So that if you're traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast and your child normally starts to wind down at, say, 8 p.m., you can expect him or her to start to wind down around 5 p.m. or so. It's not scientific, but in the future we know not to plan to be out anytime past 5 or perhaps 6. (And if you don't have children, or haven't had them in quite some time and forgot, this is why you shouldn't feel dissed if you visit someone in the evening and their child who you haven't yet met is nowhere to be seen.)

Of course, the main reason we went out west was to see my grandmother, who at 94 going on 95 in a little over a week, has waited a long time to see this moment, her first great-grandchild.

Now intellectually you know that when it comes to raising a child, the goal is to nurture a decent, moral, thoughtful, independent member of society. But once you tell your parents that either you or your partner are pregnant a secondary reason quickly emerges. It's not that it's not about you — because it never was — but it's more that you are part of an unbroken line that continues on after even you shuffle off this blah-blah-blah.

A long time ago when we were teenagers we assumed that having children was some kind of "selfish" act. Maybe you still see it that way. If so, try to keep believing that when you deliver your newborn to your grandmother. It doesn't feel so selfish then.

And that's not to mention what it does to your parents. I don't know if I've ever seen parents as purely joyful as when they find out they're becoming grandparents (except on 16 and Pregnant, that is). I believe the technical term is "apeshit." When Jen was pregnant I asked one of my parents' friends if he cared at all about his daughter now that he has grandchildren. "Of course not!" he laughed. I asked my parents if they felt similarly and they sort of shuffled their feet around and assured me that no, of course that wasn't the case. They wouldn't dare admit it, but of course they're lying. And that's OK. I don't mind that they're lying. That's part of the deal, and it's not even a bad one.

Posted: April 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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