The Cat In The Motherfucker In The Hat

In the last week or two our baby turned one, which, you know, is kind of a big deal. One, it means we did it — we actually kept a child alive for a year. Two, it means we won't have to do this delicate ballet every four weeks or so where we try to take a picture of Mr. Baby without him looking too blurry or before he destroys the placard noting how many months he is. Three, it means I'll finally fully internalize how old a child is when they are 14 months (one-and-one-sixth years old) or 18 months (one-and-a-half years old) or 21 months (one-and-three-quarters-years) or whatever.

And I guess the other thing that will happen is that eventually Mr. Baby's development will be less mysterious and mystical and more, I don't know, is "banal" too terrible sounding a word? I'm kidding. But seriously, first word versus mastering times tables? It's no contest.

It's funny how fast some of these milestones are coming. Time was, we spent a lot of time wondering whether the kid could smile. Now things just cascade, one after another, and it's all we can do to remember what came when.

Like the first time he toasted with his sippy cup, for example. No kidding, he did this the other day. Fortunately our Child Protective Services caseworker was nowhere near the bar we were hanging out at, but I have to say, it was hilarious. Then I realized we did this three times in one day this past weekend and sort of figured, well of course he learns this before he can walk. And, well, what do you do? But look, he also seemed to blow his nose a few days ago — pretty cool, right? No, not nearly as awesome as toasting with a sippy. Duh.

But if you're not going to start walking — and really son, it's not something your mother or I are really looking forward to — then you have to look at talking as being the real big deal.

Is The Simpsons still on? OK, disingenuous, because I actually know the answer (yes) and I know this because I had football on this past weekend and Mr. Baby was suddenly transfixed by a spot for whatever latest Simpsons episode was showing later that day. It's not The Simpsons that he likes but rather the fact that it's a cartoon, period, which is probably because of the colors or something like that but which I always think is a really bizarre and probably really obvious fact about babies: They're, like, hardwired to watch cartoons.

The part about babies being seemingly hardwired to respond in a sort of narcotic stupor at the sight of goofy hand-drawn figures isn't really what I am interested in, though I am. Actually, it's the character of Maggie in The Simpsons that I started thinking about, the joke with Maggie (and I felt like I needed to look it up because I haven't seen an episode in a long time) being that she never does learn to talk (except, apparently, for small parts in little-watched late-model episodes).

Anyway, I think of Maggie Simpson's muteness sometimes when I watch Mr. Baby. For some time I assumed that at some point Mr. Baby's transition from flour sack to toddler would strike quickly, like an epiphany, and he would suddenly speak using a word in its proper context. And then there would be this mystical moment — like when construction crews tunneling on either side of the English Channel somehow met in the middle — when we would start communicating with him.

But the truth is that — like so much of child development — acquiring language is gradual. If we were to be honest, his first word was "ba-ba," the definition of which is not important except which to say that Dr. Sears would be pleased.

But ultimately, "ba-ba" is some meaningless bullshit babble that may or may not have meant what we thought it meant. So then the next candidate for first word was, if memory serves, "Up." As in, Mr. Baby would crawl over to your feet and demand to be lifted: "Up!" Of course, Mr. Baby seemed to use "up" in situations where "up" would not apply, most notably when he wanted to go "down," so . . . word? I don't know. 75 percent of the time, yes.

Then there's a word that he uses that we think we understand the provenance of: "Hot." "Hot" refers to food, and we figure he probably heard us say "It's hot" when we handed him some food. Thus, "hot." Does that count as a word? Probably not.

So that leaves what could be definitively Mr. Baby's first word: "Hat." As in, I'll put on a hat and he calls it a hat. I could quibble and say that Mr. Baby's use of "hat" occurred around the same time as something that sounds like a cross between "hat" and "cat," used when housecats appear, and that "cat" is his first word, but the "h" sound sounds more, uh, intentional.

Perhaps you notice a few words missing here. I guess a lot of parents hope that first word is either "mama" or "dada." And I'm sure when that happens those folks probably feel rather chuffed. But, really, that's kind of fucked up and narcissistic, isn't it? Of course, when I say "fucked up and narcissistic" I really mean, "You bet I'd be excited if his first word was 'dada.'"

And don't get me wrong — there were many times we heard him say "mama" or "dada" — sometimes even while looking at one of us. But then he'd go and call a lot of other things "mama" or "dada": the remote control, a cocktail shaker, the model advertising leggings on a poster in the window at Mandee. So I don't know, between "mama" and "up" or "dada" and "hat," I guess I have to be honest.

I guess it's just as well, given some of the language we use/continue to use around the child. I'll take "hat" any day over, say, "motherfucker." Then again, if it had been "the motherfucker with the hat," I'd probably call up the local news, but I guess that's just how things go.

Posted: January 9th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , , , , ,

The Breast A Man Can Get

To me, the issue with Time's "Are You Mom Enough?" cover is not so much about the depiction of breastfeeding, the fact that the child depicted is still breastfeeding at three or the idea that this the lady in the picture is attractive (and somehow that makes the image "pornographic") but rather now that child will forever be known as the kid who, at three, was pictured standing on a chair suckling at his momma's teet.

We take all manner of goofy pictures of Animal and Jen is always joking that she is going to have a ball showing them to Animal's future prom date, the joke being that of course we wouldn't embarrass him like that. We never, ever joked that we were going to take a picture of him breastfeeding and use it as the cover of Time. Although, believe me, there are quite a few that would make the cut, they're just that cute.

No, we decided early on that we would never take a picture of Animal and use it in a way that seemed in any way exploitative. In doing so, we realized that we may miss out on many good opportunities for publicity, but ultimately, we felt that exploiting our child was probably just not worth it in the end. You know, issues of dignity/self-esteem (or whatever they're calling it nowadays).

Then again, who are we to judge? What, if anything, is wrong with using your child to make a statement about something you believe strongly in? Even if he is teased mercilessly in a few years, that's just a reflection of his tormentors' small minds.

I was telling my own parents about this story and explaining that it had something to do with "attachment parenting" — "whatever that is," I added. A little while later Jen explained that every time I strap the little Monkey on with the carrier I was, in fact, practicing attachment parenting. And that we actually own the book the article was apparently about (though I don't know that there is an actual article).

"You're not breastfeeding him until he's three though, right?" I asked.

No, she said, these people are taking the concept to an extreme. In her opinion, she added. She does not judge other people's parenting.

Which of course is the first thing you learn as a new parent — or really, the second thing. The first thing you learn is that you're kind of an idiot, and it follows logically that you wouldn't be judge-y about stuff. Unless your a huger idiot, that is.

So, what do you do? Oh right, not put your child on the front cover of Time with your tit in his mouth, because, jeez, that's just kind of mean, you know? I mean, right?

Posted: May 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Broken Link | Tags: , ,