Into The Thicket Of Dreary Oranges

Back in February I mentioned the "fourth trimester" in the context of appreciating the grace period nature allows parents to get their shit together before the clock starts ticking. In short, in general, for the first three months babies' brains are sufficiently undeveloped to the point that you probably won't screw up anything too badly.

I don't believe in "intelligent design," and I don't even think I understand what that term means, but I love how brilliant anthropology is. Or at least how brilliant human physiology is, in the sense that it's great that human pelvises are small and that babies are born with underdeveloped brains which ends up giving us this grace period to figure out what is going on.

Sometimes when I talked about this idea it was in the context of conveying a faux modesty about how we weren't really doing anything that impressive by keeping Animal fed and diapered. The idea being, under three months no real parenting is happening — none of the heavy lifting like you see in tender moments in the final minutes of a sitcom, for example, or maybe The Road or whatever.

So anyway, for a while we had that to fall back on. And then the other day Animal reached the end of his "fourth trimester" when he turned three months. And now I'm scared.

What has changed? I was looking at pictures we've taken during the past three months, and he's definitely cuter. He smiles all the time now, and not just after urinating in his diaper. He responds very favorably when we say the word, "noodlehead," almost laughing.

Just the other day we had an unconfirmed report from Animal's grandparents that he grabbed his foot. I've never seen him do this. When we give him "tummy time" — that sadistic rite of passage in which babies are plopped down on their bellies and forced to lift their heads — he turns about 40 percent of the way onto his back. I am convinced he is mimicking me when I point with my index finger. I spend an inordinate amount of time point-point-pointing at Animal. Lately he has started to grab my finger. This will do.

Anyway, there are all manner of milestones that we think we've seen Animal reach, all of which are completely boring to anyone outside of about six relatives of ours. Well, except for one thing — those weird spit bubbles are apparently a developmental milestone, too. That was funny to us.

Speaking of saliva, Jen mentioned the other day that if she had one word to describe her life now, it would be "damp," what with all the spit, drool, pee and whatever else. The drool is really something. I mentioned "tummy time" before — and I know it's important for his head strength and whatever else — but what he's really good at during tummy time seems to be drooling. So much so that one of his latest nicknames is "Loord Drool."

Three months . . . wow! "Wow" happens to be one of the words I'm "teaching" Animal — for two reasons: One, it's fun, and two, I have this idea that he's watching my lips and learning how to speak, so it's good to have a variety of words/mouth movements. The latest project involves getting a jump on words that tend to be difficult to pronounce, so I spend time on tricky phrases. "A thicket of dreary oranges," for example, and old standbys like "perilously placed nuclearized wasps' nests."

Today Jen forwarded me this Charlie Brooker Guardian piece about him witnessing his wife's C-section. She thought it was nice. The other day I mentioned that our friend Emily said that it's a thing when you finally meet a baby smaller and younger than your own, this march of time that sneaks up on you. I haven't seen a younger baby than Animal, but I suppose this might count? He is three months you know.

Oh, and yes, we're keeping him. The hospital did have a great 90-day return policy, but now that that's passed, he is ours to keep.

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , , , , ,

The Smile Of The Newborn Could Be Farts

Our friend Emily came by the other day to meet Animal for the first time and in the course of talking about how nice it is that random people are interested in babies, she mentioned that there's a sort of sad moment when you finally see a baby that's smaller and younger than yours.

For now though it still seems like no baby is smaller than Monkey. I like this feeling — people stop us on the street and marvel at how angelic Squeak is. Sometimes they say something along the lines of, "Great job!" We must look like idiot kids or something with our shit-eating grins and generally disheveled appearance.

So anyway, it's been almost eight weeks now. I didn't quite see how we'd get to increments of "months" after those first sleepless nights, but now time seems to go by really quickly.

[There should probably be a transition of some sort here, but my brain isn't working correctly.]

Remember that the Fourth Trimester exists because a baby's brain has to be underdeveloped enough to exit through the human pelvis. So for three months, babies are no smarter than a puppy (Jen and I had a long debate today about whether a puppy was smarter than a newborn) — it seems like they only eat and sleep, with some crying, peeing and pooping mixed in there. Jen calls this the houseplant stage. I've also heard people compare babies to sacks of sugar. Really, they seem a lot like those infant simulators, which I suppose is a testament to infant simulators, in that you only need to figure out whether a baby is hungry, gassy or wet.

But the payoff is bigger. In exchange for three or more months of a brain no more complicated than a computerized doll or a canine, babies become fully formed human beings. And that's the ultimate fuck you to dog owners: Where your "baby" will never get past crapping on the sidewalk and eating slop out of a bowl, mine might become the leader of the free world. Not to mention that babies smell a lot sweeter. Suckers.

There's something fun about this interim Fourth Trimester between fetus and human, and that's that as a parent you get real amped up and excited about welcoming this new being into consciousness. It's why you see parents freak out about seeing a baby smile for the first time, much much less a child's first words. There's a delayed gratification at work that probably mirrors the sense of delayed gratification that society tries to instill (or drill) into children. I imagine it probably also gives fathers time to get really psyched to care for a child (mothers seem to have this instinctual care thing as soon as a child is born).

Or maybe I'm just projecting all my feelings about fatherhood onto an imperfectly sketched out concept of anthropology.

I liked the nine-month gestation period because it helped me "get used" to the idea that our lives were about to change. By the time Animal was born, I had mentally prepared for this new part of life. I see something similar going on with this Fourth Trimester time. This is the time to Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! in terms of cursing and off-color talk. This is the time to be amazed by how a human brain develops. This is the time to figure out how to be patient and loving and understanding. This is the time to build a routine in terms of child care.

And the beauty of this time is that as far as we can tell, Monkey has no fucking clue what's going on. Which means we can make mistakes, figure stuff out, screw up — all within reason, of course. The one thing you don't want to do is welcome your child's first pangs of consciousness with a phrase like "Motherfucking cocksucker, show me your tits!" With any luck, by the time the Fourth Trimester winds down, you'll be goo-gee-gaw-hawing like you're supposed to when your child's brain suddenly betrays a flash of understanding.

I didn't really believe Jen when she kept saying that Squeak was smiling — I thought we heard somewhere along the way that smiling is an involuntary reaction with very young newborns — but now I see what I'm sure are smiles and evidence that he's starting to mimic our facial expressions. Either it's that or it's an example of confirmation bias — since we're probably smiling most of the time anyway.

And then there's Squeak's intense interest in light fixtures. A lot of things are "Aww!" inspiring about newborns, but the one that really gets me is how much he seems to love looking at lights. When his face isn't pressed up against Jen's chest or asleep against mine in the carrier, he's probably looking intently at these lights. It's so simple that it makes me gooey every time I see him do it. Why gooey? I don't totally know but I think it probably has something to do with the fact that someday, probably very soon, he won't have nearly enough stuff to occupy himself with and he'll be easily bored, cranky or fickle in his interests — just like everyone is as soon as we figure out how ridiculous and small those who clamor for our attention really are.

And then you have a newborn and you can make funny faces at him for literally hours because you have faith that every little gesture matters, or will soon matter. Somehow you're now hardwired to focus hold your attention. It's weird how that happens.

Posted: February 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , ,

Inappropriate Songs To Sing To A Baby

The good thing about newborns is that their brains are barely developed. The bad thing about this stage is that you don't have much time left to get stuff out of your system. Here are three songs that have figured prominently in Animal's so-called "fourth trimester."

1) Khia's "My Neck, My Back." Like I said, inappropriate. But oh what a lesson in anatomy. Plus, if a diaper really fails, sometimes it feels this way.

2) Busta Rhymes' "Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check." Specifically the line "got that head-nod shit that makes you break your neck."

3) AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." One of the in-utero songs we played him, for the beats; it wasn't until we got our shaken-baby lesson at the hospital that I realized what a poor choice this was.

Posted: January 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Jukebox, The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , ,