Monday, August 22, 2011

the dark days of babyhood

When you have nearly a decade-long gap between kids you forget certain things.

Like how tired you really can be; like how no matter how much you plan, prepare, and leave early you will never, ever be on time with a baby; like how easily you will disregard body fluids on your clothing as being no biggie.

But you also forget some of the more charming things too. Thing 2 is still enough of a cute baby-blob that its not such a big deal yet, but the darker days of babyhood are coming. He can roll now -- though he stubbornly refuses to do it again -- I know that mobility in a child is a truly frightening thing. He is trying to sit up, and when he has tummy time he will scream and kick so furiously that he scoots forward in a quasi-crawl though he has not yet learned to control it.

Between the determination to move and the fact he loves being tossed in the air I am already dreading seeing him parachute off the entertainment center by 2. Thing 1 was a "spider man" kid, he climbed everything. He climbed down again, if I didn't pluck him off of it while having a heart attack first, he wasn't a jumper. Just a climber. I think I might have a jumper on my hands this time.

But yesterday as I tried to buckle Thing 2 into his car seat he did something that brought me back 9 years.

He arched his back and locked his elbows and knees. It briefly looked like I had one of those old rigid plastic baby dolls laying across the car seat like a bridge over a canyon. While it was only a few seconds, I had a series of thoughts hit me all at once: When I was a kid my girlfriends and I would have slumber parties and we would play light as a feather stiff as a board. It never worked obviously, but we always had to try. Just like the childhood version of me, Thing 2 got real stiff but weighed no less, in fact I think he miraculously gained like 10 pounds. And I recalled how Thing 1 was when he decided he didn't want to get in his car seat. He either looked like a soldier at attention or got as floppy as a Raggedy Ann doll.

Thing 2 does not yet know he can control me.

But he will.

And anyone reading this who says "babies can't control adults" has clearly never had one.

In time, Thing 2 will go the way of Thing 1. They all do. One day he is this cute little baby-blob, all chubby thighs and gummy smiles, then the next day he will develop the Jekyll to this cute baby-Hyde. While Bruce-Banner-baby is cute and sweet, the Hulk-baby will look like a synchronized swimming routine on pause (while screaming) the second you try to put him in a car seat. One second you have a baby who is so cute trying to vocalize and blow raspberries and you think it is oh so precious ... the next you are covered in splatters of baby food and hear their evil little baby laughter. One day you are beaming with pride and updating your facebook status as they take that first step, the next you are wondering how the heck they learned to lock you out of the house. Yeah, they so know what they are doing.

Don't get me wrong, I know Thing 2 already is in possession of some of the higher faculties of thinking than doctors will acknowledge. I am not claiming he is some kind of baby genius, though every mother knows their baby is the smartest and cutest little minion on the planet, I am saying that I think modern medicine simply lacks acceptance of the obvious fact that babies are born with some basic know-how. For example, while changing Thing 2's diaper he never pees on me when I am not going somewhere. If I have plans, and especially if I am running late, his little baby brain sends off a warning ... sirens blaring, you can almost hear it ...

Warning, warning, we are at DEFCON ONE, mom is dressed to go somewhere and appears to be running late. Initiate operation Hose Her Down.

And while he may not yet have "object permanence" and other fancy developmental-talk skills yet, explain to me how he knows that the skin on the back of my arm is highly sensitive and if he grabs it and does a simultaneous twist and pull I will instantly pay attention to what he is wanting and entertain him? He came home from the hospital with diva like demands, feed me every hour, hold me, clean me, keep me at appropriate temperatures, never put me down or make loud noises, and very little has changed.

He's just learning to move now.

God help us.

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