Back In the Saddle (I Hope)
I’m still here. Barely.
Some scruffy looking dude with a leather jacket should have told me that babies take a lot of time. Then, as I laughed and said, “Yeah, I’m sure they do,” turning back to the e-mail (in which I was writing to tell the editors of Grounded Parent that of course I could totes commit to writing an article every couple of weeks), Scruffy should have knocked over my plasma screen T.V., flipped a table, grabbed me by the sides of my head.“No, you naive fool,” he should have said, “Listen, and understand. That baby is coming. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or concern that you have a blog to write. And it absolutely will not stop crying, ever, until it is asleep. Babies will eat and they will poop and they will need. They will hunt down every spare minute you have and they will destroy them. That’s what they do. THAT’S ALL THEY DO!!”
Of course, unless it was me sent back in time from today to warn myself, I probably wouldn’t have listened.
Fortunately, I’ve begun to feel the ground under my feet once in a while in the last month or so. It’s seldom for long, and I usually sit with a blank expression in those slivers of time and wonder if I’m really actually experiencing a moment to myself or if I’ve just forgotten everything and my cell phone is about to blow up with texts that people are stuck at airports or to come identify bodies or something.
Tom is 11 months now. He burbles and babbles and plays games and has favorite toys and favorite foods. I sometimes see a glimpse of the tiny person he’s starting to become. His latest breathtaking moments have been using the sound of the cat bowl banging on the floor to lure the cats into grabbing range, realizing that he can use the distortion bar on the keyboard while he’s playing it if he just sits on the keys, and pointing at his mouth when he’s hungry or thirsty. Every day now he takes a few wobbly half steps: the harbinger of much to come. This all shocks me, but none of it scares me because slowly (oh so slowly) things are actually getting easier.
There was no moment where I let out my breath. There were just these tiny incremental changes that started adding up. He can get himself off the couch without falling. He can roll over. He can butt scoot over to a different toy he’d rather play with instead of impotently screaming while I try to figure out what he wants. He plays with the electronic piano for a few minutes without constant supervision. Banging on a box keeps him entertained for four or five. He can pick up yogurt puffs with his fingers and put them into his own face. He can usually figure out how to tip the bottle up instead of sucking air. (Usually.) Baby proofing procrastination ended the day of the “successful power outlet beeline,” so now we don’t always need to be staring right at him every moment. A meal takes a few minutes instead of a raging, screaming ordeal where we both are absolutely convinced there is going to be a fatality if I don’t hurry the fuck up warming that bottle.
Then one day, I realized I had enough time to use the bathroom. Or that I’d been looking at my laptop with him playing next to me long enough to read a whole article instead of a few sentences. One day, I realized I was breathing normally, and it was the silences that freaked me out. Suddenly, just for a minute, I was standing on solid ground.
There are a couple of other reasons I’ve been reticent to write. I have to admit I’m a little intimidated by the amazeballs colleagues I have here at G.P. They have multiple kids much further along than Tom. They have science, math, and medical backgrounds and can explain in exhaustive detail why Food Babe is full of shit instead of just, “wait how is salt a GMO?” They are grizzled social justice veterans who can speak meaningfully about the intersection of feminism, skepticism, and parenting. I’m a humanities major who changed his first diaper at 39, had to Google to make sure it wasn’t a problem that an 11 month old wasn’t yet speaking fluently, and on a very, very good day I will prep a bottle without forgetting the nipple. I often look around at my colleagues here at Grounded Parents and think “how the fuck did these people not notice me sneak in?”
I also have a family who isn’t out. My immediate “in laws” know that I’m not just a clingy roommate who moved with Renee and William, but extended families kind of wonder what the hell I’m doing in so many pictures. Being the dirty little secret means I’ve had some articles get “vetoed” just because they talk about things that not everyone is being open about. It’s frustrating, and I’m always pouty and gunshy for a while when I trip over a topic that someone decides is news they’d rather break….eventually…..some day.
However, mostly it’s the time thing. Holy balls, but raising kids takes time. Time I didn’t even know I had got sucked up into the vacuum of Tom. I don’t resent a moment of it (because all that cliche shit about them changing everything turned out to be kind of true) but it should be sky written and on every scrolling marquee ever. We should have commercials on every channel warning us that whatever we think we know isn’t even close. (I can hear Patrick Stewart’s voice now: “Buy the new Pontiac Grand Am. Also, about kids? WAY more time consuming than anyone’s telling you.”) Even though Renee tries hard to tag me out at 40 hours and not take advantage of me, tossing that onto a teaching gig and writing for my own blog pushes most weeks into the 80 hour range, and that’s if nothing goes wrong.
Seldom does nothing go wrong.
Still, I hope to do a little better by Grounded Parents. It might be around the time Tom can pour himself a bowl of cereal before I can realistically write twice a week, but I’m going to try not letting months of silence go by anymore. Tom has taught me a thing or three about baby steps: mostly that falling on your butt is just the cost of doing business and that nothing motivates like chasing a cat. Translate that into the metaphor as you will.
And I’m seriously going to pretend Renee didn’t just ask me about number two.
I love your idea for add-on TV commercials. Every time one of my students who is pregnant with (or married to / with someone who is pregnant with) their first kid comes into my office utterly confident that they can take 18 hours next semester while ALSO caring for a newborn it is all I can do not to go full-on harpy at them. “Are you HIGH? ARE YOU FUCKING HIGH?”
I think I’ll use your Terminator speech from now on instead. Much cooler!
If you get that crazed look in your eyes that Michael Biehn perfected when you do it, they might even listen!
You’re doing really well at balancing the parent/life thing if Renee is raising #2 plans – congrats!
It usually seems like we’re falling with style, but somehow she doesn’t seem to be terrified.
“had to Google to make sure it wasn’t a problem that an 11 month old wasn’t yet speaking fluently”
If only somebody taught those kids the paediatrician’s timetable while they’re still in utero!
Honestly, in my experience many children start talking when there’s a real communicative necessity. The dirty little secret of the western toddler is that their caregivers are REALLY good at figuring out what they want.
Unless they don’t produce any sounds and don’t understand you, there’s no problem.
The fabled first word of my cousin beyond “mum & dad” was “Hängematte” (hammoc). Why? Because his older sister in the time honoured fashion of older siblings decided that she could pretend that she did not understand what her brother wanted.
My husband’s little cousin learned talking when her older brother left preschool. Before that he did communication for her.
Interesting. I never thought there might be a downside to learning hand signs or working hard to understand gestures. Still, I was relieved (and a little embarrassed at how FAR I was off) to discover that he should only know 10-20 words roughly around the 18 month mark.
I’m not even sure it has anything to do with the rise of teaching hand signs (although many signs naturally arise), cause none of the kids I know learned them. Kids are just individuals and have different “preferences”. My firstborn was an early talker and a supreme one at that. But she didn’t walk for a long time and I was getting worried about the looming check-up. Not because I thought there was anything wrong with her. She was a fast crawler and could get up, so she had no need to try that slow and dangerous walking thingy. But I was worried about her “missing a mark” and therefore me being judged and given all kinds of talking to and probably having her diagnosed with some shit and all of that.
I wished that people who professionally deal with kids would stop looking at the charts so much and start lookig at the kids more.
“I wished that people who professionally deal with kids would stop looking at the charts so much and start lookig at the kids more.”
As you know, I’m equally if not more intimidated by you and your writing skillz. If you think you’re standing on solid ground now, you’re going to be alright. Eventually you’ll be able to give him a pile of toys and books, and you might just be able to write for 15 minutes straight while he occupies himself!
Fifteen minutes???? SWEET AMBROSIA!!!
And wait, she just asked you about number two? Initially number two can be a doozy. But eventually, number two and number one will start almost taking care of each other. I’ve left mine together in a child-proofed room and gotten up to 30 minutes of writing done the next room over. It’s glorious.
OH! THAT KIND OF NUMBER TWO! Jeez I’m dim sometimes! I was very confused by the sentence, because all I could think of for number two to mean was poop.
I blame new parent sleep deprivation.