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Cute little baby milestones

My last entry was… well, let’s just say it wasn’t written at a high point in my Bright, Happy Child-Raising Experience™. No doubt some of my readers remain blissfully child-free, and may now be reconsidering the wisdom of having children at all, ever, under any circumstance. If so… good. Parenting is one of those topics (like Marriage) where most discussions could benefit from a good dose of realism.

Those readers who already have children may be angry with me for breaking the Parents’ Code. The Code expressly forbids saying anything bad about having a baby until it’s too late – i.e. until the person you’re talking to already has a baby of their own. Then you’re allowed to look smug about everything that surprises them.

Still, I would be remiss if I left everyone with the depressing impression that fatherhood consists mainly of missed sleep, diapers fouled with strange excretions, and inexplicable bouts of endless screaming. No, there’s much more to the experience than that…

…And, much as it pains me to admit it, a lot of it is actually fun.

Baby learns to flirt
Three weeks ago, Theron started smiling. Not just random muscle movements, actual smiles – which he gave as a response to anyone who paid attention to him. About a week after that, he started making cooing sounds at the same time.

It is insufferably, irresistibly, mind-numbingly cute. It is the Jedi Mind Trick of cuteness. His cuteness is stronger than my Kung Fu: I am helpless before it.

I’d feel ashamed of my total lack of spine and willpower in the face of the grinning, gwaa-ing baby, but everyone else is helpless too. Except the cats, of course. Since the baby doesn’t feed them, they don’t care how cute he is.

That may mean that the cats are smarter than we are.

Baby gets his exercise
Shortly after the Podling started smiling, the Beautiful Woman and her mother went to explore a secondhand shop whose entire merchandise consisted of Things For Children. They were tipped off by some friends of ours, who have thereby earned our eternal gratitude.

The store is called Kid To Kid, and its entire purpose is to allow people like us to buy really expensive things at waaaaaaay below their original price. Granted, this also means that other children have already touched (and sneezed, chewed, and dribbled on) these items… but that’s okay. I doubt the previous owners left behind anything that can’t be removed with rubbing alcohol, bleach, or (if all else fails) a flamethrower.

Anyway… the big coup of their expedition is a little singing boat-toy. This consists basically of a pad, with an arch over the middle of it. You lay the baby on the pad, under the arch. The whole thing is shaped to resemble a boat, and has removable dangly decorations shaped like fish and crabs and such. It also has a motion sensor. In the middle of the arch (so, right in the middle of the baby’s field of view) is a hexagonal wheel filled with some sort of liquid and some floating plastic fish.

Whenever the baby moves enough to trip the sensor, it plays about five seconds worth of bright, cheery, bubbly music. At the same time, little lights turn on and off, and the wheel rotates (causing the fish to move inside). Theron thinks this is fascinating. Not only has he already mastered the art of activating it, he tries to dance while the music plays.

As far as I’m concerned, this is wonderful. I know I should feel guilty about absentee parenting, but this thing allows us to set the baby down for up to twenty minutes. The baby gets exercise and doesn’t scream (in fact, he sort of gurgles happily along with the music). The best part is that we can tell he’s still alive, even from another room, because as long as we can hear the music we know he’s still moving.

Teething begins early
Theron is teething. Nothing’s actually broken the skin yet, but I can feel the sharpish lumps in his gums. He’s developed a much greater interest in chewing on his pacifier, or my finger, or the edge of his swing, or his own hands. (He hasn’t quite mastered sucking his thumbs, but he can stick one or both hands in his mouth with a surprising amount of skill.) Also, he drools. Everywhere. On everyone.

You want to know just how powerful his cuteness really is?

Even his drooling is cute.

There is no escape
The Beautiful Woman has gone back to work, teaching part time at a community college. This is good, because having a baby turns out to be very, very expensive. (And that’s just the birth! Wait ‘til we get to choosing colleges…)

Now, a nice, sane, normal job has clear hours and allows you to go home. And the best thing about being at home, if you have one of those jobs, is that you’re not at work. You can relax, wander around in your socks, sing silly songs to the baby or the cats or both, and generally get a lot of Not Working done.

Teaching, by contrast, is neither nice, sane, nor normal. They only pay you for the hours you’re actually at work, but in order to do anything useful in those hours you have to have spent even more hours preparing. This tends to cut into the time that should be reserved for bad singing, wandering, relaxing, and Not Working. Oh, and taking care of the baby.

In fairness, I should point out that… well, look at it this way. Preparing for class tends to cut into your Taking Care Of The Baby time, right? Right. But the reverse is also true: taking care of a baby essentially robs you of any ability to prepare for class (or do anything else that might be useful). (I might have touched on that topic in one of my earlier entries.) So, naturally, the Beautiful Woman took careful stock of her resources and then foolishly handed the baby off to her husband: me.

I’m sure all she wanted was a chance to write the questions for the test she was giving the next day. Well, that and maybe a chance to visit the bathroom.

…Which is how I found myself, a week or so ago, trying to play a computer game while the Sprog sat in a little baby-seat behind me. There I was, charging down darkened corridors with my weapons at the ready, trying to destroy the hideous undead monsters before they did the same to me. I crept forward, into the shadowy hallway, and eased around the corner. In front of me was a– WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

I snapped back to the real world so fast I got whiplash, paused the game, and turned in my seat to see what horrific accident had befallen the baby and aroused this cry of agony.

Whereupon the baby looked up at me with an angelic smile and asked: “Coo?”

I’d just been played by a baby. There are no words for my shame.

Being a parent is all about the humiliation, really
Which leads me to my next revelation about parenting: children take everything.

I was okay with the loss of free time. I adapted to the lack of sleep. I willingly gave up my office to be the baby’s room. I was even prepared (more or less) for the sudden and immediate loss of any extra money. I’m so spaced out that I barely even miss the lack of adult conversation with my wife.

But, gods and angels, did he have to rob me of my dignity as well?

And now, some gratuitous but adorable pictures:

Tired baby at wedding. Amazingly, he managed to avoid spitting up on me.

A demonstration of my brother's skill as a photographer...

Proof that the baby's coming was foretold in ancient times.