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Small Baby Walking

Podling. Walking. On Camera.

Yesterday evening – at the age of nine months and one week – Theron started walking.

I wouldn’t say he’s competent at it, exactly. His record so far is about six steps before he falls over. But he is actually moving in the direction that he wants, on his feet, without grabbing anything for balance. (He does seem to like carrying things, though.) Plus, he did it consistently enough that I was able to catch him on video.

This isn’t entirely unexpected. He’s been standing up on his own for weeks, and ‘cruising’(walking while holding on to something for support), and even pushing the chairs around in the kitchen. Walking has obviously been one of his goals for quite some time.

Now that he’s succeeded… well, you know my usual response: life as I know it is basically over. I have to hide anything interesting or dangerous (or lock it away), and only stock the house with safe, bland things that he can’t use to damage himself. Except for his toys, of course; he seems more likely to damage us with those.

On the plus side, soon I’ll be able to start teaching him his Kung Fu stances.

Our baby, the bold explorer
"Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?"
With his vastly increased mobility (and let me tell you, while crawling he can move like a jet-powered turtle), the Podling's ability to explore his world has expanded dramatically. One of his new favorite activities is Cabinet Diving, which is a bit like spelunking except that he's inside a cabinet. Also, in a cave the point is to explore and look at interesting rock formations; when cabinet diving, the point seems to be to remove everything in the cabinet. So on second thought, maybe it's closer to excavating than spelunking. Some of the things he's pulled out have certainly been old enough to qualify as archaeological artifacts...

In addition to cabinet diving, Theron is trying his hand at climbing. He has already managed to lever himself up from the floor onto the hearth at my parents' house. Ours is a little higher... so he pulled a box off a shelf and used it for a step. (I am not making this up.) Any day now, I expect to find him banging flint and steel together to make fire.

His language acquisition hasn't gone any farther. His one actual word - that is, a set of sounds that he consistently makes in response to a particular stimulus - is "kitty cat," though when he says it, it sounds like "Gee-Gaw!" He makes "mama" sounds, or sometimes "mamamama" sounds, but I'm not sure he's actually saying the word mama. The usage is inconsistent, and he may just be experimenting with phonemes.

He has, however, consistently demonstrated a liking for knives, forks, and other sharp objects - a propensity that he doubtless inherited from his father. He enjoys crawling over to the dishwasher, levering himself up on the open door, and pulling out anything sharp. I've chosen to take this as a good sign: someday I'll be able to teach him swordplay.

Dances with Kitties
"Isn't this a great hat?"Theron's love of cats has found its full expression at my parents' house, where Wayward the Cat lives. Wayward was originally my cat, but owing to his complete inability to get along with my wife's cats, he went to live with my parents. Also, if Wayward hadn't gone to live with my parents, we would have had four cats in our apartment after we got married. (Our current house would be crowded enough, but the two bedroom apartment we moved into first... it was tight.)

Both of my cats - Wayward and Astrophe - were foundlings. The Beautiful Woman adopted hers from a pet store, but I found mine under bushes - one in Lawton, Oklahoma, and the other in Nacogdoches, Texas. This probably says something deep and profound about me; however, since I have very little patience for deep and profound, I don't want to know. But I digress...

Anyway, Theron has a great time with Wayward. This is mainly because Wayward, unlike all the cats in our house, doesn't run away the moment the baby comes anywhere near. Wayward just lays there and lets the baby pat him, and then lets the baby poke him with a stick, and then lets the baby try to climb over him. Whereupon the cat offers a soft, pathetic meiw, and I remove the baby. This happened twice, and it was fairly cute except for the fact that Wayward still has all his claws, I didn't want to push my luck (or Theron's, for that matter). The third time, Theron tried to climb over the cat lengthwise, and Wayward actually hissed... so that was the end of that game.

Fortunately, Wayward is professionally indolent, so I was able to set him on a bed and leave him there. I don't believe he left the bed for another six or eight hours.

Why the Podling won’t be exposed to the evening news
We don’t actually have our television set connected to any sort of broadcast apparatus. We don’t have cable, and we only have a minimal antenna. Heck, we only have a television because it’s really hard to use the dvd player or the Playstation without one.

We have, in short, deliberately removed ourselves from the mainstream of modern American society. To a surprising number of people, this marks us as subversive and Un-American, probably anarchists or revolutionaries – or, worse yet, Religious Fanatics. The fact that I’ve just admitted this online is probably sufficient to get us put on some sort of FBI watch list. (Not that that’s any great trick, these days.)

As a result of this arrangement, the only stations that the television will pick up on its own are in Spanish. Spanish television, as it turns out, is just like English television. They have odd game shows; they have sitcoms that are probably mildly funny if you can understand them; during the day they have talk shows, and in the evening they have news. Once you get past the language, there are really only two significant differences between Spanish television and English television: first, the costumes are noticeably skimpier on Spanish television; and, second, Spanish television has more midgets.

Since neither of us are fluent in Spanish, we get most of our news online. I actually prefer this, mainly because text articles tend to be less sensational than actual news programs. My wife, on the other hand, occasionally looks at streaming videos of the news on her computer. Two weeks ago – for reasons that are wholly mysterious to me – she found a news program about a baby who had its nose eaten off by a rat. Since it was coming over her computer and I was in the same room, I was privileged to hear about it too.

Now, several reactions to this. First, how is this news? I mean, once you get past the Ew factor and the Parent-Scaring factor, how many people actually need to know this? It’s not like there’s a plague of nose-eating rats spreading across the land. It’s not like this is a common occurrence that could have been prevented with just a few basic safety precautions. And, frankly, it’s not like I need to be exposed to other people’s tragedies. There are plenty to go around, and I’d vastly prefer it if the broadcast news wouldn’t try to import new ones into my life.

Don’t get me wrong: all flippancy aside, this is tragic. I wouldn’t be as irritated if it weren’t. For that matter, if news of something like this came to me from someone I know, about someone I know, I’d be doing my best to offer comfort, help, and support.

This, however, is not that sort of situation. No one is asking for help; no one is giving out useful information; no one is warning of a potential danger. The story is being broadcast because people will watch it – out of morbid curiosity, for that little thrill of fear or disgust, or out of simple schadenfreude. It pretends to be news, but it’s actually just entertainment… and it’s a pretty base form of entertainment, at that.

So this is why the Podling will be growing up without much exposure to television. There are things worth watching, but it isn’t worth wading through (or paying for) the other 98% of it. We can get our news online – more reliably – and if we wait for shows to hit DVD, then we don’t have to put up with advertising. The downside is that, in some ways, our little Juggernaut will be poorly socialized. He won’t have the same cultural referents as his peers. But, given what passes for culture a lot of the time, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.