will be two years old in a little less than one month
(June 7, 2008, to be specific). He's a clever, active
little guy, and last night he said his own name for the
first time. It was cute, but also mildly disgusting. Let
Patterns of learning
There are some well documented patterns to acquiring new
skills. One of the classic ones -- and it shows up in
everything from languages to martial arts to computer
use -- looks like this: you spend ages working on
something, making little or no progress. Then, suddenly,
something clicks into place, and you're off and running.
Theron's language skills seem to have done that. He's
added some new phonemes (he can do a pretty convincing "ssssss"
now). He can repeat anything we say, up to about four
words in a row, and usually does. More impressive, he's
starting to build sentences (as opposed to the two-word
demands he was using earlier). He's even experimenting
Unfortunately, he still poops in the tub.
(Bear with me. There is a connection
Pooping in the tub For the last couple of weeks, this has happened
nearly every night. It's becoming part of his bedtime
routine. We finish watching Muppets or Elmo; we undress
the boy and set him in the tub; he poops; and I clean it
My wife and I have different theories as to why this
should be. The Beautiful Woman holds that it's a matter
of simple biology; basically, the warm water relaxes
him, and things just naturally come out. I, on the other
hand, champion a more psychological answer: as the
parent who usually bathes him, I feel quite certain that
he's doing it just to irritate me.
...All of which brings us back to last night. We've
finished watching the Muppets. We've filled the tub and
undressed the Boobelly. I set him in the tub, and moment
later there are... no, no, I'll spare you the details.
The Beautiful Woman comes in while I'm cleaning up, and
is greeted with the burning question: "Do we have enough
bleach to soak the tub, or should I go get more?"
So the Beautiful Woman looks at her darling son and
says, "Oh, you pooped."
And Theron repeats: "Pooped."
Whereupon she continues, "That's right. Mommy poops,
Daddy poops, and Theron poops."
And Theron, looking up at her, says: "Mommy... poop."
And, a moment later: "Daddy... poop."
And finally: "Theron... poop."
And that's the story of the very first time that Theron
actually said his own name.
It would have been a lot more heartwarming if he could
have done it without depositing excrement in his
Our son, the gerbil Theron
has been many things over the course of his young life -
metaphorically, at least. While he was still an internal
baby (i.e., before he was born), we kept track of his
size by comparing it with various things. So, at one
point he was tadpole; later he was a lizard (pronounced
"leeezard"); after that he was a grapefruit... you get
Then, after he was born, he was gifted with other names.
Podling, Pumpkin, Juggernaut, Wolverine, Chipmunk,
Well, a few weeks ago I took him to a McDonald's
playground. The reasoning was simple: he needed
exercise, and the weather was too nasty for a public
park. So, McDonald's: totally enclosed, air conditioned,
and -- in the middle of the afternoon -- not completely
overrun with other children.
So I took him in, bought a few token items so nobody
would complain, and turned him loose.
The playground is about two stories worth of
brightly-colored plastic tubes, with ramps and slides
and windows and other points of interest. It has sort of
sports theme, so at the end of certain tunnels there are
little round rooms (that look like baseballs or
basketballs from the outside). On the outside, it has a
sign: "Kids 3-12 welcome to play. Parents, too."
Taking them at their word, I lifted Theron into the maze
and followed him in. The interesting bits require you to
climb up a series of half-platforms, which are set
within a rectangular column. Because the half-platforms
are staggered (one on one side, then the next a little
higher on the other side), it's less like climbing a
ladder and more like working your way up through a cave.
Theron is still a little short for this, so I helped him
Once we reached the top, Theron promptly disappeared
into the tunnels. I followed as best I could, but it
turns out that I'm not as eighteen as I
once was. Nevertheless, I now have a pretty good feel
for what life would be like as a gerbil... and I managed
to document the experience for posterity.
Theron, of course, is a natural at this. He scrambles,
climbs, and slides with complete abandon. He is
perfectly capable of climbing all the way up the long
spiral slide - which surprised me, as it's rather steep
in places. And if he does get stuck, he
grabs me and pulls me over to wherever he needs a push.
Best of all, he loves it. Boy's a natural
spelunker. Gets it from both sides.
New and better ways to dance
In one of the earlier entries, I included a video clip
of Theron dancing in front of the Muppet show. Well, his
dancing has advanced since then. Maybe not
improved, but definitely evolved. It's become a
much more strenuous activity, and involves a lot more
moving around. Behold:
(Click for video)
A bit of perspective from the end of the second year
Having a child now seems completely normal. He's so
thoroughly a part of our lives that it would feel weird
if he weren't there... and I'm not quite sure when that
happened. Somewhere in the last year, I went from "Wow,
we have a child. How did that happen?" to "What would we
do without him?"**
This, I suppose, is what people are referring to when
they talk about how wonderful it is to be a parent. And
it really is cool. What they seem to forget is that the
first year -- the part where you're raising a baby
-- is an unrewarding, unremitting ordeal. It's totally
worth it, because afterwards you get to have a child,
but that doesn't make the time any less purgatorial
while it's happening.
Schadenfreude and/or epicaricacy
We are not the first of our friends to have children.
However, until recently, most of the friends in our
immediate geographical area were childless. Those
friends who already did have children are
either elsewhere; or they've had children for some time;
or they don't hang out with us much as they used to
do***; or some combination of the above.
So, when we got around to having Theron, it was a lot
like being the first of our little circle to have
That is, we were suddenly a lot more tired than everyone
else; ten o'clock felt a lot like two a.m. used to feel.
Our free time was suddenly much more restricted; trying
to get together with anyone required (at least) three
times as much planning and equipment. Things that used
to be perfectly acceptable get-together times were now
difficult, if not completely unworkable. What used to be
a simple change of plans was now a major ordeal.
...But the really annoying part was that almost nobody
seemed to realize it. Even when we explained, there was
always this sense of, "Huh?" Sometimes it was obvious;
more often it was just below the surface. Most of our
friends just didn't get it. Whatever they
actually said, I could almost see them thinking,
Surely it can't be as bad as all that. There
were exceptions, of course, and for the most part people
were pretty reasonable, but A) even a little of this is
really infuriating, and B) we ran into it fairly
Now, however, several more of our friends are preparing
to have children of their own. My wife and I await these
new arrivals with a mixture of genuine happiness for our
friends -- mudita -- and perverse pleasure
in the knowledge that life is about to become very
difficult for them: schadenfreude.
I seriously doubt that anyone is going to come up to us
and apologize.**** For one thing, they're probably going
to be far too busy taking care of babies. For another,
I'm talking about a subtle little prejudice, more
evident in the way people reacted than in anything they
actually did; I doubt most of them were even aware of
Nevertheless, I'm planning to savor this feeling of
fiendish glee whenever the opportunity permits.
Also, I hereby apologize -- freely and without
reservation -- to any parent whom I've ever regarded
with that "Oh-come-on" attitude, in either
my voice or my expression.
Theron plays in his gerbil cage.
A small boy in his cups...
Riding on bang-daddy is fun!
More time in
the gerbil cage.
I love slides!
Regard the Pig...
* A few nights ago, right
after we'd put him down for bed, one of the cats rattled
the door. Theron raised his head and said (I am not
making this up): "Cat come in." The enunciation wasn't
perfect, but it was a perfectly understandable sentence.
**Answer: have more free time.
*** Probably because they have children, and therefore
**** But if anyone does feel so inclined, I offer the
following words a model: "Oh my G-d, I was so wrong. You
really weren't exaggerating or being
difficult. Having a baby really does make
it hard to go do things." You can also tell us about how
brave and wise and good-looking we are, if the urge
strikes you. There's no shame; many people feel that way
when confronted with our essential wonderficiality, and
far too many feel compelled to restrain themselves for
fear of embarrassment.