Saturday, May 28, 2005

the animal kingdom and your baby

Safari animals are very important in baby’s first year. If you don’t believe me, visit your local department store and check out the kids’ clothes. Particularly the boys’ clothes. And the toys too. Monkey, elephant, tiger combo – very popular. However, not as popular as elephant, giraffe, rhino. It’s someone’s job to make rhinos look cute. Interesting when you think about it.

Perhaps the safari clothes are something akin to driving around in "off-road" vehicles and huge SUVs, just in case the suburban neighborhood suddenly reverts to its geological roots and one must drive furiously out of the jungle (formerly the Super Fresh) to the high mesa (currently occupied by Peet’s Coffee) where we’ll all have to fight off wild cheetah (Mrs. Lopez’s tomcats) to survive.

Now, when it comes to books everything changes. Clearly, stories must revolve around bunnies. Bunnies. Many, many bunnies. And these bunnies are always going to sleep. Eventually. Sleep is THE major theme in children’s literature. You might think that people are out there writing tales of virtuous bunnies, bunnies with moral lessons for your youngster. But, in fact, what we really want to instill in the next generation is to go to bed. For goddsakes child, sleep! so mommy and daddy bunny can have a good, stiff drink. After all, they’ll have to face the rhinos again in the morning.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Mr. Isaac

We've passed the three-month mark!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

the "C" word

Reading is something I still get to do sometimes. I just finished an interesting book (with the unfortunate title of Our Babies, Ourselves) that discusses the meeting of biology and culture in regard to parenting. There are lots of ways to perform this crazy stunt. But it’s pretty clear that a child is simply not meant to be raised by one person in isolation. That Western society views children as a burdens, not assets. That I want something different than physically abusing myself as I repeatedly bounce this child to happiness or to sleep ten hours a day. A friend recommended the book to me. It was very informative despite the fact that it wasn’t what I was expecting. (When I said I wanted to read about different approaches to parenting from different parts of the world, learning about the tribal cultural that tosses orphans alive into the grave with their parents wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but hey.)

There are alternatives to the ten hours of bouncing of course. But they come with their own risks. I did a stupid thing recently. I spent the afternoon with two other moms. I’ve had a better time at the bloody dentist. After hearing about one mom's plans for baby number two and listening to the other one discuss the fertility status of every female relative and acquaintance of hers, I asked them, one the mother of a seven-month-old and the other the mother of a nine-month-old, how they find time with their husbands. They both quickly and matter-of-factly told me that they didn’t. The sad part was that I couldn’t detect any regret about this state of affairs. The reason they hadn’t found that time, it appeared, was that there was no one they trusted to stay with their babies. Ah. Mother psychosis. It takes many forms. Okay, I need to confess right here that if Isaac turns one and there are no date nights on the calendar, I will hand my baby to the FedEx guy if it means 15 minutes alone with my husband. I then asked them if they liked staying home with their kids. Blink. Blink. Blank. They didn’t appear to understand the question. I think I’d traveled to close to a nerve in their brains and Stepford mode kicked in to cover.

I love my baby. And that's why we are running away to join a harem. Where’s my fucking community?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

booby trap

This is where it starts. It’s so clear now. Why do you think women around the globe spend their time feeding people, obsessing over whether the people they are feeding have eaten enough, and generally using food to soothe? It starts with the breast. It's biological. It’s pathological. Fix it with food. He cries, he must be hungry. We give of ourselves – literally. Giving them life is not enough; we must sustain it.

This idea of a male creator figure gets sillier all the time. Now, the idea of a universal creator something like my Aunt Josephine – a tiny little Italian lady steaming up the kitchen windows, pasta boiling on the stove, asking the same questions I ask today: "Did you eat? Are you hungry?" – that makes good sense.

It’s all about the boob.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

mother’s day

In having a child sure I have been dealt the cross of decades of worry and care, but I’ve also gained a holiday. Fantasy mother’s day presents danced in my head like sugar plums. A new robe? A trip to the Caribbean?

In my "parents’ class" that week the teacher wanted us all to dip our kids’ feet in ink and press them to pre-cut purple hearts that read, in sloppy penmanship, "Happy Mother’s Day!" (Yes, purple hearts. We won’t go there.) Isaac was fussy that day and there was no way I was aggravating the problem by creating something I’d just have to pretend to like and then recycle. (Besides, being involved in making your own mother’s day card is like baking your own damn birthday cake.) "Are you ready?" my teacher asks me eagerly. "We’re gonna pass this time," I tell her. Can’t she hear my squalling baby? his cries going right to the core of my biological response systems, my eleven-week hormonal state?? Am I ready indeed! And she calls herself a parent education specialist. Yeah, so am I, lady, so am I.

The day itself was just another gassy day for my baby that happened to be decorated with yellow iris. But I could accept that. I did get to listen to This American Life on NPR after all. So one morning last week, I stumbled into my living room (not a bungalow in Saint Croix) in my ratty old bathrobe to find the iris only half-open but already dead and my card covered in cat vomit. Ladies and gentlemen, the ground hog saw his shadow, it’s gonna be a looong first year.

if I drove a motorcycle

If I drove a motorcycle or a bus, things would be so much easier. In those subcultures, you know you are supposed to wave at others of your kind when you pass them on the street. Things aren’t nearly as clear among people with babies. The wave isn’t a given. There are awkward half-nods and unilateral greetings that can prove very frustrating. You think the average person has it hard deciding just when to look up and how much eye contact to maintain when walking by a stranger on the street? Well, that’s nothing compared to the mental dance you have to do when you are carrying a baby and approaching someone else who is carrying a baby. It’s exhausting!

No one is sure what to do. Ignoring seems a bit harsh, while greeting sends the message of "Hi, I don’t know you and you don’t know me, and the only reason we are acknowledging one another is that we both have kids, but that’s where our commonality ends since I don’t even like your shoes."

Then there are those mothers of older babies – the ones that tell you their kids’ age in months instead of weeks – who look at you all snobby-like. Their half-nod says "Ha! I only get up once a night. I can see straight. I’ve been where you are now, but I won’t admit it. Oh, and my kid’s clothes match too." They’re the poor soul that makes it out of the ghetto and forgets where he came from. If we were middle school boys, I’d be the sixth grader and they’d be the eighth grader and they’d flush my head in the toilet.

Can you see I’m under just a wee bit of pressure here? Maybe I’ll ask for a motorcycle or a big rig license for my next mother’s day.

hypothetical diatribe

The phone rings. And let’s say that somehow, for once, you manage to answer the phone. And let’s also say that when you do, it’s not the fax machine that’s been calling your number six times a day lately; let’s say it’s a friend who informs you she, her husband, and her three boys under the age of four are coming into town for the weekend and would like to see you Friday night. Now let’s say you have a small one-bedroom apartment which – besides the usual items in an apartment – now also contains a bouncy seat, a swing, a changing table, a bassinet, a car/stroller seat, two cats in search of attention, two adults in search of sleep, and one baby in search of unconditional love and constant movement. Let’s say that the thought of adding two more adults (what they’re searching for is unknown) and three more children to this mix is a bit daunting, and while you want to be accommodating, you are struggling with the mental picture. Now, let’s say that your friend suggests a picnic dinner allowing you the opportunity to suggest that you all just meet in the park in the first place. The friend decides this is a good idea, let’s just say, since, she off-handedly remarks, there’s a cold going around among her little lovies. Oh! Yes! you agree readily then. The park!

Let’s say that on the evening of their arrival it is the end of a long week and nearing your baby’s bedtime – and, let’s be honest, YOUR bedtime. Let’s say your friends get stuck in traffic and arrive an hour late – the hour of baby meltdown – the hour of bedtime. Let’s say you briefly introduce them to your screaming child and tell them you’re going home now, it was so nice to see them. And, let’s just say that your friend offers to walk back with you to check out your apartment; and let’s say that that sounds fine with you until she grabs her sniffling seven-month-old to come along. Let’s say that the moment you enter your apartment you check your shoes because of the smell until your friend asks where she can change her precious little one. Let’s say you refrain from suggesting the sidewalk. Now let’s say that fifteen minutes pass within which time your baby manages to fall into a tentative sleep and you contemplate where you will stay while you have your home disinfected and after which time the rest of her family bursts into your tiny apartment because, well, the boys need to use the bathroom too. Let’s say the following twenty minutes while you wait for a three and four-year-old to poop and leave are the longest you’ve ever experienced. Let’s say, just for example, that you are unmoved by the gift and card for the baby your friend gives you before leaving, and the irony that oozes from your friend's comment amidst casual conversation about how now that she is a mother she evaluates friendships in a whole new way is thick as pudding, let’s just say.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


I hold his hands while he sleeps. My son is grainy in the dim light, doesn’t yet know those hands are his, can’t imagine his power. When I let go of them, the hands resume their flight. At once they are warding off the paparazzi, then they conjure magic spells. He holds them as if about to conduct the orchestra playing in his head; they freeze in position like in an old game of tag. They are one frame of an animated argument.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

past glory

I’m just reminding myself that I used to spend my days doing things other than praying my baby falls asleep and then when he does checking every 5 minutes to make sure he's breathing. My little audio archive link on this page is more or less updated. The latest piece I did aired the day after Isaac was born. It was elementary school kids’ views on the proposed closings of the Salinas Public Libraries, which I mentioned in a past entry.

What? No hat?? How'd this one get in there?

Izzy at 9 weeks.

on the seventh day…

Today’s a big anniversary for us. It’s the seventh day of my moratorium on yelling at my husband. Maybe there was an occurrence of "suggestion" snarled through gritted teeth in the last week, but that doesn’t count…because I said it doesn’t, that’s why! (Does it make ya nostalgic for how you were parented?)

I bow at the altar of hormones. I am but a tiny paper boat tossed about in hormonal swells. I am your movie ticket stub sloshed violently through the hormonal wash cycle in the pocket of your relaxed fit jeans… All right, you get the picture: Hormones = mean autocrat. Me = victim of above. Victims love company, and so whenever I can, I invite along my husband. Look, this shit is hard. Not a little hard. A whole fucking lot hard. Sometimes I just like to mix a little cocktail of complete exhaustion and misplaced anger and chill out for the evening.

One of our better arguments, before I gave it all up, was a little tit for tat that I like to call "the cookie incident." Mike was going to the grocery store. (We know how it works out when I go. Thus, this task has been relegated to my husband.) He asked if there was anything else that I wanted beyond the little list we’d created. Now, apparently, there is some link between sleep deprivation and sugar cravings. I know not of the details of this curious marriage, I only know that self-medication in the form of chocolate gets me by. So I told Mike I wanted cookies, please. He even asked what kind I wanted and I suggested a particularly tasty variety that he’d brought home for me in the past. I thought we had an agreement. Anyone in my place would have thought the same.

Mike came home from the store with frozen cookie dough. It wasn’t even the flavor I’d asked for. And it was frozen. I took in his misdeed calmly at first. He told me, this way, we could make a couple at a time and they’d last longer. Uh huh. I let him know that in fact it was not possible for me to make cookies during the day, ready-to-be-baked or not. And here comes his fatal mistake: Note to working partners, pay Very. Close. Attention. He asked me why it was that I could not manage to make cookies. Yes, that is what he wanted to know.

I’m fuzzy on the finer points, but something of a loud, chaotic scene ensued, which ended with me shrieking the line "…and if I have to eat a BAG of cookies EVERY DAY to get through these first months, that’s what I will DO!"

The next morning I woke up at 7:00 am with the resolve to try and stop yelling at my closest ally. A decision made slightly easier by the goofy, toothless smile on my baby’s sweet face, and the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the kitchen.

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