The Drunken Midget Phase

My daughter just turned one year old.

Woo-Hoo! She made it!

Not sure if that’s more impressive or less impressive than me turning forty. In either case, we seem to be celebrating nature and astronomy more than perseverance. But this poor girl has me as a father, so we’re not taking anything for granted.

We’re at that milestone-a-minute phase right now, and really have been for a good six months or more. First it was rolling over. Then it was sitting up with assistance. Then without. Then the Lieutenant Dan Body drag, followed by crawling. Then it was- well, you get the idea. But I think the current milestone is the last big one.

Of course, I say “current” milestone, not “last” or “next,” because these things tend to evolve slowly over days or weeks, despite what popular culture would have us believe. Movies and TV shows always show babies purposefully doing an action as a result of some cognitive leap, then immediately honing this new skill until perfection. In reality, there’s never that big “this is her first <fill in the blank> moment.”

What was my daughter’s first word? Well, it depends. Do you mean her first purposeful word or the first part of her random enunciation that sounded close to English? She says “yeah, yeah, yeah” a lot, and occasionally it’s even in response to a yes or no question. I’m pretty sure she’s said “ma” and “da” on purpose a number of times, but I still don’t know if we’ve yet reached the 50% plateau of those sounds being a specific reference to my wife or I.

It’s the same thing with standing and walking, which is our current undertaking. Can she stand on her own? Sure. Even done it a couple of times. But if there is something or someone to pull herself up on within, oh say, a square mile, she’s crawling to that object instead. Has she taken her first step? Absolutely. She’s even made it three or four steps, albeit with heavy coaxing. And even though she can both stand and take steps, she’s much more likely to plop herself down and crawl, evolution be damned!

But, whether with support or not, we’ve definitely entered my favorite stage of childhood. Or at least my favorite to observe from afar. Some call it the toddling years, but let’s be honest. My bubbly baby girl is turning into a drunken midget. Think about the last time you saw a toddler. Now think of an intoxicated dwarf. If you’ve never been around an inebriated midget, think of a full-size boozer and then just shrink them down.

The swaying from side to side. The bumping into random stationary objects. The propensity to fall down for no reason, in a manner that would send a sober adult to injury rehab, and then to giggle uncontrollably at it. Am I describing a one year old or a lush? You decide.

Last week, my daughter was “walking” around. To do this, she holds onto my fingers over her head for stabilization like a chimpanzee. At one point, she lost her grip on one of my fingers, and consequently lost her footing. Instead of sitting or re-establishing her grip, she clamped down harder on the remaining “support” (i.e. my right finger). Her feet flew out from under her and the rest of her body entered a spinning pirouette along multiple axes – a centrifuge with my finger as its fulcrum.

Her final resting position had her upper torso on the ground, legs in the air supported by my calves, right hand still grasping that finger as if it mattered. I asked her if that was fun. She locked eyes with me, paused for a moment, then laughed way more than the situation called for.

Now, let’s just replace my finger with a doorknob or a handrail, my lower torso with a wall, and the floor with, well, the floor. I’m pretty sure that I’ve, uh, let’s just say, “seen some people” in that exact same position after Last Call. Probably laughing just as hysterically, too.

And the similarities aren’t just physical. Who, other than a lush or a baby, is likely to swing between happy and sad, pleased and pissed, on a moment’s notice, without being able to recall the previous emotion? My daughter has a noise that is half-laugh, half-cry. And when it appears, one of the two noises is mere seconds away from an onslaught. A quick move by me might influence which direction it goes. Or it might not. Sound like any alkies you know?

Who else, besides a drunk or a child, can fixate on mundane objects for a half-hour? Remember the video of David Hasselhoff eating a hamburger? I could totally see my daughter doing that, and it would probably be just as messy.

She also has been into stacking and sorting lately. She’ll take all of the  items in front of her and move them, one by one, behind her back. Then she’ll look around, astounded at where all of her missing items went. Tell me you’ve never played “hide an item from drunkie” before. Shoot, I’ve had people so drunk that we hide their drink from them. They look around like my daughter, murmuring “I swear I had a drink here,” before finding something else to fixate on. Like a disassembled hamburger.

I mentioned that I felt the drunken midget stage, a.k.a. toddling, is the last major milestone. I could hear the eye-rolling scoff from you parents out there. “Oh, just wait until talking or potty training or losing teeth or, I don’t know, differential calculus,” I hear you saying.  And yes, I know there are many more changes to come. But it seems to me that this is the last major physical hurdle. The rest seem to be more mental or developmental milestones. Baby talk might be just as cute as toddling, but there’s substantially less chance of them ending up with their ass on the ground. At least until they enter the “Drunken Sailor” phase.

The post-walking milestones, potty training and learning how to speak, also seem to be more of parenting milestones than baby milestones. Parents usually force the former, while parents are there to correct and guide the latter. But up through walking, the parent plays little role. “No, no, baby, that’s not the proper usage of the foot while standing.”

And really, should we even bother celebrating parenting milestones? Instead of milestones, they are more like signposts: “This way to good (or bad) parenting,” or “Blind curve ahead.”

And those parenting signposts are constant. I mean, seriously, how many wipes does it take to remove oatmeal from a forehead? Let’s get the Tootsie Pop Owl on that one.

During my first week of summer break, wherein we cut back on some daycare days in favor of Mr. Mom time, I took my baby to story time at the local library. Of course, she wanted to take a nap right before story time. So I put her down thinking no story time this week, maybe next time. But of course she wakes up without a moment to spare, so voila, there we were at the library.

I could not have been more out of place if you dropped me in the Sahara Desert.

First of all, I was the only male above the age of three. Then there’s the fact that the Stepford Wives that were there were all regulars. They knew all the songs, they knew all the dances, and the lady in charge knew all of their children by name.

To add to the “fish out of water” sensation, I walked in about five minutes late. Oh, and I hadn’t showered, because I still haven’t figured out that whole “when to shower when you’re the only adult in the house” trick.

My daughter was the only toddler not wearing shoes. I didn’t want to go all “The pediatric board doesn’t suggest that” on, but hey, I have science on my side.

Plus, for some reason, before I put my daughter down to take her nap, I had only buttoned one button on her onesie. Perhaps I was going to change it because it was also dirty from breakfast? I can’t remember, but sure enough, while we’re sitting there clapping our hands and hokey pokeying (hey, at least I knew the words to that one!), the one snap comes undone. Had she just been wearing the onesie, it probably wouldn’t have been very difficult to re-fasten. But no, I had thrown some cute little cargo pants over them, which her onesie stayed outside of. Oh, and did I mention it was still stained from breakfast?

So, here’s me and my daughter. Both unbathed, in dirty clothing, her onesie open and flapping about. She’s not wearing shoes. And we’re raining on the parade of the regular stay at home moms. They’re looking at the two of us like we’re the Clampetts busting in on their afternoon tea.

“Man, they just let anybody into the library these days. Shouldn’t they, like, require a membership card to get in?”

The other signpost I’ve recently seen is something I probably shouldn’t be proud of, but I totally am. We don’t watch a lot of TV around the baby. We’re not those “no screen time” parents or condescending “Better than you because the TV isn’t on” people. But hey, if wife and I sometimes aren’t home until 6:00 and the baby goes to bed at 8:00, maybe The Walking Dead can wait until 8:15.

As a bonus, when the TV is on, the baby doesn’t pay it much attention. A sport event, with its bright colors and fast movement, might catch her attention briefly, but then she’s back to sorting cups or engaging in thorough tests of the Law of Gravity.

Last weekend, my wife was flipping through channels while we were doing chores in the bedroom, and said “I’m guessing you want to watch this?” She was correct. And I wasn’t the only one. I was holding my daughter and she looked, too. I expected her to look away after a couple seconds, but she didn’t. She was tracking what was happening on the screen. It was bound to happen at some point.

What were we watching? None other than the 1980 classic, Airplane! Yep, she’s my daughter. And I’m sure it was a learning experience for her, too. Now she’ll know she has to choose wisely on which day to stop sniffing glue.

Or to stop being an Oompa Loompa blowing a .15

Survivor: Baby

“Hi, I’m Phiff Preobsghan, and welcome to another week of Survivor: Baby. We’ve placed infants and new toddlers on Day Care Island and faced them with tasks both mundane and absurd. Which obstacles will they bounce off of, and which ones will they succumb to? Find out on tonight’s episode!”

(Cue mixture of infant crying and infant giggling over ominous drumbeat.)

“Oh no,” Baby Aiden says as the camera opens on five babies sitting in a loose circle on a blanket. “Where did Sophia go? She must have mmgidhf ggoihfmn…”

Aiden’s opening monologue becomes garbled as he shoves a neon green plastic sphere with hexagonal openings into his mouth.

“Did we vote her off the island last week?” asks Emma.

“Gargle margle haifdoi pakjn mmmmm,” responds Aiden.

“Give me that ball.”

The bendable hard plastic toy jingles as Emma grabs it out of Aiden’s mouth, causing all five babies to stare, entranced.

“Oh, thanks,” comes out of Aiden’s unimpeded vocal chords. “So now I can enunciate.”

“No,” Emma responds, moving the toy toward her own mouth. “I just wanted the ball.”

“But I want the Buh- BUH- BAAALLLLL!”

Aiden erupts into a screaming rage, followed shortly by Emma as the forgotten bauble rolls between them. The other three babies look over at the two who are crying, then begin crying themselves. The five part harmony causes Americans to suspect an Emergency Bulleting is about to come on the screen before Phiff, the host, walks in to calm the babies down.

“Shh, shh, “says Phiff in a soothing voice as he picks up the first cryer. “It’s okay, Aiden.”

As Aiden begins to calm down, Phiff picks Emily up in his other arm. He puts Aiden down and picks up Lily before repeating the process with Brayden and Caden. By the time the fifth child is gulping in oxygen like a smoker gasping through a tracheotomy, Aiden and Emma are raising the siren again. Five minutes pass before Phiff finally leaves the screen, leaving all five babies sitting in their original circle, breathing through cycles of three quick exhales broken up by a quadruple-inhale-in-a-single-suck.

Jayden puts his WubbaNub in his mouth and sucks three times before resting in a perfect Maggie Simpson impression. The popular pacifier brand attaches the hard blue sucker portion to a plush animal that the child can easily grasp and hold.

“Here,” Jayden says, pulling the hard blue plastic out of his mouth, “ take a hit off this binkie.”

He passes the pacifier to his left, where Maden takes hold of the plush red dragon handle. Three sucks on the plastic, a pause, then three more sucks and he feels safe, the paranoia gone.

“Ahhhh,” he says through a long exhale before passing the WubbaNub to the next child in the circle. ”Chasing the dragon,”

Lily topples over onto her side, either from boredom or lack of coordination. She does not seem to notice.

“Hey, where’s Sophia?” Aiden asks, as if for the first time.

“Did the SIDS Monster get her?” asks Laiden.

“I still think we might have voted her off last week,” responds Emma. “Then again, I can’t really remember any specific item more than a few minutes old. Hey, check out that green ball. I wonder if it will fit in my mouth!”

“I think Sophia just had a urinary tract infection,” offers Lily, lying on her side. “Something about having your girl parts ensconced in your own fecal matter on a regular basis.”

“I remember my first UTI,” says Emma in a dreamy voice. The TV screen flashes back to a previous episode, her parents frantically pacing around a tiny doctor’s office. The pediatrician is explaining that this is very common, that there is no reason to be alarmed, and that the catheter being jammed into their screaming, scorching-hot baby is actually the good news. After all, it could have been a nasty flu or cold. But this will just take a few days of some Keflex to clear up.

“Do you find it odd that we shit and piss ourselves with reckless abandon?” Dayden asks.

“Is there, grrr, any other, ungh, way?” Aiden asks from a reddened face with watering eyes.

“I mean, even cats are born with an instinct to bury their own shit,” Dayden continues. “So predators can’t find them. It’s a basic survivor thing.”

“This use of the word ‘survivor’ is brought to you by Babies Be Wee,” Phiff quickly voices over the conversation.

Dayden rolls his eyes at the interruption before continuing.

“My parents have some friends that have gone primal.”

“Like insane?” Zaden asks.

“I think so,” Dayden responds. “They only eat things that cavemen would eat. No carbs, no processed food. Just meat and plants.”

“I think that’s called paleo.”

“No, they’re primal, trust me.”

A long pause as the two boys stare at each other. Zaden falls over, then begins to roll over to mask his defeat in the war of wills.

“Anyway,” the victorious Dayden continues, “it got me thinking about the things we do in our first years and how we ever surv…” a glance up at the cameras, “uh, persevered as a species. We show up in this world leaving our excrement wherever we are. And our only way of communicating is crying at the top of our lungs. Doesn’t seem hard for the woolly mammoths to find and eat our forebears.”

“We also put everything in our mouth,” Zaden responds thoughtfully, trying to regain his sitting position but wobbling back amongst the toys on the ground. “Hey, a Weeble!”

“Exactly!” Dayden confirms. “I know starvation used to be an issue. But sticking every random thing into your mouth doesn’t seem the best way to make it to the age where you can procreate.”

“My dog eats his own vomit,” Emma offers, “and dogs are still around.”

Dayden shrugs to concede the point, unable to talk through the mouthful of Dr. Seuss book corner.

(Camera fades to Phiff standing in another room built to look like an arena. The walls feature murals of gladiators in the Roman Coliseum.)

“Welcome to this week’s Survival Challenge.

“If you remember, there were many complaints about last week’s challenge. We thought we’d filled the arena with thousands of potentially deadly objects. Sharp corners, rock-hard outcroppings, drops from precarious heights onto tile flooring. Our test subjects, all adults, were in various states of disrepair for weeks. Concussions, lacerations, broken bones. The show almost went out of business based on the Worker’s Comp claims.

“But when the babies went through the gauntlet, there was nary a scratch. These kids are made out of damned rubber.

“This week, we googled the leading causes of damage to babies. To see who can truly surv-”

(Phiff disappears and is replaced by the six babies.)

“-vive. Hey, survive! We’ve got to get the name in!” Phiff’s voice-over concludes.

The children all gasp.

“Blankets!” Emma’s eyes open wide.

“Bubble wrap!” Sophia gasps.

“Pillows!” Yaiden, Xaden, and Quayden all whisper in awe.

“It’s the lair of the SIDS Monster!” Lily screams.

“There is no SIDS Monster,” Sophia says.

“Yes, there is, it got Sophia” Lily turns. “Oh, hi, Sophia!”

“There was no SIDS Monster. I took the morning off for vaccinations.”

Sophia ignores the disapproving glance from Vaughden, who everyone knows is not vaccinated. Vaughden coughs out a giant whoop.

“The SIDS Monster is real,” Lily continues. “He swoops in and takes completely heathy babies just crawling around, minding their own business, right in front of their parents, for no reason. He’s like the counter to Santa Claus.”

“I think that’s Krampus,” says Phaidin. “I think SIDS is just suffocation.”

“If they knew the cause of SIDS,” Lily responds, “they wouldn’t name it something vague and obscure like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I mean, think of that. It’s sudden, and it’s a syndrome, meaning what? Like you can catch it or something. Like you catch this syndrome and suddenly, Poof, you’re dead. There’s no preventing it.”

“Except for sleeping on our back,” offers Ray-den. “Boy, I remember the first time I rolled over in my sleep. My parents walked in and freaked out, ‘OMG, OMG, you could’ve DIED!’ Dad ran to the magical contraption that sits on his lap to check an Inter-site-dot-com or something. And guess what it said? Even after we can roll over onto our stomachs, we can still die until the age of one year. So it actually, dig this, tells the parents to watch us as we sleep and not let us roll over. How feasible is that? Stand over me while I sleep? For the next six months? That would cause Sudden Parent Death Syndrome, I’m thinking.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” says Taden, lying back onto one of the blankets in the room.

He turns his newly stable neck to the side, then attempts to bring his hand from underneath the blanket to his mouth, but only succeeds in smothering his entire face with the blanket.

A CGI Monster swoops in to remove Taden from the screen as a clean edit causes him to disappear.

“Cause of removal from Survivor: Baby is a blanket,” Phiff walks in from the side doing his best Rod Serling impression. “As Dayden said at the beginning, how the hell did the human race survive? Then again, wait till next week when Dayden himself will have a deadly encounter with a non-child proofed bookshelf.”

“Until next week, keep on breathing and avoid the SIDS!”

One Day of Gratitude

I’m taking a step back from both my novel and my usual observational brilliance to think a little about Thanksgiving. It’s the Holiday that used to fall halfway between Halloween and Christmas but is now just a one-day break from Christmas season. I don’t do the stupid “30 Days of Thankful” crap that some do on Facebook or Twitter or MySpace or whatever the hip youngsters are doing these days. Hey, my spellcheck accepts Facebook, but not MySpace. Take that, random student-who-argued-with-me-about-which-one-had-more-long-term-viability!

So, without trying to be too shmoopy, here are some things that I am thankful for.

I’ll start with a non-emotional one. I’m thankful for NaNoWriMo, and I’m also thankful that it’s almost over. I won’t win. I’m currently just past 20,000 words. My new goal is to hit 30,000 by Sunday. So I’m thankful that there is something that encourages me to sit down and write 30,000 words in a month. I’m also thankful that, a week from today, 30,000 words in a month won’t seem like a failure. More on that next week, when I’m planning a NaNoWriMo postmortem.

Now the more serious stuff. I’m thankful for my daughter. Kids annoy me, but I knew it would be different when I had my own. I have two nieces, who are both in their late teens now, and I thought they were adorable as babies and toddlers. But my appreciation of my nieces was nothing compared to the last six months. I am fascinated by little things, like how intently she concentrates to pass a toy from one hand to the other.  I’m sure it helps that she’s very well adjusted. She isn’t colicky or teething (yet) and pretty much only cries when there’s something legitimately wrong, like she’s hungry. I’d like to take responsibility for that, but I know better. Her current noise du jour is raspberries (aka fart noises) with her mouth. Constantly. And it’s constantly entertaining.

I also have always been annoyed by parents talking or posting about their child doing something that every other child in existence has done as if it’s some novelty. Look, my baby learned how to roll over, he’s halfway to Mensa! Or I taught my child to hold her own bottle! Next I’m going to teach the cat to crap in a box! So I’ve tried to be pretty low-key on describing things she does that are unremarkable in the grand scheme of things. But indulge me for a Thanksgiving blog entry. Often, when she locks eyes and smiles, she then starts a silent laugh, complete with the bunched up shoulders. Then she looks away, but then turns back. She’s basically giggling and flirting. That’s what I’m usually looking forward to as I drive home from work. She’s now maintaining eye contact while smiling more often, but I still get the little coquet from time to time.

I’m also thankful for health. Not mine, but my wife’s and child’s. I mean, I assume it would suck if I lost my health, but it hasn’t really been an issue lately. My wife, on the other hand, has been through the wringer.  At this point, she’s been out of the hospital for almost two months, and let’s hope it continues. She currently has a stint in one of her ducts, so they’ll need to remove that in December, but it is an allegedly outpatient procedure. Having her upright, and able to work, and able to hold the baby, is definitely something to be thankful for, and something that I might never have even realized the importance of in previous Novembers.

My daughter has also been the picture of health, one urinary tract infection aside. I was recently watching videos of deaf babies getting cochlear implants. It was phenomenal seeing their eyes widen as they heard for the first time. One parent said it was the first time he had smiled (although he was seven weeks old, which is around the time most smile for the first time anyway – see two paragraphs above). Seeing the frustration that the babies and the parents were going through made me realize how fortunate I am that everything works on my baby. Trying to figure out what your baby wants or needs is  frustrating and all-encompassing under the best of conditions. If she could not respond to a sound or a sight, I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be.

Speaking of videos, I have not watched the video that went viral a week ago showing a man singing “Blackbird” to his dying baby after he had just lost his wife. People were posting it with tags like “inspiring” and “heart-warming.” Really? Heart-wrenching, maybe, but not heart-warming. Look, I understand that the man exhibits a level of perseverance that I could never approach. If I lost either my wife or my baby, much less both, I’d be in a fetal position in the corner. I would not be testing whether I remember the lyrics to a Beatles song (“Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my… crap, orangutan?”). But seriously, people, there is nothing on this Earth that makes me want to witness a man going through something that horrible. In fact, I would have rather never known that even happened. So I’m not thankful for all you bastards that posted it. But now that I know it happened, I guess that’s one more thing to be thankful for. And another reason to go hug my wife and daughter.

I’ll end by giving you all something to be thankful for – a short post from the writing wombat.

Now go spend some time being thankful. And gluttonous.

Riding a Bike

It’s just like riding a bike.

That’s a saying that they use, implying that the action to which they are applying the statement is easy to pick up once you’ve learned it. A skill that never really goes away. A relatively easy action.

The people that say it? I doubt they’ve ridden a bike in a while. Because it turns out that riding a bike is not really “like riding a bike.”

A few years ago, my annual attempt at losing some weight involved a bicycle. It had been maybe a decade since I had ridden one. Not really sure where my old bike went. How does one lose a bike? Blame it on the six places I moved to and from in the ten years after college.

I went to Target, making the initial investment of a new bike, a tire pump, and bike lock. Skipped the spandex, thank you very much. Came home, checked the tires, and jumped on without much thought.

I mean, it’s just like riding a bike, right?

Okay, balance was off a bit there.

The first problem was just getting on the bike long enough to find the pedal. Even with one foot on the ground, butt on the seat, the bike wasn’t terribly sturdy. But I finally got up on that thing and made a solid pedal forward. The tires wobbled and rubbed against the brake pads as I made it partway down my driveway.

I got off the bike and went inside to find a wrench. Spent the next half hour loosening the brakes, tightening the lugnuts that attached the wheel to the bike, and doing a general once-over on the rest of the bike. Things I rarely had to do in my youth. After much work, I was able to get back up and take the new toy for a spin.

This time I made it past the driveway and even partway down the block. It was wobbly. Oh, I suppose it would be more accurate to say I was the wobbly one. Every time I slowed, which was much more often than I remembered, I had to get not one, but both, feet on the ground to stop from falling over. My top speed could not have been much more than that of a brisk walk. The wind that had once blown in my face was now still.

I did finally make it out of my neighborhood, and in fact pedaled my way around town on a moderately regular basis that summer. Even trudged the hour-long ride to work a couple of times. But even after I got those over those initial hiccups, the youthful freedom and exhilaration that once came from riding a bike was gone. Riding a bike became a chore. And this was not just because I now had the ability to drive a car to my destination much faster and simpler. It was also because the mechanics were different.

The seat was nowhere near as comfortable as I remember it. There was often a numbness in my nether regions that I promise did not exist at the age of ten or fifteen. Sometimes in the middle of a ride I would get off the bike just to feel if my testicles were still attached.  Also, the coasting was gone. Even though I was on flat ground, I could not pedal a few times and then coast, as I used to do. Standing up on the bike, something I used to do to go faster, now became a necessity just to move. And to protect my junk. But then my back would hurt if I stood too long. The tires also had to be pumped and tightened with frightening regularity. I would not leave my house for a bike ride without a wrench in my backpack.

Hence it was NOT “just like riding a bike.”

I know most, if not all, of these changes came from the fact that my body was different than the boyish body that used to ride. My two hundred and, let’s say, thirty pounds put additional pressure on the frame and the tires. But I’m pretty sure that even if I could go back to the one ninety or so I was at the end of college, the last time I biked with any sort of regularity, I don’t think the original physics would return. Because I wear my weight like a forty year old man now.

Another pithy saying might be more apt: You can never go back.

I’ve run into this phenomenon again recently with the arrival of my daughter. My wife and I took her to the park and I attempted to take her on the swing. How hard can a swing be, right? No shifting of gears or complicated chains to deal with. Basic physics. Why, I was completely ready to officially change the saying to “it’s just like swinging a swing.” Except it wasn’t. It was exactly like riding a bike.

I sat down in the swing with my baby on my lap. My feet were on the ground, thankfully, because that strip of leather was wriggling and writhing underneath me. Adult girth was again making battle with muscle memory. My wife suggested I wrap my arms around the chain ropes, and although I initially rolled my eyes (“Come on, I think I have enough body control to lean against this swing”), it wasn’t long before I took her advice. Some semblance of stability had been attained, so I walked a couple steps forward, a couple steps back, and said “wee” to the unimpressed baby.

Then came the big test. I walked myself back as far as I could while keeping my butt on the rubber strap and arms around the chains. This was farther back than I could go as a ten year old. Woo-hoo. Score one for the grown-up body.  I let go and lurched through the air, acutely aware of the downward pressure I was placing on not only the swing and the chain, but the entire steel swing set.

I went forward, then back, and was beginning to lose momentum. It was at this point that I looked down at my legs, sitting there awkwardly beneath my daughter. I looked up at my wife standing in front of me, and asked a question that third grade might have travelled through time to make the third grade me cry.

“Wait, do I kick my feet out going forward or backward?”

How the hell could I forget something like that? Isn’t it nature? The basic physics that a three-year old knows intuitively?

What’s worse is that I still don’t know. There was no way I was going to try with a baby on my lap and the entire structure threatening to come down upon us both. I’m pretty sure you kick out while going forward and tuck your legs in while going back. But while sitting here with my laptop in front of me, that seems like it would counteract the force of the swing. I mean, you don’t step forward with the same foot that you’re throwing with, right?
“Remember when you used to swing as high as you could and then leap off?” the crying third grader just screamed back at me.

I have a feeling I’m in store for a lot of moments like this as I raise my first child. Forget riding a bike. Life is more akin to driving a car. Except it’s the opposite. Objects in the rear view mirror are farther away than they appear.

In the first week of my baby’s life, I found myself, like most new parents, trying desperately to get her to sleep. Rocking her, cradling her, putting a pacifier in her mouth. Nothing was going the trick, so I thought I’d sing her a lullaby. I went with the basic lullaby that I think is required by law to be on every mobile. I think it’s called “Lullaby and Good Night,” but it’s basically two short notes of the same pitch, followed by a longer note about half an octave higher. Except I had no idea what the words were. The best I could come up with were “Go to sleep, go to sleep, won’t you please go to sleep now.” Probably not the most soothing words a newborn has ever been sung. I switched to “Too Rah Loo Rah Loo Rah,” but only knew the part that was on an episode of “Cheers” once.

I see more of this coming. What about those nursery rhymes that exist in every elementary school? Do they still sing “Down by the old mill stream?” Right now, the only rhymes I remember from my youth start with “I like big butts and I cannot lie, you other brothers can’t deny.”

My future third grade daughter has joined in the crying of the past third grade me. But that’s parenting, right?

The few things I can actually remember from childhood have probably changed, too. She’s getting closer to sitting up now and we’re helping her by putting her in the right sitting position. The words “Indian style” were barely out of my mouth before I realized that can’t be proper any more.

My wife shook her head.

“Sorry, Native American style?” I was reminded of the time I had to tell my grandma that calling Brazil nuts “Black people toes” didn’t make it any less racist.

“They call it criss-cross applesauce now,” my wife informed me.

What the-? I know they had to come up with something, but really? I’m sure Daniel Snyder’s taking notes. Now taking the field, your 2016 Washington Criss-Cross Applesauces!

So there’s going to be some growing pains. Some things I’ll figure out as I go along. Turns out I don’t need to know any lullabies, my daughter is perfectly fine falling asleep to Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful.”

And if my daughter is the only first grader whistling Blues Traveler harmonica solos while the rest of her class sings “Rock a Bye Baby” and “Three Blind Mice” (two TOTALLY morbid kid’s songs), I’m okay with that.

Because raising a child’s just like riding a bike. It’s constantly changing. And there’s probably  gonna be a skinned knee or two along the way.