Monday, July 16, 2012

Month Five Musings

Books. There are a lot of great, creative things out there for babies. We’ve got a stroller that turns into an easy-to-carry package with one quick pull of a string. We’ve got a high chair and a crib that are basically transformers, designed for Jackson to hypothetically use them for the rest of his life by adding or removing a few pieces here and there. Clearly an insane amount of thought and innovation went into the creation of these items, which make you appreciate them for what they are, even if you don’t get to personally enjoy them.

Then there are the books that are written for babies. I use the word “written” very loosely. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that babies can’t read. I understand that the main purpose of these books is to feature colorful pictures and be made of quarter-inch thick pages that babies are able to gnaw on without hurting themselves. Still, is there some rule that these books have to be completely illogical and devoid of storylines? Maybe I’ve been spoiled by a lifetime of Pixar movies that are enjoyable for kids of all ages, but I was really expecting more from these books. Early on, KB and I decided that a bedtime story would be part of Jackson’s bedtime routine. Five months into his life, I’ve pretty much read through every children’s book in our house – and I’ve discovered the following trends:

  1. They’re crazy short. I understand that the attention span for babies is super small. Heck, Jackson can’t sit still for more than two minutes at a time without attempting to roll over onto his stomach and start playing with anything besides a book. But I can’t tell you the number of times I sit down with him to read a story, flip three pages, and it’s over. Really? The worst is when it’s one of those books with inch thick pages. You settle down with a decent sized book only to find that it’s six pages long… and don’t get me started on the ones where the second half of the book is really just a bunch of pages glued together to give the appearance of being a longer story. Given that these books are usually closer to $10 than $5, it’s highway robbery. All I’m asking for is a story that takes me longer than thirty seconds to read to Jackson – is that too much to ask?
  2. When they’re sappy, they’re ridiculous sappy. It’s not enough to have a simple story about a child that loves his parents. It needs to be a child gushing over how fantastic every little thing his parents do on every single page, featuring a ridiculous amount of hugging, snuggling, and kissing. Besides setting kids up for a crushing disappointment when they grow up and realize that everything their parents do isn’t really that great (Daddy watches sports on TV! He’s the best! Mommy washes dishes! Let’s smother her with hugs!), the overly sappy writing is simply a cover-up for the fact that these stories usually have zero storyline along with them. But WHY is Daddy watching sports? What inspires Mommy to wash those dishes? Where’s the character development? Boring.
  3. They make odd choices. If you were going to make a book about colors, using animals to illustrate those colors, there’s some very obvious choices. Sheep are white. Frogs are green. Stuff like that. Not in our books. Instead, it’s “green like iguanas” and “white like dogs”. Really?! Maybe they’re stretching for creativity, or maybe the authors are really bad at drawing things like sheep or frogs – but I can’t wait until the eventual day that Jackson is able to talk and we’re reading a book and asking “what sound does an iguana make?”.
  4. They’re somewhat inappropriate. Sometimes you have to wonder if these authors are throwing things in their books just to make the parents chuckle when they read them out loud. I present to you a page from “Guess How Much I Love You”:

Really?! These publishers seriously need some teenage boys on their editing staff to catch stuff like this!

(Granted, this makes the book far more interesting, overcome it’s uber-sappiness, but it’s still ridiculous that someone approved these character names, right?)

Okay – enough for my crazy ranting. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is “yes, I should quit my job and start writing children’s books.” I mean, who wouldn’t want to read a story about a young boy who wished the Bengals to a Super Bowl victory… but at what cost? Or a book teaching counting that features the numbers from Lost and background images steeped in Island mythology? They’d sell like crazy.

Sick Kids. Long before Jackson was born, it was pretty obvious which parent was going to give the tough love, and which one was going to be the one the kids ask for candy. Perhaps it’s my harsh upbringing (no cable TV until I was 18 years old! How did my parents not go to jail for that?), or the fact that I’m a jerk, but I knew it was going to be my job to be the bad cop that doesn’t let Jackson do whatever he wants all the time. Unfortunately, I found out that you aren’t really allowed to start administering this “tough love” until the baby is like 6 months old – so I have yet to put this theory into practice, although this past month taught me that there will be at least one situation where all the tough love goes right out the window – when Jackson gets sick.

One of the benefits of sending your baby to Day Care at an early age is that it exposes them to germs at a very early age – leading to a higher portion of colds and sickness in the first few years of their life, but then making them much less likely to get sick later in life due to all the anti-bodies they’ve built up. After about six weeks of going to school, Jackson finally got sick for the first time. It was just a run of the mill cold, so he was a token gross baby with a running nose, sneezing, coughing, and generally looking like he hated life. Jackson leads a pretty simple life. He drinks boob whiskey. He plays. He takes naps. He repeats. So when you see him miserable, you try to come up with anything to make him feel better – but there aren’t a ton of options. You can get out new toys, but he’s really not that interested in them. You can hold him, but he’d prefer laying on his stomach on the ground anyways. However, there is one thing that he loves more than anything else – TV. So when he was sick, you better believe I propped him up in front of the TV and let him watch it to his hearts’ content. It really didn’t matter what was on – I started out with cartoons and whatever was on ABC Family, but then realized that I could watch whatever I wanted, like sports and whatever was on ABC Family. It always calmed him down and put him into a happy trance, giving him temporary relief from feeling miserable. It worries me a little that when he’s older and sick and says “you know what would make me feel better? A puppy”, that I’m going to have a tough time resisting him. Looks like it’s going to be mom’s job to take care of the monkey when he gets sick…

One more thing - you don’t really appreciate how great it is to be able to blow your own nose and stop the dripping until you see another human being who can’t do it. There’s only so much blotting of a nose with a tissue that you can do before realizing how futile the effort is and letting the snot run like a faucet. Thankfully, I bought a “nosefrida” snot sucker shortly after Jackson was born, which I could finally put into use. For those unfamiliar with the product, you wouldn’t believe it until you saw it – and if there is a more disgusting way to get snot out of a child’s nose, I haven’t found it. Basically, you put a tube in one side of their nose, and suck on the other end of it – literally sucking the snot into a tube that you can then discard. It’s filthy… but it works. Highly recommended.

Traveling. In addition to his first illness, the past month also presented our young family with our first official road trip – a four hour drive away from home. Not surprisingly, it turns out that Jackson is much like his father – he starts to get antsy as soon as he gets outside the 275 loop (where one becomes more suspect to attack from rival cities), and anything more than two hours away is about an hour too far. For one, Jackson isn’t a huge fan of his car seat. He tolerates it, plays with his bugs that hang in front of his face, stares down his evil twin in the mirror, and then is ready to stretch his legs and move around. Unfortunately, Johnny Law says it is illegal to even think about unbuckling one point of his five point harness (even though it’s fine for Kate to climb from the front seat to the back seat while the car careens down the highway at 75 mph to entertain him), so he remains confined in his car seat jail, being tortured by the bugs dangling above his head and mocked by his evil twin in the mirror.

If you can get him to fall asleep for a portion of the drive, you’re in business – but given that his max nap time is about two hours, that’s about as far as you can get without it requiring some serious creativity to keep him happy. That sets our acceptable drive radius at roughly Columbus / Indianapolis / Louisville. The good news is, this means that Jackson will never be too far from the closest Skyline Chili. The bad news is, this is going to make it very difficult for Jackson to enjoy a real beach, mountain, or Bengals away game against an NFC team for a while. We’ll see if this changes with time, but for now, traveling any further distance just feels like cruel and unusual punishment.

Best Sleeper Ever. Remember a month ago when I mentioned that after freaking out about Jackson’s lack of sleeping when he first started school, he took his first three hour nap in a crib? Well, this kid has taken napping and sleeping to an art form. His average day now includes an hour nap in the morning, a three hour nap mid-day, another hour nap in the afternoon, and then sleeping from about 7:00 pm until 6:30 am the next morning. He gets more sleep in a day than I get in a weekend. Even better, he’s somehow figured out that bed / crib = sleep. Feed him, drop him down in the sleeping area, and he follows a predictable routine.

  • Stretch out a little
  • Flip over to his side
  • Put a thumb in his mouth
  • Roll over to his stomach
  • Fall sound asleep

The whole routine only takes a minute or two, and is pretty fascinating to watch. It’s like a reflex at this point, and is sometimes pretty shocking at how easily he goes from wide awake and babbling to sound asleep in his crib for the next few hours. If there was some kind of international sleeping competition, I would enter him in it. On the other hand, if there was an international sleeping competition, it would probably be the most boring sporting event ever to watch.

First Food. Finally this month, we crossed another milestone off of Jackson’s list – his first “food”. I use the word “food” lightly, since it’s this rice cereal concoction that looks like dehydrated mashed potato flakes, and is then mixed with boob whiskey to form a colorless, tasteless paste. Yum-o! Welcome to the world of high cuisine, buddy! Given Jackson’s tendency to chug bottles and cry when the boob whiskey stops flowing, I suppose it comes as no surprise that he took to eating food like his Daddy to guacamole, which is to say “give me all of it, I’ll lick the bowl clean, and then ask for more.”

I guess he’s been watching us eat meals for the past month, but it’s still shocking to see him grab the spoon and guide it into his mouth where he sucks it dry and then grunts for more. Jackson is now five months old, and I’ve never seen him act full. He goes through an entire bowl of delicious bland paste, and chases it with a solid half hour of boob whiskey. If there was a baby triathlon of eating, sleeping, and pooping, I’d put down some serious money on Jackson as a contender to win it all. That is, unless there was a TV in the room, in which case he would stop everything and sit slack-jawed in front of it.

That’s my boy.