Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Month Six Musings

Six months already? That's half a year, getting closer to the point where normal society will track an age, as opposed to the silly "ten weeks" or "three months" measurements that are only used by parents of new babies (read: mothers. If it was fathers of new babies it would be like "um, I think like three months-ish?").

No - hitting the six month mark is an actual mark, as Jackson is officially a half a year old. The good news is, he's already accomplished quite a lot in his short time with us. Just in the past month, he's...

  1. Gone to the emergency room.
  2. Learned to crawl (or "scoot" as people call it, I was unaware there was a difference. He can move from one place to another on his own, whatever that is classified as)
  3. Eaten his first fruits and vegetables.
  4. Cut his first tooth.
  5. Attended not one, but two minor league baseball games.
  6. Officially been professionally photographed more times than his dad

More on all these items later - but they raise a very curious dichotomy in parenting I've noticed. Parents want their children to be advanced. They want them to be smarter than the other kids - better than the average baby. Some of it is perfectly logical. The sooner your baby sleeps through the night, the sooner the parents get to sleep through the night and thumb their nose at those sucker parents who still are awoken multiple times throughout the night by a crying baby. On the other hand, some of it represents the baby actually "growing up" - which is not always as well received. It's exciting to see your child doing things like crawling or eating for the first time, but in the back of your mind is the vision of your child no longer needing you - suddenly going away to college and hanging out with questionable friends, no longer wanting to be associated with his parents. 

As a dad, I have very little of these thoughts. To me, from the point when Jackson was born, the clock started ticking until the point when he would be able to play sports and video games with me. We're not there yet, but with every passing day, he's getting a little closer. I anxiously await the day that I can claim "father son bonding time" when we sit on the couch and watch football, taking breaks in between to play video games from 1996 (because modern ones are lame) and toss football in the backyard (for exercise). 

Kate on the other hand, as a mom, is the exact opposite. Sure, she wants Jackson to grow and develop - but with each passing day he's one step closer to not wanting to hang out with his mom. He's starting to outgrow those cute baby outfits we bought before we knew if Jackson was going to be boy or a girl. He's less likely to want to hang out in her lap without attempting to crawl off it and tumble face-first onto the floor below. The introduction of real food is the first step into not needing her for 100% of his life-sustaining needs... and that can be difficult to accept.

The one thing that makes it easier is that Jackson gets way cuter and more fun with every passing day. Remember when Kate gave birth to a small Asian baby and I demanded an immediate paternity test? Well, the good news is that Jackson now is a mini-Brian who smiles at everyone, constantly wants to be moving and playing, and loves TV and hates books just as much as his dad. Looking at pictures from six months ago to today, he barely looks like the same kid - but it's all been change for the better. The unfortunate thing for him is that he's probably rapidly approaching peak attractiveness for his life - sometime in the next year or two - and then it's all downhill until he tricks a pretty girl to settle and marry him twenty-five years later.

But back to the fun from this past month...

E.R. Although Jackson had been sick before, this month brought his first case of "what the hell is that!?!" - a rash that spread all over his body. After two days of assuming it would just go away, his demeanor (crying all the time, generally hating life and letting us know it) drove us to Children's Hospital on a fateful June weekend afternoon. I felt dirty for being the stereotypical "overreacting parents", but I guess I would have felt worse if Jackson actually had some life-threatening skin disease... if those even exist. Although we haven't gotten a bill yet, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the peace of mind that we received from the visit isn't going to be worth the many hundreds of dollars we're going to be paying the good people of Children's Hospital.

Let me break down how the experience went:

  1. Check in, have someone take Jackson's vitals.
  2. Wait in Waiting Room #1
  3. Move to Room #1, have someone else take Jackson's vitals.
  4. Wait in Waiting Room #2, where people who clearly aren't that sick glare at your screaming child.
  5. Move to Room #2, where a nurse takes Jackson's vitals.
  6. Wait in Room #2, thanking God for iPhones and the ability to follow Reds games in moments like this.
  7. See a Doctor, who takes one look at your child and then disappears for 30 minutes.
  8. Have the Doctor report back that "kids get rashes, nothing to worry about" and disappear again.
  9. Ask the Nurse for a more detailed prognosis and instructions.
  10. Have the Doctor return and give very vague instructions and information.
  11. Leave three hours later.

Needless to say, they did a very good job of giving the impression of moving through the hospital without actually giving any real information. And again, you can't put a price tag on peace of mind - but this experience makes me even more confident that we can successfully raise our child using only the internet rather than relying on these so-called "traditional doctors".

Crawling. You know the stereotype is that babies (and kids in general) always gravitate towards the things that are off-limits? Kids to fireworks, grown-ups to shots, babies to electrical wires? Well, it's 100% true. In an exhibition that will surely land KB and I in the "Parents Hall of Fame", the first thing that motivated our soon to crawl across the floor was the opportunity to put an extension cord in his mouth and bite down on it. That's right, in a room full of Babies's R Us approved toys of all the colors of the rainbow, making the most entertaining sounds and colors imaginable, Jackson scooted all the way across our living room to pick up a boring brown extension cord and put it in his mouth.

What really makes us good parents? After witnessing this, I went and got the video camera and dragged the extension cord across the room to entice him to eat it again, so that I could get his first crawls on camera. 

The funny thing is, this isn't a one-time experience. In any given situation, the one thing you do NOT want Jackson going after and putting in his mouth is the one thing he immediately gravitates for and won't stop until he reaches. Things like dirty shoes, dirty newspaper, full bottles or cups of beer, sharp metal objects, or high-priced electronics. Those are his favorites.

Part of me wonders if kids can somehow sense that you don't want them around these things, which makes them all the more appealing. I decided to perform an experiment by placing an empty cup of water just out of  Jackson's reach on the table, and telling him that he couldn't have it. Low and behold, he strained and reached for it until he finally got it, then munched on it for a while before realizing that he couldn't cause any trouble, and quickly moved on to dumping a cup of beer on the floor. But the moral of the story is, kids somehow know what they should - and shouldn't - be doing, and naturally gravitate towards the bad. I'm going to chalk this up to nature's way of toughening up kids - forcing them to build up immunities and thickening their skin a bit through a few jolts of electricity or scrapes and bruises. Survival of the fittest!

Of course, the other problem with all this newfound mobility is that we can no longer leave Jackson laying on the floor to run to the bathroom and expect to come back and find him exactly where you left him. Give him thirty seconds, and he'll travel across an entire room (provided there is something dangerous on the opposite side of it). We are rapidly approaching the final transformation of our house. We started out with a very "put together" house with nice pictures on the shelves, candles, and things made of glass adorning each room. Everything had a color scheme and there was an overall "feel" to every room.

Then we started to integrate more color - the brighter and louder the better. The rooms got a bit more cluttered as Jackson's things found their place alongside our things. We rearranged rooms, did our best to keep his toys put away as much as possible, and tried to maintain a balance between our pre- and post- baby lives... and I think we did it quite well.

Now that Jackson is mobile, the party is over. It's time to start locking down the rooms, removing all movable objects from bookshelves, hammering said bookshelves into the walls, and putting up gates to create mini-cages for Jackson to play in without it resulting in broken glass and electronics. Gone are the days of being able to change Jackson on a changing table without him attempting to roll off the edge onto the floor. Gone are the days of being able to give him a bath without him doing at least two flips in the tub to end up on his stomach. Gone are the days of him sitting in a stationary chair or swing and happily staring at things around the room. He's got the entire world to see (and put in his mouth), and he can't wait to do so.

Again, for me, it's exciting. One step closer to being able to throw a football and kick a soccer ball. For the females in the relationship, it's goodbye to their perfect cute homes and hello to stark walls and empty bookshelves. All we need is a couple of posters attached to the wall with push-pins and I'll feel right back at home in the Delta House... in more ways than one.

Cleaning. I would have never claimed to have a clean house. Kate and I have a very "put together" house. There's not crap all over the place. Everything is in its rightful place before Kate and I go to bed at night, and before we go to bed in the morning - just in case we die in our sleep or at work, people who come into our house will think we lead very organized lives... but not clean ones. 

You never really comprehend how dirty your house is until you have a baby crawling around it. Want to feel depressed about how clean you keep your house? I'll put Jackson in a white onesie and let him crawl around on your hardwood floors for thirty seconds. He'll come up with a black chest, with cat hair in his mouth and dust bunnies in his hair. As Sully puts it, he's gaining "free anitbodies" to protect him from future diseases, but it is a bit disgusting... and disheartening to see your baby reveling in your own filth.  We're getting to the point of either needing to take vacation days from work to do a good cleaning of the house, or becoming fancy-pants east side people who pay someone else to clean their house. It sounds crazy, but when you think about it, wouldn't everyone rather spend a few hours playing with their child instead of cleaning their house? Fifty years from now, I'd rather have a bunch of memories of watching Jackson eat extension cords rather than of watching Kate clean bathrooms (because I don't do such things since bathrooms are gross).

Still, it's funny how having a baby totally changes your life. I would have never thought in a million years I would be having a serious conversation about paying someone to clean my house. Then again, I also never thought I would be "doing stuff" for 16 of the 18 hours a day that I'm awake, leaving precious little time for things like exercise, watching TV, blogging, or reading. But here I am, super busy all the time with a kid eating dirt off my floor. Something's gotta give.

Food and Teeth. Speaking of eating, Jackson is now well on his way to being a good carnivore and tearing into some animal flesh. His first tooth has sprung, leading to a lot of excess drool and opportunity for me to pull out obscure Simpsons references I never even realized I had. When I discovered that Jackson had his first tooth on the way, I started calling it "Ol' Chompa" in a grizzled old prospector voice. I had no idea where it came from... until I decided to Google it:

That's right - one episode of Simpsons I probably saw 15 years ago and haven't though of since somehow permanently burned into my subconsciousness, even though I can't remember conversations I had with co-workers two days ago. God bless TV.

At any rate, although Jackson is not yet enjoying his first delicious taste of Skyline Chili or Cheeseburger, he's working his way through the gauntlet of canned baby food. As a surprise to no one, he's wolfing down everything we've thrown his way. Carrots, bananas, even peas (gross!) - he chomps them down, gets a decent share all over his face and hair, and comes back for more. You have to think at some point we will come across a food that he doesn't like - but thus far, we're either starving our child to the point where he'll eat anything, or all those food TV shows I watched and cooking magazines I read to him while he was in utero are finally paying off. 

Picture Pages. Lastly, with Jackson turning six, it was time for his six month pictures. By my count, this marks the fourth time that Jackson has been professionally photographed. Once in the hospital, once for his one month pictures, once for his three month pictures, and now for his six month pictures. By my count, I have been officially photographed twice in my life. Once on my wedding day, and once when we got "engagement pictures" taken three years after we had been married after three years of hearing Kate complain about the fact that we never got them.

Don't get me wrong - the pictures are great, and I'm glad we have them. But it is funny how Jackson has already discovered what a camera is and uses reverse baby psychology on them. Similar to how he's so attracted to things that we don't want him to chew on, he's the happiest, smiley-ist baby you've ever seen... until the camera comes out. Then it's all serious business-man Jackson, attempting to read your soul through the camera lens, thinking about solving the world's great problems, with no time for such frivalry as smiling for a picture. He's even smart enough to understand that an iPhone or iPad are the same thing as a camera. He sees those come out, and goes from Smiles McLaugherson to Concerned McSeriousface. Luckily, I'm still able to draw his attention away and get a few smiles out of him (mostly through singing the DMB jam "Anyone Seen the Bridge" - seriously), but it's ironic that for a kid who spends 95% of his day smiling, when the professional photographer comes around, we get about 10 pictures worth of smiles before he's done with it.

I guess the good news is, she'll be back around three months later for another opportunity to get more pictures of Happy Jackson. At some point we're bound to get that elusive family picture where he's smiling, I don't look tired as hell, and Kate isn't unhappy with the way her hair looks... even if it's when Jackson turns 16. Someday...

With that, I think I've used up my quota of two free hours of time for today. Back to work!