Monday, September 17, 2012

Month Seven Musings

Graduation. It’s official – I have a genius baby. Just like a young Doogie Howser, Jackson is quickly progressing through the ranks of the classes at his school. Shortly after turning six months old, he graduated from the lowly “Tadpole” Room at school to the much more exciting “Frog” Room. It turns out, you don’t actually have to be exhibit any extraordinary degree of smartness to move from one classroom to the next, but rather just annoy the teachers by being waaay more mobile than all the other babies in the class, and they’ll quickly graduate you to make their lives much easier. In Jackson’s case, all it took was being the only baby in the Tadpole class to attempt to break out of the room when the door was open, throw everything on the shelves onto the floor, and literally crawl laps around every other baby in the room.

I think there’s an important life lesson here. Jackson, someday when you’re struggling with Chemistry class in high school, just be a handful for the teacher and they’ll graduate you rather than having to put up with your hijinks for another year… although maybe make sure that you don’t accidentally cause an explosion before throwing things on the floor. It’s not a big deal with diapers and plush toys – but chemicals might be a different story.

The interesting thing about being such a genius baby is that Jackson has quickly gone from being one of the bigger kids in the Tadpole Room to being the absolute runt of the litter in the Frog Room. Is it better to be a big fish in a little sea? Or a little fish in a big sea? There are definite pros and cons. On the one hand, observing the older kids should (in theory) lead to Jackson learning new tricks faster. You know, things like crawling on his hands and knees instead of his stomach or eating food like a civilized person that can keep carrots out of their hair and eyebrows. On the down side, it’s going to be a bit trickier to pick up chicks in the new room since the older boys can drive (toy) cars and walk circles around Jackson. The good news is that Jackson is so mild mannered that if an older kid comes and takes his toy away, he just stares at them, processes what just happened*, and then happily moves on to find something else to put in his mouth… or hit himself in the face with.

Picture yourself as a young baby. You are finally realizing that your hands are not only connected to your body – but that you have control over them. You figure out that they can be used to reach and grab things and bring them closer to you. It’s a fantastic feeling of power and control over the chaos of the world. What do you do with this newfound ability? Whack yourself in the head with everything, of course.

It’s not like Jackson doesn’t know it’s coming, and that it’s going to hurt. He flinches in advance of smacking the toy to his face – but that doesn’t stop him from doing it. What’s up with that? Soft toys suddenly become the best toys ever because there is no chance that Jackson playing with them results in the authorities arresting us for child abuse. Hmmmm… maybe he’s not the baby genius I thought he was – or he’s just preparing for an illustrious career as a professional wrestler.

Baby Chaos Theory. Or, maybe this is just another component of my newest theory about babies, which I’ve coined the “Baby Chaos Theory”. In a nutshell, babies absolutely hate order. You stack up blocks, they can’t crawl over to them fast enough to knock them to the ground. If I put a box of toys in front of Jackson, he’ll go through, grab each toy and throw it on the ground until it’s empty… then move on to something else to play with – unless you start to refill the box with the toys he has already thrown out, in which case the game may continue forever.

But the best example of Baby Chaos Theory occurs at mealtime. You give Jackson a toy to play with in their high chair, he can’t wait to swing it around and throw it on the ground. At mealtime, it’s an exercise in futility, yet I continue to play along – picking up the toy, putting it back on the high chair tray, then waiting ten seconds for Jackson to pick it up and throw it on the ground again. The good news is that I’m getting a little bit of a workout and Jackson is getting a little bit of free antibodies from the ground, since I long ago stopped rinsing off the toys before giving them back to them – although the evolution of this was hilarious. When first born, we would actually wash off toys (with soap!) before giving them back to him. Then it became a quick wash in warm water… then a splash of cold water… then me picking off any visible cat hair and dirt off the toy before giving it back to him… then finally to just blindly grabbing it and handing it back over. The bad news is, if he’s testing me to see how long I’ll keep picking up something that he keeps throwing on the ground, I’m failing miserably and Jackson probably thinks I’m an idiot – or can’t understand that he wants that toy to be on the ground.

Then it comes time to actually eat. Jackson knows exactly what to do with a spoon. He knows how to hold it and where the food is supposed to go… yet after he eats most of the food off the spoon, he finds the need to whack himself in the face with it and get food all over his face. Why? Because a clean face represents order – and getting carrots all over the place represents chaos.

Similar rules apply to most things for Jackson. Put him in a room with a hundred toys of various shapes and sizes and one extension cord tucked away behind a bookshelf in the corner, and he’ll quickly move over to that bookshelf and yank on the cord until it comes out far enough for him to chew on. In our house, we’ve accepted the fact that Jackson is going to do things like chew on the air register and try to pull books off our shelves. No big deal. The only thing that can really create a mess is the cat’s water dispenser in the kitchen. Over the course of the past month, Jackson discovered it and realized it’s his favorite thing in the world. He’ll lie in front of it and pull the water out of it all afternoon long, leaving a huge puddle of water on the floor – and him soaking wet.

According to my iPhone Baby Guide, babies are like Doubting Thomas. If they can’t see it, they don’t believe that it exists. In theory, this means that every time you hide a toy from them, they assume it’s gone forever. They can’t comprehend that things exist when they are not visible. Jackson Thomas does not believe in this theory. How do I know? If you place him in the living room and leave him to his own devices for five minutes, he’ll quickly crawl into the kitchen and make a b-line for the cat water. He knows it exists, even when he can’t see it. People always wonder what babies dream about when they sleep. In the case of Jackson, I’m pretty sure it’s the cat’s water.

Cats and Dogs. Speaking of cats – this month Jackson came face to face with his first dog. One would think that there is no difference to a baby between a cat and a dog – both are roughly their size, furry, and have sweet water dishes to play in. However, this is not the case. While he is pretty indifferent to the cats, Jackson is absolutely fascinated by dogs. He crawls for them, touches them, gets in their face, and goes nose-to-nose with them. Part of this might be because cats are somewhat cautious of babies, and tolerate them for about five seconds before running away, whereas dogs approach babies like they do most things in life – they sniff them, lick them, and want to play with them. The more I think about it, the more babies are just like dogs…

  • They love people and want to be friends with everyone.
  • They spend their lives on the floor.
  • They eat food designed for them, but long for regular people food.
  • They will put anything they find in their mouths.
  • They require you to put nice things on higher shelves.
  • They are equally fawned over by the general public.
  • They both come home from day care exhausted from playing with the other babies / dogs.
  • Their owners spend their time cleaning up their poop.

So I suppose based on all these similarities, it makes sense that babies would like dogs more the cats. The good news is that thus far, Jackson isn’t one of those kids (you know, the weird ones) who is afraid of dogs, which bodes well for my – I mean “his” – eventual Christmas present someday of getting a puppy.

Sick. One quick correction from last month. If you recall, I talked about all the fun that goes along with having a sick baby and taking them to the ER. I foolishly said “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.” Turns out, I should have said “THOUSANDS of dollars”. Absolutely absurd. Jackson is not going to the hospital again unless he is missing a limb.

Having said that, this month KB and I go to enjoy the fun of being sick yourself while having to take care of a baby. Holy impossible. Do you want to know the last thing you want to do when you feel like death and are fighting to avoid puking by lying perfectly still on the couch? Following around a six month old baby to keep them out of the cat water. Absolutely brutal. It’s times like these when I wish Jackson was old enough to let the TV do the parenting and plop him down on the couch next to me to watch a Disney movie marathon for eight hours instead of building cognitive abilities by playing with toys and muscles by crawling all over the place.

On the other hand, the one thought that we had the entire time we were sick was “please God don’t let Jackson get sick”. One, it would be super gross and he wouldn’t be smart enough to get to the toilet when he needed to puke. Two, even if he did, he’s not tall enough to reach over the toilet. Three, he would be so confused as to what in the world was going on and would hate it more than anything. I dread the first time that he’s actually sick, and hope it’s a long time away… and occurs when I’m away on a business trip.

Buttons.  KB and I have both made realizations about baby clothes over this past month. She has discovered since Jackson crawls all over the place, dark colored clothes are far superior to light colored clothes. They make your baby less gross looking, and make you look like the type of person who keeps a clean house. Now Jackson has a closet full of white outfits that are just hanging there waiting for the day when he starts crawling on his hands and knees… which means that he’s cycling through a rotation of about five other outfits that are dirty-proof. If variety is the spice of life, Jackson’s fashion style is brown rice cereal (inside joke for all the babies out there – I mean, come on – give me some more flavor parents!).

Me on the other hand, I’ve realized that people who make baby clothes that have real buttons on them instead of snaps have never actually dressed a baby. I know what you’re thinking – how much harder is it to close a button vs. snap something? The answer is a million times harder, especially when you have a child who finds lying on his back to be the worst torture in the world and can’t wait to flip on his stomach and crawl away to the nearest air register / extension cord. If I’m lucky, I can get one button closed each attempt, which means a shirt with 5 buttons on it takes me a solid 10 minutes to close up… and then there’s the absolute worst feeling of the world of finishing the second to last button and realizing that they’re all out alignment and need to be shifted down one hole. If that happens, you’re looking at a solid half hour of getting dressed. Absolutely brutal. Jackson has two outfits that have a number of buttons and snaps – and honest to God, I can’t even begin to put the one on him without calling Kate in for assistance. I don’t know if it’s supposed to go on head first, feet first, or somehow just wrap around his back and fasten in the front. Baby clothes are supposed to be easy, one-piece affairs that have a maximum of three snaps on them. Anything more than that is just inefficient. I look forward to the day when Kate goes out of town and I take Jackson to school in a white onesie and baby mesh shorts… although then I guess he would come home in a black onesie and baby mesh shorts – but eh, what can you do.

The Good Life. Finally this month, I just want to note how great Jackson's life is right now and he doesn't even know it. Jackson lives in a world where the Cincinnati Reds have a ten game division lead and it's only a matter of time before they clinch a division title. He lives in a world where the Bengals are praised for their drafting prowess, open their season on Monday Night Football, and are coming off a playoff season. He has never seen Notre Dame lose a football game - but instead assumes that they always win close games and beat Top 10 teams on the road. It's like a young Brian living through the late 1980s and seeing the Bengals make the Super Bowl, Notre Dame win a National Championship, and the Reds win a World Series... and being too young (and sober) to fully appreciate it. Here's hoping that this is only a taste of things to come for him, and the good times continue to roll until he's old enough to appreciate it.

Speaking of tasting things - as if the month couldn't get any better - Jackson topped it off with his first taste of delicious Skyline chili! Being a responsible parent, I didn't let him load his coneys up with hot sauce, but rather put some chili on my finger and let him taste it. He thought about it for a second... then grabbed my other fingers hoping to find another one that tasted as amazing. It's no wonder he's too good for brown rice cereal now. 

* and by “processes what just happens”, I mean “plots his eventual revenge”. Someday you will pay for your treachery Soren! Someday…