Monday, September 24, 2012

Life Lessons from a Nine-Week-Old

In either a little postscript to my previous baby post, or the second in an ongoing series (it would be unwise for the author of The Slacker's Guide to School to make predictions about the pace or content of future posts), I return to the subject of Catherine. She continues to be a source of new revelations and of things remembered from last time around. If this continues, I should be fairly smart by the time she's old enough to assume that I don't know anything.

Once again, in no particular order (if it weren't for "no particular order" I'd have no organizational scheme at all):
  • Breast feeding is fraught- Breast feeding is is the third rail of American parenting (I apologize for mental image this may conjure). In fact, I hesitate to tell you just exactly what we're doing with this, but take comfort in the fact that whatever your views, we're probably defying you on some level. Of course the most famous example of a man who chose to wager his testicles on this issue was Mayor Bloomberg in part of his grand plan to change the "N" in NYC to "nanny" (see also: soda). Sadly, somewhere in the mess he made was a fairly reasonable point that:
  • Corporations are sneaky  - No one (except maybe my mother) loves babies quite like corporations. They are very interested in your baby and will work very hard to find out if you are pregnant, even if you don't tell them, even if you don't know yourself. Our baby is brought to you by Pampers®, Soothie®, Sleep Sack®, Medela®, and Desitin®--all because these were the brands that the hospital started us with and we haven't gotten around to switching. The hospital also sent us home with lots of swag--diaper bags, samples, etc.--from other companies, not unlike parting gifts from game shows (gifts for people who lost game shows, come to think of it). Included in this haul were some convenient little bottles of pre-mixed formula, designed that you can screw a nipple and ring (the mental images from these words are probably indicative of whether or not you have kids) to them directly. Having trouble breastfeeding? Enfamil's got you covered before you give it too much thought. Further proof of Corporate America's infiltration is lots of brand names that everyone assumes are just names for stuff, like Nuk®, Onesie®, and Butt Paste®.
  • Skin-to-skin is important- It makes sense that a little baby who previously spent its entire life completely surrounded by its mother's body, especially those who are born early, needs to frequently be in as much human contact as possible (also called kangaroo care). It also makes sense that fathers have a distinct advantage in this realm, given the topography and relatively lax societal coverage requirements of the male chest. Fine except for:
  • Spit happens - All babies spit up, it's just a question of whether it ends up outside or inside. At that point, it's just a matter of laundry. Unless you're engaging in skin-to-skin, in which case, not so much a  matter of laundry. In fact, I've found that a lack of sufficient expendable textiles is a very good predictor of how much spitting is going to be going on.
  •  Boobs are funny - Replacing the word "breast" with "boob" and "nursing" or "lactation" with "boob-feeding" is an endless source of cheap humor. Notice how quickly I've forgotten the first lesson, above.
  • Baby talk is bad - We're told not to use baby talk, because babies are developing their language skills from the very beginning. Yeah, okay, you try to say, "You're such a good little baby!!!" without a little lisp, or drastic pitch contour, or distortion of vowel colors. Many of the baby-talk habits we have developed for the dogs--for example: add a diminutive "y" to any word and double it--poochy-poochy, chewy-chewy, stabby-stabby, zappy-zappy, etc.--creep into our conversations with the baby (though the words are sucky-sucky, poopy-poopy, and fussy-fussy).
  • Good babies? - Despite what may sometimes come out of my mouth in the form of baby talk, I do realize that there is no such thing as a good or bad baby, because they are not acting with intent. Still, there are certainly easy babies and challenging babies. The current baby is, so far at least, one of the easy kind. So much so she may have turned us into the kind of parents to give out advice like: "Have you tried just letting your little one hang out in her crib? Sometimes babies just like to look up at the ceiling and contemplate the universe." Lucky for everyone who may have fallen victim to this nonsense, her older sister taught us otherwise, to the extent that we haven't forgotten 15 years later. 
  • Parental leave is crucial - Because I'm a teacher, and we had the good fortune to have both of our children in early summer, I have enjoyed +-6 weeks of paternity leave. My wife is a freelancer, which means that her leave extends until she chooses to take on work again--this will sound very appealing to you until you figure out that when she doesn't have a book to edit she's essentially unemployed (the unemployed get lots of parental leave). There are couples for whom neither parent gets as much leave as I enjoyed, never mind what Jen can take. How they manage this, I have no idea. It's not only a matter of having enough staff around (we still felt shorthanded much of the time); there are lots of skills that take time to develop. Diapering newborns isn't that difficult, comparatively. Yes, they are very fragile, which is terrifying, but they also lack the requisite strength and mass to fling the diaper across the room. Eventually these capabilities develop, and you'd better have gotten some practice in first.
Tune in next time for more in the continuing saga of Life Lessons. In the mean time, though, I'm going to need to work on something about the insanity of the PA Department of Education's balls-up of the Keystone Exams, mock PDE for their lame excuse for lower PSSA scores, and dissect the fact that even Democrats suddenly hate teachers.

Notice how long I kept from making predictions about the content of future posts.

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