Things have really dried up here lately on account of this whole having-a-baby thing. I used to be as wordy and noisome as a teen on tumblr, writing nothing of consequence beyond random musings and whatever irreverence was on my mind. And here we are now, all that extra energy being swallowed up by the maintenance and training of a toddler. The blog is barren, bereft of content except for commenters who have recently undergone PRK surgery and found out they could no longer see, or other people searching for meaning in that fucking Heaven is For Real movie, the one about mentally challenged American country folk who still believe in Santa and angels. I see the search terms that lead here. You people sicken me.
That miniature extension of half my genome is doing just fine. She’s still alive, and that’s saying something. These kids, they really don’t have a clue, do they? You think you’ve got things boarded up and safe for someone of a limited capacity, and then she goes and plays with electric cords, or tries eating some of those little sticky pads that adhere to the bottom of chair legs to avoid scratching your cheap laminate floor. Or she sees the newly installed metal barrier at the top of the stairs and realizes how fun it would be to violently shake it until it starts to give. Or how she’s indelibly attracted to the gas fireplace, and tries to cuddle, yes, freaking cuddle with those little iron curtains. We had to keep the fireplace off this whole cold-ass depressing winter because we’re supposed to be responsible adults and not risk permanent disfigurement of a child drawn to flames. The sacrifices we make as parents.
She’s at a fun age right now. She walks and talks like a drunk stumbling out of a bar. Most of the time she’s a happy drunk, but sometimes she gets in one of those introspective and self-loathing moods into which toddlers often stumble, and then there’s nothing that will help her save a warm bottle of milk and a time out in the crib. I always tell myself I’m going to make use of the times she’s asleep, to finally replace those burnt out light bulbs or to make the office a little less of a death trap. But when she’s asleep, and if it’s one of those times I know she’s going to sleep well, I’m good for nothing. That feeling of taking a nap and waking up before she does, without prompting from either her or an alarm clock, that’s an almost orgasmic sensation that I now dream about, so rare has it become. Even typing it out is ecstasy. I can’t pass up such an opportunity.
We finally had a warmish day today, one that wasn’t filled with bleak gray skies or cold rain. I took her out on her longest walk yet, down the sidewalk past four houses. She held my hand the whole time and since she only comes up to my kneecap, I had to bend down like an old man for the half hour journey into the wild. My back hurt. She seemed delighted. During the first half she sucked her thumb as she strolled. On the way back, she loosened up and was gibbering and jabbering the whole way home. Occasionally she needed a break and plopped down on the sidewalk, but thankfully she didn’t try to eat the dried-up worms littering the concrete within arms’ reach.
There were a few months where we took her to daycare once a week. She loved that place. She’d tire herself out so much that she fell asleep right after getting home at 4:30. She would sleep through the whole night without a peep. Such days were almost as good as the naps I described earlier. I almost feel bad for taking her out of daycare, but Grandpa just retired and we’re trying to keep him busy.
My favorite part of daycare was when she graduated to the walkers’ room. Prior to that, she hung around a bunch of drooly crawlers who spent their days bumping into walls and staring blankly at toys while shitting themselves. The first day I brought her into the walker room, all the kids were sitting around the breakfast table, and they operated like a single organism. They all turned in unison to look at us entering and seemed a little off-put that somebody would be so careless as to disturb their communal mealtime. I handed my daughter to the caretaker and waved goodbye. When my little girl is in any kind of transitional moment, she doesn’t panic, but she seems to retreat within herself and only offers a blank stare. I waved goodbye. She stared through me. In her stead, the table full of prescient toddlers waved back and I heard a creepy smattering of, “Bye. Bye. Bye.” As I walked out the door I heard my daughter approach the hive and they all greeted her with a syncopated, “Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi.” She had assimilated. It was a scene straight out of Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke.
The days speed by. She passed the barrier of walking. Next will come an exponential growth in speech. She’s got a handful of words now. In a few months we’ll be having meaningful conversations. We talk plenty already, but we can’t understand each other. She does, however, pick up on cues to some extent. Often when I say something intended to be a joke, she’ll laugh at the right times. This makes me proud but it also raises suspicions. Does anybody actually think I’m funny or are their laughs merely the result of social prompting?
Watching the growth of a child lends insight into the human condition. You can see how behaviors develop as well as how you can play a role in molding those behaviors. That’s a heavy role. I love seeing connections being made and new things being discovered. I love that look of discovery. We’ve got her trained to exhale a slow and slackjawed “wow” when she’s impressed with something, whether it is in response to guessing the correct hand of mine that’s hiding a toy, or the finding of a toy under a blanket. She is amazed by each. I want to encourage that love of discovery and that inquisitive nature.
But for now, I must go. She is straddling a plastic castle that is anything but load-bearing, humming her own tune while her mouth is clamped down on a rubber butterfly. Wait, no, she ditched the butterfly and now she’s gnawing on a wooden cylinder. She just sneezed and I’m on snot cleanup duty. That, and I just heard a toot and a grunt. You can guess what that means.