Thursday, May 12, 2005

Making Room for Baby

The last few weekends have just been sheer hell of a sort for me. Mother's Day was the first day I'd finally stopped having coughing, sniffles, and other indignities of the disease I complained of a long time ago. It's our daughter's soccer season which automatically brings a busy schedule, but then we've had something else scheduled on both days of every weekend for a while - all of this with a 3 1/2 month old. To boot, spring has done sprung, bringing with it all of the chores outdoors to get the lawn and landscaping accessories to the proper state to avoid the housing association nastygrams (though I am allergic - way allergic - to grass, so my wife is the primary lawn warrior, thus I am the odd-job guy, such as clearing sprinkler heads).

Man, I'm tired.

Thus, the most common activity of my current existence is especially taxing: Walking the baby around to quiet her, which includes doing little bounces, dances, and hops to keep up the all-important jiggle action. The theory (blatant guessing, really) is it reminds babies of being safe in the womb with the accompanying motion of mom walking around. Thing is, pregnant women like to sit, too, so why doesn't sitting still relax them as well? It's one of those mysteries only God can solve, to be sure, so it's on my list for Him right after the truth behind the Kennedy assassination, how hardcore right wing fundie Republicans think they're following Jesus' directives on behavior towards those in need by wrecking every program intended to help the poor, what really happened in Memento, and why are breasts so damn fascinating (to men at least - women are often surprised when they find out it's a mystery to us, too).

Part of the hell lately, then, has been trying to do this in a cramped and crowded restaurant, or a windy and blindingly sunny field, or anywhere women are gathered together in any great number, so they can cast disparaging glances at the dad who can't magically make the baby stop crying and where is the mother who would know how to anyway? (I've actually had women - complete strangers - walk up and ask if they can take the baby so she'll stop crying, as if handing her to a complete stranger would aid the situation - for either of us. Trust me, a baby's "who the hell are you?!" cry is much more piercing and shrill than the "I can't get to sleep" cry. More factoids for my presumably compassionate sisters: Mom isn't holding her because then the baby would want to nurse, which she's already done, pushing the inevitable nap back probably half an hour, and heck, mom's tired dammit, so I have her for a darn good reason, k?)

I don't mind this walking the baby so much, I love her dearly and want her to be happy (plus it burns calories), but doing it in the environment of tables placed 1 foot apart, with little old ladies and childless earlytwentysomethings scowling at me - or out in a wind storm with nary a cloud in sight so I have the extra challenging of keeping a hat on the sweet little bald head, the owner of which detests anything of the hat variety and all its cousins too - can feel like the challenge of standing up in a hammock to screw.

Especially challenging are the young, impatient, childless earlytwentysomethings of the world. Being fresh from childhood themselves (or not truly out of it yet), some of these pups openly resent parents and our small children. They frown directly at us as though the impertinence of a baby crying is something they feel they have a God given right to not have to deal with, <Napoleon Dynamite Impersonation>Gosh!</Napoleon Dynamite Impersonation>. No doubt they're of the crowd that's been taught every new baby is a drain on our resources, so as a parent I've committed a grievous sin by brining about one more mouth to feed and someone who will consume more energy than the third world, and so on. Or, they feel put upon because parents get to leave work to go home to the unique joy of a projectile vomiting child when they have to stay at work. Check out some of the moister complaints in this post on Slashdot that was supposed to be about skipping work to see Star Wars, but immediately degenerated into one of these resentment fests against "breeders." (For the record, I have found that - to a person - anyone who ever uses the word "breeders" in any non-ironic fashion is a festering pustule on the butt-crack of humanity.)

Having once been a non-parent, I can easily extend my sympathies and understanding to anyone's annoyance at a noisy child, or a child that is trying to interact with them when all they want to do is read, eat their dinner, or pick their nose, etc. Even now as a parent, if I see some gummy-handed, oreo-smeared little face rapt, approaching me, I sometimes cringe inside and mentally race through friendly ways to quickly deflect the child. So I understand.

But, darnit, babies cry and sometimes there's nothing that can be done. They're just gonna have to wind down. And babies have a right to be here just as much as you do. Who's gonna serve you your fries if we don't have babies?

And finally, ladies... Please do not go up to strange men with a crying baby and offer to take them, because neither possible outcome is desirable. Chances are he'll be pissed at you for your presumption as to his parenting skills, feel dubious about your motives, or at worst fear you're going to try to run away with his child. But in the odd chance that he does take you up on your offer, keep in mind the fact that he is willing to HAND HIS CHILD TO A STRANGER! Do you really want to help this kind of a person? I didn't think so.


Sya said...

As one of those annoying and childless twentysomethings, I'll have to say I'm not too bothered with babies. Babies don't know any better. It's only when they're a little older that things get a bit awkward. When a five-year-old breaks into a tantrum in the middle of a store or starts making a mess in a restaurant, one has to wonder, what were the parents thinking? Maybe they could have gotten a babysitter or at least instilled a bit of discipline by that age. Or maybe the parents are too embarassed to discipline their kids in public. For that, I squarely blame whoever it was who claimed that time-outs were more effective than spankings.

yahmdallah said...

Man, I tried to not indict all twentysomethings, so apologies if you felt I did.

Other than that, yes, exactly. If a 5 year old goes off in a restaurant, they should be removed and disciplined. (Most parents to still spank by the way, we just have to keep it a dirty secret.)

Simon Kenton said...

I actually can calm babies, but I am not female and have a both a slow, loud heartbeat, and a deep, quiet voice. As opposed to bouncing and jiggling and all that crap, it works by letting them know that the universe is calm and ordered.

Friends took their kids to Round Robin and the kids went into scrote mode. The parents looked at each other and said, "Are you enjoying this?"

"Why, no. You?"

So they packed up the kids, left the meal almost uneaten, paid and split, with the kids faking surprised and then outraged innocence:

"What's wrong?"

"Why are we going?"

"But I'm hungry."

As might be imagined, both factually and by the formal requirements of anecdota in blog comment, this was it for public misbehavior for those kids for another 2 years.

The Launch on Warning mode is wonderfully effective on kids. Adults too. In fact it is so effective, and so rarely used, that it seems proof of a favorite apercu - the strongest of all human instincts is to be ineffective.

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