This is the Graco Pack ‘n Play. It’s a foldable playpen. Or playard which is a terrible sounding word, playard. Go ahead, try and say it with any measure of dignity. It’s impossible. It’s a soft word that sticks in your mouth like saltwater taffy.
But let’s be honest, semantics aside, the Graco Pack ‘n Play is a baby cage. It’s a baby containment device, somewhere to put your baby when she’s fussy or cranky or when she’s opening your booze drawer. If this were prison, the Pack ‘n Play would be baby solitary confinement.
In fact, every time my daughter enters her baby cage, she’s interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund and cuts a promo about Hulkamania. It’s very odd. Allow me to continue with the 1980s cage references.
She’s Mad Max, it’s the baby Thunderdome. And right now, she’s beyond Thunderdome.
Yes, despite the focus of the word “play” in this product’s various names, my daughter never plays in it.
There was a brief moment in time where she enjoyed tolerated being in the Pack ‘n Play. Those briefest of months between sitting and walking, it was a time where you could place her within the cage and give her some toys and she would be occupied for maybe half an hour.
But then, like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, she grew tired of her confinement and wanted out. Electrifying the fences didn’t help in either instance.
Even the word “pack” in its title is misleading.
Yes, you pack it. Especially when you’re going somewhere overnight because it’s main function as we’ve discovered is as a temporary crib. But you mainly unpack it, at least if you’re the baby’s father.
Look out your window around Christmas or Thanksgiving or any other holiday where new parents are bound to visit grandparents and you’ll see this scenario. The mother and baby go into the house to see the excited relatives. The father gets a cursory hello before returning to the car to retrieve the Pack ‘n Play. Then comes the setup.
Setting up the Pack ‘n Play is job number one for dad and it’s not easy. It doesn’t unfold in one swift movement like a magical tent. It requires time and patience and repeated attempts. One the scale of frustrating assembly it’s somewhere between light bulb replacement and IKEA furniture.
I’ve come to recognize that, despite its frustrations, unpacking the Pack ‘n Play is a good thing. It means my daughter is spending the night somewhere else and that she’ll be surrounded by other people, likely grandparents, who want to play. And that play is worth packing for.
This is the Little Tikes Shop ‘n Grow Walker. It’s called the Shop ‘n Grow Walker and not the Shop and Grow Walker because children’s toys are not legally allowed to properly spell out conjunctions or linking verbs. Hence, Toys ‘R Us.
It’s the third of three walkers that we own. Though technically, we don’t own this walker because it was lent to us by the nice parents of a little girl across the street. The girl seemed reluctant to part with it, the parents did not. And I know why.
This walker is loud. There are small pieces of plastic fruit and veggies within the front wheel that make the walker sound like the thundering hooves of a stampede of horses when it moves.
It also takes batteries and plays music. It plays three songs: Frere Jacques, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and a third song that goes dun nun nun dun nun nun dun dun nun nun. I have no clue what that last song is. The theme from Jaws maybe?
Frere Jacques is my daughter’s most requested song on the Little Tikes Shop ‘n Grow ‘n DJ Walker. When it plays she grooves to the beat. And by groove I mean she bends her knees and then straightens them. It looks more like lunging than dancing.
The basket is a huge feature on this toy for my daughter. Let’s face it, grocery shopping is fun. Placing various items in a basket and then removing said items from the basket after a monetary transaction is sheer joy. My daughter has spent hours replicating grocery shopping with this toy, except she never pretends to pay for the items she places in her cart. So essentially she’s shoplifting.
Here’s a sample shopping list based on items I’ve seen in her Little Tikes Shop ‘n Grow ‘n DJ ‘n Shoplift Walker.
- The letters J, L, and Y.
- Dog bone.
- Swiffer Duster.
- Left shoe – baby size 4.
If you ever met my daughter in the supermarket with this walker, you’d want to steer clear. She doesn’t casually stroll as she shops. She either walks slowly or runs at full speed only stopping when she’s hit an object like a wall or chair or parent.
The only thing missing from The Little Tikes Shop ‘n Grow ‘n DJ ‘n Shoplift ‘n Battering Ram Walker is a small child seat where my daughter could place a doll. Then she could truly replicate the shopping experience. But only if that doll cried uncontrollably when the shopping trip lasted more than 10 minutes.
No. Not the in-laws. My daughter is at daycare. That’s where she goes every morning. We go to work. She goes to daycare.
Most of my paycheck follows her. It goes from work to daycare.
It’s strange leaving her with people whose names I barely know. But it’s a good daycare and was difficult to get into. We put our name on the list when we were three months pregnant. Getting into daycare is like winning the lottery, both in terms of odds and exuberance. It’s not like the lottery in that you don’t get a windfall; the daycare does.
To guarantee yourself a spot at a good daycare for your child, my advice would be to put your name on the list when you’re biologically able to have children. So when you hit puberty. That’ll probably give you a 50-50 chance.
Once we were in, dropping our daughter off at daycare was easy. She didn’t cry. She didn’t fuss. We didn’t know it would be that easy. That was on the first day.
On the second day she protested. She cried. She fussed. She wailed. She extended her arm and reached for us like she was hanging from a cliff edge begging for us to pull her up. We told her we’d see her after work and kissed her goodbye. It was one of the most difficult things to do as a parent.
As we walked through the school we could hear her wails echoing through the halls as we left her. It was heart-wrenching. You keep telling yourself that it’s okay, that she’ll learn to adjust, that you’re being a good parent, that you’re helping her socialize. But all your body wants to do is rush back and scoop her out of the arms of strangers. This feeling persisted for a month until one day she simply waved goodbye and went to play. No fuss. No tears.
Daycare seemed to accelerate her development and her disease accumulation. All those babies. All that saliva. Daycare is a breeding ground for disease, an incubator for poxes and viruses. Every second week we’d receive a call from daycare that she had a fever or a virus that the CDC has yet to catalogue.
Thanks to call display, receiving a call from daycare sends you into an immediate panic. Your first thoughts are terrible things like, “Oh no, she’s sick” or, “They’ve lost her” or, “There must be a feral tiger loose in the school.” Luckily the daycare workers have called parents before and understand how we think. The calls immediately begin with, “This isn’t an emergency call.”
Though, the calls are never really good. They’ve yet to call to relay some cute story or to mention how many Cheerios our daughter ate for morning snack. The calls usually mean you need to leave work to come pick her up, or that they’ve noticed a scratch on her arm and were inquiring as to its origin. The latter was our first call and the origin was an overzealous pug.
While at work, I often wonder what she’s doing at daycare. Thankfully daily written reports are provided. The reports indicate what she’s had to eat, her naps, her bowel movements, and there’s the occasional reference to diaper content consistency and the application of cream. These reports give me a vague and poorly-spelled insight into her day. Here’s a few random excerpts from the daily reports:
- She enjoyed the big ice!
- She was looking at her friend who was playing in a sand box. Then came up to him and pointed him.
- She was interested in the boat of balls. Her feet may be brown/black from feet painting!
We’ve yet to be late. It’s difficult to stay in the office when you know what’s waiting. Walking into the daycare and seeing your daughter rush towards you with arms wide open is a great end to the day — and worth most of that paycheck.
Yes, shockingly a Top Ten List to celebrate the end of 2010. It’s a tradition, when one year is over we remember it fondly in lists that don’t go up to 11.
So here is Distracted Daddy’s Top 10 Posts of 2010. Presented of course, in no particular order and based solely on my discretion, with perhaps some input from my wife.
- Manternity Leave – My summer as a stay-at-home dad. It was strange. It was wonderful. It was the impetus for this blog.
- Dirty baby. Clean bath. – A few days into my leave and my first daddy disaster. Was I in over my head? No, but I was up to my knees in dirty bathwater.
- Dirt. It’s what for dinner. – It was a beautiful summer day. My wife and I were admiring our garden. Our daughter was helping herself to heaping handfuls of dirt. The horror, the muddy horror.
- Reading is for the Dogs – The Dog Book. It’s still her favourite book, though others are catching up. Most of the pop-ups and pull-outs no longer pop or pull. It’s unlikely this book will survive to see 2012.
- Calling in Sick – As I write this I’m recovering from another viral infection of toddler origin. It’s a monthly if not bi-weekly event. I suspect 2011 will be no different.
- Our first baby – Our daughter and our pug have a special bond. They have a big brother little sister relationship. She loves him immensely and he annoyingly ignores her – unless she’s dropping food.
- Christmas Concert – Our daycare had a Christmas Concert for babies. Well, the parents of said babies. The concept is as baffling as the concert was cute.
- “It’s Nursery Rhyme Time” – Thankfully, it’s barely ever Nursery Rhyme Time these days. Its annoyance has been usurped and replaced.
- Full of Chic – Ah, the trends of 2010. Yes, I bought a pair of Huggies Jean Diapers. Yes, we still have many of these crappy and now too small diapers left over.
- 1975 called. – The Fisher-Price Chatter Box toy is a classic toy. After months of moving on to other toys, our daughter has rediscovered it. She now pulls it along and answers the receiver with a quick “hello.”
And that was 2010. What will 2011 hold? Probably another Top Ten post at the end of the year.
(Today at Sweetspot I’m sharing my holiday shopping secrets.)
Look at this tree. It’s perfectly festively decorated. The lights shimmer. The fragile ornaments glisten. It practically begs for beautifully wrapped presents. It belongs on the cover of a magazine designed to inspire overworked women to reach for unattainable goals. You must be wondering how we keep such an immaculately festooned tree in a house with a toddler? The simple answer is we don’t.
This tree is not our tree. It’s Grandma’s tree.
Grandma can decorate her tree like this because Grandma doesn’t have a fulltime toddler in the house. Grandma only has a visiting toddler. Our tree does not look like Grandma’s tree.
Our tree is a toddler tree.
A toddler tree has few ornaments, and the ones it does have are made of wood, unbreakable plastic, popcorn, or by other children.
The base of the tree is undecorated. All ornamentation begins at 2 feet above the ground – out of toddler reach.
Toddler trees often have no lights. No lights means no electricity. No electricity means no electrical cord for a toddler to chew on or unplug.
The sad Charlie Brown Christmas tree with its one ornament was a perfect toddler tree, provided that one ornament was unbreakable and that it was before those meddling Peanuts un-baby-proofed the tree by decorating it to the nines.
Our Christmas tree is definitely a toddler tree. And our toddler was surprisingly unfazed by its presence. Of course when it arrived the tree sat in its stand unadorned for over a week. Jobs, toddler care, and sheer parental exhaustion made tree trimming a low priority.
Then one night, we ignored the dishes and decorated the tree. Boxes of ornaments emerged from the basement. We unwrapped nice ornaments, beautiful ornaments, hand-blown glass ornaments, and the like. We unwrapped those ornaments, stared at them briefly and then sent them back to the basement. Assuring ourselves they’d return after the toddler years.
Our tree was decorated with the other ornaments, the harmless and supposedly unbreakable ones.
Our toddler was quite interested in these ornaments. They were toys to her and the tree simply a triangular coniferous toy box. The unfortunate few “unbreakable” ornaments that we placed within her reach were quickly removed from the tree with her tiny little Grinch-like fingers. Some of these “unbreakable” ornaments found their way to her actual toy box. Others broke into pieces as she threw them to the ground.
Since all of the low-hanging ornaments have been removed our daughter mostly ignores the tree. It’s become wallpaper to her. She’s unaware of its purpose but on Christmas morning when brightly wrapped presents appear under its boughs. Well, she’ll probably ignore those too.
This year for Halloween, our daughter was a monkey. It’s her nickname and an obvious costume. The costume was on sale and my wife bought it on an “it’s soo cute” impulse – in August. It was cute, but it’s a shame because there are so many great toddler costume options:
- Evil Leprechaun
- Cereal Mascot Leprechaun
- Stars of TLC’s Little People, Big World
- Ryan Seacrest
- Oompa Loompa
- Bride of Chucky
As long as it’s three apples tall or shorter, it’s perfect for a toddler. Thankfully there are a few more years before she picks out her own probably princess-related costume.
So for this year she was a monkey and she pulled it off and kept trying to pull it off. She didn’t like the costume which was more like a monkey jacket but she didn’t have a choice. As parents we’re allowed to make a monkey out of our daughter, especially on October 31st.
With our reluctant monkey in tow, trick or treating began.
At the first house she stood at the door. My wife and I encouraged her to knock. She stood there perplexed. When our neighbour opened the door and presented a bowl of candy, our daughter still looked perplexed. We filled our daughter’s bag with candy, accepted cute costume compliments, and went to the next house.
We repeated this experience 5 times. Yes, only 5 times.
On Halloween, you’re only supposed to come home when your bag is heavier than one of those giant pumpkins you see in farmer’s almanacs. Or until houses give you all their remaining candy because you’re the last trick or treater. You’re not supposed to go home because you’re having a small tantrum in your monkey costume and it’s past your bedtime.
When we returned home, I had a parental first. Checking my daughter’s candy for dangerous items that only seem to exist on the news and removing all the good candy for myself. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups aren’t Reese’s, they’re actually daddy’s.
In celebration of her first trick or treating experience, we gave our daughter her first piece of candy. An M&M. She chose to play with it rather than eat it. It must have been so shiny and brightly-coloured that she assumed it was a toy.
To complete the Halloween tradition, we let her assess her entire candy score from the night. For five houses, it was surprisingly robust. The now costume-less monkey enjoyed playing with all her candy. Then we noticed she wasn’t just playing with it, she was stashing it in a drawer. We were so proud. In one night she understood what Halloween was all about – hoarding all the candy for yourself.
(Check out another Distracted Daddy post over at Sweetmama today. It’s about my daughter’s fashion choices. Well, they’re actually my wife’s fashion choices.)
Those are the ingredients for a great birthday. And all were present at my daughter’s first birthday party. So was a nasty head wound, but that’s another post.
It was exciting – her first birthday. My wife and I spent the day, if not the week, constantly repeating “can you believe she’s one?” and “remember what we were doing this time last year?” The answer to the latter is beginning our week-long hospital stay and day-and-a-half long labour.
But that was a year ago. Now we had cake.
Not just any cake – birthday cake. Everyone sat around the table as the lights dimmed. Our cameras were flashing like this was a red carpet premiere.
My daughter was stunned, shocked, aghast, and other similar synonyms. I’ll never forget that look on her face. She knew something was different. Her family was singing at her and a small fire was approaching.
After the candles were blown out via assistance from mommy, the cake was cut. A rather un-toddler-size piece was placed in front of my daughter.
She looked at it, still in shock by the situation. This was very different from the organic vegetables and grains that she was used to. It was cake; moist sugary cake frosted with sugary frosting.
She grabbed a piece and slowly brought it to her mouth. With that first bite her eyes widened and a future of sugary sweets likely passed before her eyes. She loved it. She devoured it.
The sugar rush was almost instant.
Then it was time for presents. The appeal of cake is more easily understandable by a one-year old than presents.
Our daughter did her best to sit on my wife’s lap while presents were opened but she was easily distracted. The crinkly cellophane wrap was her favourite present. Follow closely by a plastic bow.
She’d eventually play with and enjoy most of her presents in the days to come. Well, except for a few.
Buying children’s toys can be difficult, if only they had a handy system of numbers to indicate age-appropriateness on the packaging. Like they already do. So if the number says 6+ on it then while thoughtful and much appreciated it’s probably not age-appropriate for a 1-year old.
After presents and cake and a minor head wound the day was over. Guests and relatives left with cameras full of pictures and bellies full of cake. It was an exhausting day.
We were looking forward to a good’s night sleep. That didn’t happen. Our birthday girl was having trouble sleeping. It could have been the head wound, or the sugar crash, or maybe the realization that she’s not as young as she used to be.
Balls, sticks, Tupperware lids these are all classic toys – just like the Fisher-Price Corn Popper. The Corn Popper was one of the few toys that I knew our daughter would have, before I even knew we would have our daughter.
It’s simple – popping balls on wheels with a handle.
When I first bought the toy I wasn’t sure what it was. A strange-looking vacuum cleaner? Ineffective lawn mower? Snow globe on wheels? Apparently it’s its own thing.
It’s the exception to the rule that all baby toys must be approximations or interpretations of adult objects. The also classic Fisher-Price Chatter Box Phone is a kids’ version of a phone. Naturally. The Corn Popper is a kids’ version of a Jiffy Pop on wheels. Which I’m pretty sure isn’t how popcorn was made in the 1950s. I’ve never seen a photograph of people walking large metallic poppers down the streets on their way to the movies.
But it’s called the Corn Popper. Maybe it originally contained actual corn.
My daughter must think that popcorn is available in different colours and sizes. She’ll be disappointed to discover that it comes packaged in a flat bag saturated with saturated fats and featuring the likeness of an elderly southern gentleman.
The Corn Popper is a walking toy but I bought it before my daughter could walk. She still played with it while she was immobile. Sitting next to it, she dragged the popper back and forth as the balls barely popped.
Now she runs with it. The balls loudly explode as she makes laps around our house. And I mean loudly. For a toy that doesn’t involve batteries or speakers it’s one of the loudest toys we own.
This is part where I complain about how loud and annoying this toy is, especially due to my daughter’s disposition to play with it before 8 in the morning. But I can’t.
Like a teenage girl inviting a vampire through the threshold and then complaining about getting a nasty hickey, I let this toy in.
I bought it at a secondhand store. It cost 50 cents – a lot cheaper than actual popcorn.
So I’m not going to complain about how loud or annoying it is, just use your imagination. I will say that I’m not the one the Corn Popper annoys the most.
That title goes to our dog. This toy terrorizes our poor pug. When its familiar rat-a-tat is crossing the floor he runs the other way. Our daughter quickly discovered this and now engages in a cat and mouse game with him.
She runs towards him with the toy, he flees. She laughs. He has nightmares, where her barks and his legs twitch, as he dreams about this toy descending upon him.
It’s sort of cute. And sort of loud.
This is the second walker that we bought/borrowed/received.
Yes, we have three baby walkers. That may seem like a lot, it is, especially if you trip over them in the middle of the night. Consecutively.
It came from our daughter’s grandparents. They came for a visit while their granddaughter was learning to walk. They spent much of that visit bent over helping her walk.
The walker is called the… well, I’m not sure what it’s called. Grandma and Grandma got it from a secondhand store. On its underside are the words “Blue-Box.” I’ve never heard of the toy brand Blue Box, but a quick internet search reveals that Blue Box was founded in 1952 and made famous by its “drinks and wets” doll. I think that’s exactly how Fisher-Price started.
The underside also says “Made in China.” That means it likely contains lead.
As mentioned, she already had a walker. This walker almost immediately became her second choice. It was new but not preferred.
More so than the other walkers this walker is a battering ram. Our walls and ankles bear the wounds of a full-speed toddler attack. It’s perfect Achilles tendon height and can bring down a 200-pound adult with ease.
The lower base of the walker also makes maneuverability an issue. For the first few weeks of use, this walker only moved in straight lines – straight lines that ended in walls and with wails. Requiring the nearest parent to turn the walker around and wait until it was walked into the next nearest wall. And repeat.
It was a milestone when she learned to curve the walker’s path. She can now even put the walker in reverse. When she goes in reverse, I always make beeping noises like she’s a truck
backing up. I don’t think she gets it, but I find it mildly humourous.
This walker was mostly ignored until the discovery that it wasn’t just for walking. She began standing on it and sitting on it. While sitting she tries to shimmy the walker along, moving it back and forth in place. If she’s lucky and she usually is, I’ll push her along as she rides the walker.
She loves being pushed in this walker.
It may not be her favourite walker, but it is her favourite rider.
If there’s one thing that all babies do it’s fill diapers. That’s pretty much the first baby milestone. Diaper-filling. Our daughter excels at this. She fills diaper upon diaper.
All those diapers have to go somewhere before they go into a landfill and never biodegrade. You could put them in your regular garbage can. Sure, if you don’t mind the wafting stink that will soon follow.
If your house wasn’t featured on the show Hoarders, you’ll probably want to manage the diaper odor. How? Maybe with a genie that specifically deals in diaper wish granting. Yes, a Diaper Genie.
Diaper Genies are specially manufactured garbage cans that are lined with plastic bags. The plastic bags and closing lid help to seal in baby odors. As far as I know, they do not grant wishes. I’ve yet to see a blue Robin Williams emerge from the Diaper Genie.
If the Diaper Genie was an actual genie and granted the usual three wishes, my first wish would be that the refills weren’t so expensive. You see the Diaper Genie comes from the Gillette school of product design. Quick marketing lesson: Give away the hardware for next to nothing and charge for the refills. The refills are where the money is. Gillette does it with razors. Wireless companies do it with cellphones. And the Diaper Genie does it with bag refills.
So my first wish, cheaper refills.
You’re thinking that’s a bad wish. I should wish for infinite wishes, right? Except genies give 3 wishes. Not infinite wishes. They probably have a union rule banning wishing for wishes. It’s a loophole they closed after the first genie gave infinite wishes and ruined the wish quota costing all the other genies their year-end bonus. Or something like that.
The Diaper Genies doesn’t grant wishes. It grants you large, heavy bags full of diapers. The bags sort of look like anacondas if anacondas ate soiled Huggies instead of capybaras and if anacondas were made of see-through plastic.
The bags get quite heavy if you don’t empty them often. When you carry these extra-heavy bags you move quickly. The fear of the bag tearing before you reach your destination weighs heavily. You worry of its contents emptying in your driveway like you’re the guy stuck with the store-brand in a Glad garbage bag commercial. Luckily the diapers have always remained contained.
The smell? Most days it’s contained. Some days, well some days the genie is out of the bottle.
Before my daughter walked independently she walked dependently. And because this was during my manternity leave, she was my dependent. For the last few months of my leave my days were spent hunched over helping her walk.
My spine slowly curved with each passing hour. My lower back strained in a painful reminder that I was no longer young. Aided walking was all she wanted to do and she had tantrums if I refused to help.
I needed to stop the handholding. That’s where the walker comes in. Its official name is the Little Tikes Wide Activity Walker. It’s a terribly utilitarian name, and was likely the placeholder name before they could come up with a better one. They never did.
The Wide Activity Walker or WAW appears to be a replica of a mail carrier. Because children love pretending to have menial entry-level office jobs.
The WAW comes with three letters to deliver. The letters are already addressed. Seeing as how this is a child’s toy you’d presume the letters would be creatively addressed to an imaginary creature like Santa Claus. But no, they’re addressed to the Little Tikes head office. Probably to keep the address handy for when this product is inevitably recalled.
The toy is also strangely garden-themed. There’s a butterfly, a sliding bee, and a clicking caterpillar. They say it’s a caterpillar. It looks like a snake. Caterpillars have legs and are identified by little hairs. This caterpillar is neither fuzzy nor leg-sporting.
The wheels have adjustable resistance settings. I was unaware of this when I assembled the WAW. It came in pieces with vague instructions like I’d purchased it at a Scandinavian design superstore and not a toy store. I spent forty confusing minutes assembling the toy and affixing stickers to its frame.
The moment it was complete, I was quite proud and looked forward to relieving myself of handholding duty. I stood my daughter in front of the toy and waited for her to triumphantly walk forward. She took two steps forward.
And –if we’re continuing the garden theme –let’s say she face planted.
For the month of September I was guest posting over at Sweetspot.ca. You may have noticed posts here linking to posts there. Well it went well. So well that I’m back at Sweet Mama on a non-guest post basis. Permanent. Until they get sick of me.
I’m the Sweet Papa at Sweet Mama
Today’s post is about baby-proofing and sort of about adult-proofing. It also features a picture of my daughter trying to play in the toilet.
And come back here tomorrow for a new post.
My daughter is walking. This is big news. You may have already guessed this. Pictures in previous posts could have given it away. Or the fact that she’s over a year, that’s when most babies walk, though we’ve met sloth-like babies still immobile into their second. Or you may have noticed the bumps and bruises adorning her large baby head.
Walking means falling. Babies are top-heavy, their centre of gravity is right between the eyes. Her little legs have trouble keeping upright with that giant baby head atop her shoulders. So she falls. Often. This leads to bumps, bruises, and crying. Diapers can provide a soft landing when they fall bottom first. Filled diapers an even softer one.
My daughter walked and fell early. I vividly remember those first steps.
My wife was out for drinks with her gossipy girlfriends. I was home alone with the baby. We were playing. She was standing. I was encouraging her to walk. She could walk if you held her hand, but she’d yet to do it independently. Until that moment. She stumbled a few steps towards me before collapsing. I was overjoyed.
First steps! First steps!
I was excited. This was big. As far as baby development goes this was huge. My excitement soon led to guilt. I had seen my daughter’s first steps. My wife had not. And it was my fault. I encouraged the missed milestone. She missed first steps. According to Hollywood, if you miss first steps and/or ballet recitals you are a bad parent.
The next morning, I tried to recreate the scenario. Hoping to rewrite history for my wife. The baby was standing, she moved towards me. My wife was watching.
“Look, first steps!”
My wife was nonplussed.
“Those are stumbles.”
I was relieved that my wife didn’t miss those first steps and sort of disappointed that I had; however, her true first steps happened soon after. She was 10 months old and being plied with watermelon. She loves watermelon. It was the old carrot in front of the horse trick. She was standing and trying to eat watermelon that was being held just out of reach. She walked to retrieve it. Unaware of what she was doing. We were both overjoyed.
With coercion and distraction, that’s how milestones happen.
So now she walks. All the time. It’s all she wants to do. She looks different now that she walks. She’s no longer this little creature dragging lint across our floor. She stands upright. She’s a little person. She walks. She walks like her legs don’t bend at the knee. She walks without the right rhythm. Sometimes her walking looks like goose-stepping other times it looks like she’s a drunken zombie. But she’s walking!
Walking like every other developmental milestone changed how we cared for our daughter. Before walking she was contained. She was a train with very specific tracks: around the coffee table, on the window ledge, beneath the side table, any flat surface two feet above the floor. Walking opened up our house to our daughter. She was free to roam.
It was a big step for her, pun sort of intended, and it led directly to our next big step. Baby-proofing.
I’ve never given public spaces like parks much thought in the past decade or so. They’re just treed areas between houses. Places to let the dog walk around and poop in, where hobos sleep and teenagers make out. I never saw playgrounds for what they truly are. Places to take your child where you don’t have to clean up the toys.
There are numerous parks in our neighbourhood. We’ve explored them all. Each has its own set of pros and cons. Some we visit for the playground amenities. Some for the shade provided by mature trees. Some for the swings. And some for the splash pad.
I never knew what a splash pad was 13 months ago. I’d seen them. I’d walked by them empty. They’re large concrete, well, pads that the city fills with water and pays awkward teenagers to oversee on certain days in the summer. When they’re filled with water, babies, toddlers, and small children flock to them like a metaphor about something flocking to something else.
My daughter loves splash pads. There’s something about wading through knee-deep water that she enjoys. Her first temper tantrum happened as we left a splash pad. There was crying and screaming and the flailing of limbs. It was in public. It was the first I tried that “walk five feet behind your wife and daughter to disassociate yourself from your crying child” trick. It didn’t work.
The splash pad is a special summer-only attraction of parks. The main attraction when the splash pad is just a concrete pad is the swings. She gets the grin of a Cheshire cat when she’s on the swings. She laughs as she goes back and forth. She’s been swinging for months, ever since she could hold her head up. She sits in the baby swings, the ones that look like hard plastic underwear. I wouldn’t recommend trying to sit in those baby swings. It can be quite painful.
The swings are always popular. Sometimes there are line-ups. Queuing up for swings is annoying. You’re waiting for the other baby to leave but then you realize how much babies enjoy swings and you don’t want to force their time. Of course it’s not your baby. Your baby wants to swing.
But parks aren’t all good times. Parks attract certain negative elements like brooding teenagers. For teenagers public parks are places for them to do private activities that are normally contained in parents’ basements. As a parent of a toddler, we had a run-in with some surly teenagers during a daytime park visit.
There are a lot of ways to tell if you’re an adult; buying a house, getting married, having children. But the true sign that you’ve become an adult is telling pot-smoking teenagers to relocate their wafting daytime pot session. Yes, I’m aware that teenagers partaking in illicit activities is part of what makes public parks public. I was always under the impression that this was an after dark occasion and not a downwind from toddling toddlers activity. We go to the park for the swings, and the splash, and the fresh air, not to give our baby a contact high and a serious craving for baby num nums. She’s way too young to be high in the park.
Today’s new post is over at Sweetspot.ca
In today’s post I talk about my daughter’s first word. You’ll never guess what it is. Okay, you probably will but it’s still worth reading.
If you haven’t been visiting Sweetmama for the past few weeks here’s some links to the posts you’ve missed.
And be sure to check back next Wednesday for another post at Sweetmama.
Recently my daughter turned one. We threw a party, her first birthday party. It was a big deal. Family gathered. Friends gathered. Other babies gathered.
My wife and I spent some time planning the day. Extended family arrived at the house shortly before friends. Cake was made. Balloons were inflated. Presents were set out on the coffee table. As we made last minute preparations the doorbell rang.
A loud thump followed. An even louder cry followed that.
Just as the first guests arrived our daughter had fallen. She fell badly, head first onto the edge of the coffee table. There was a cut right above her left eye. It looked like she’d spent four rounds in a boxing ring. Around the cut, there was some serious bruising. She was going to have a black eye. Happy first birthday.
It was the kind of wound that made it look like we were running a baby fight club. We’re not, by the way. Even if we were we wouldn’t break the first rule and mention it. So no baby fight club. Unless you’re interested in the odds, then message me.
The coffee table had been baby-proofed. The corners were covered with soft padded foam purchased from a baby-proofing store. We were always told that the corners of furniture were the most dangerous. No one ever warned us about the sides. Corners are sharp and dangerous. Sides are just the parts between corners. Sides must have better PR.
She’s fallen before, never this badly, but she’s fallen. She was learning to walk which meant she fell often. Other falls had produced bumps and bruises. This fall produced a gash, a wound and an eventual black eye. The side of the coffee table broke her skin. That was a first. A milestone, I guess. On you or me it would be a scratch but on her it was a gash. From a parents viewpoint it looked like it needed surgery.
For obvious reasons she was upset. It was her party and she was crying not because she wanted to but because of a throbbing head wound. Her mood changed to match the wound. We gave her some children’s Tylenol to help with the pain and put her down for a nap. Hoping she could sleep it off.
This led to guests arriving and wondering where the birthday girl was.
“Oh, she’s upstairs sleeping off a head wound.”
When she awoke her mood hadn’t improved much and the bruising around the wound was much more pronounced. We felt like terrible parents. Friends who had never met our daughter showed up to see her badly wounded. Saying “she just fell” made us feel guilty even though she had actually “just” fallen.
Even repeatedly saying, “you should have seen the other baby” didn’t assuage our guilt.
It was our daughter’s first birthday party and the first present she opened was head trauma. Of course, she also opened other presents and had cake for the first time. And cake makes everything better.
Starting our daughter on solid foods was surprisingly easy. We were prepared to don plastic ponchos like we were riding the Maid of the Mist towards a Niagara Falls of regurgitated baby foods. But our daughter liked to eat. When a spoonful of food came towards her, she ate.
She opened her mouth like a baby bird waiting for a worm. It’s cute. I’ve never had to do the airplane manoeuvre with the spoon. She always ate. I feel for parents of fussy babies, they have to design special feeding tricks like waiting until the baby yawns or rigging them up like geese for foie gras. The only time our daughter ever became fussy was when the food didn’t come fast enough.
We introduced her to solid foods at five and a half months and, if we’re continuing with avian imagery, she took to it like a duck to water. I say solid food but in the beginning it was more liquid than solid. It was a puree. That’s a fancy French word for mush. Pureed fruits and vegetables and fortified baby cereal that was dinner and breakfast.
Fortified baby cereal is dust. They say it’s rice cereal or barley or some other grain and the box has pictures of the food it’s supposed to be, but it’s dust. You add water or breast milk to it and serve your baby the paste. It’s perfect for caulking tiles, sealing exterior windows, and growing babies.
The fruits and vegetables come in tiny little jars. When I think of baby food those tiny little jars come to mind. There’s not much variety in those jars; squash, peas, pears, apples, entrees like beef pasta, turkey dinner, and chicken korma. And while they seem inexpensive it’s actually cheaper to make your own baby food at home. Here’s an easy recipe.
Baby Food Recipe.
Step 1) Cook vegetables. Fruits skip to step 2.
Step 2) Puree in blender.
Step 3) Serve immediately or freeze for later use.
There I just saved you the cost of a baby puree cookbook. My wife and I enjoyed making up batches of baby food. And our freezer soon bulged with dated bags full of various purees, ready to be thawed and spoonfed.
Of course, real food produced another real consequence.
Babies on an exclusive breast milk diet produce few diapers and the ones that they do produce are relatively inert. Breast milk is easy to digest and produces little unconsumed waste. Actual food is not as pure as mother’s milk. Food has fibre and other undigestibles. Once solid food was introduced diaper changing changed. The diapers were no longer consistent in either arrival or consistency.
Aside from that the introduction of solid food has been a breeze. There have been times when spoon-feeding has gone so well that the bib never got dirty. Though, like anything with a little baby easy spoon feeding only lasted a few months.
The baby food purees became chunkier and our daughter reached for her spoon. She was around 8 months old. It was a 2001-ape-using-tools kind of moment. I could hear the faintest rumblings of Also sprach Zarathrustra playing in the background. It was a great developmental moment, either that or Ric Flair was on his way over. By grabbing that spoon our daughter was taking control of her own eating and it was going to be messy.
I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant (IDKIWP) is a reality show that airs on TLC. Not a reality show in the “stick 8 strangers in a house” sense but a reality show in that they reenact things that actually happened and then interview the people involved. So it’s more like a documentary. A documentary about women who didn’t know they were pregnant and who more times than not give birth to their babies while on the toilet.
Each episode features a few different stories of these unexpected expectant mothers. Not all of them are overweight. Surprisingly. One of the girls featured even showed a picture of herself in a bikini that hid nothing except for an incubating fetus.
During our 9-month pregnancy where we knew we were pregnant my wife and I would often watch this show. Pregnancy hormones will do that to you. It was a topical guilty pleasure.
The program was interspersed with pregnancy advice from various medical professionals. This was good until one of said professionals showed a diagram of widening concentric circles that represented vaginal dilation. We didn’t need that visual. My wife especially. She broke down. In between her sobs she said, “Look at how big those circles are.”
It was difficult for me to relate. I’ve never been pregnant so I don’t claim to know how it feels. However at times my diet has lacked fiber. Most segments of this show seem to end with women confusing their pregnancy with constipation and giving birth into a toilet. So I guess I sort of know how it feels.
Even though IDKIWP is on TLC and features interviews with the actual women, women never believe these stories. They always bring up their little monthly friend and claim that, “they would know.” “They would know.”
In high school a teacher of mine went through this exact experience. She could easily be featured on the show. She wasn’t a small woman but was by no means obese. I saw her a week before she gave birth and she simply looked a little heavier. She did not look pregnant at all.
The next week she went to the hospital with back spasms. The doctors informed her that she was pregnant and in labour. She was shocked and then shocked again. Her immediate thought went to all the inappropriate pregnancy behaviours she may have partaken in the last 9 months. Drinking? Smoking? Freebasing drugs while eating runny cheeses? I’m only guessing.
She gave birth half an hour later.
Most women hate this story. Not knowing you have a baby and then just giving birth in the time it takes to watch Friends. Skipping 9 months of pregnancy related headaches and foot swelling. Women who went through that get slightly miffed.
I asked about her cycle. Yes. I did. And let me tell you, that’s not a conversation you want to have with your teacher. Especially in high school. Unless the baby might be yours. She said her cycle was never reliable and always spotty at best. Unfortunate pun was unintended.
So it happens. Sometimes you just don’t know you’re pregnant.
Now that we’re no longer pregnant (as far as we know) we no longer watch I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant. After you’ve seen a few episodes the program becomes formulaic. Woman doesn’t know she is pregnant, woman unexpectedly gives birth, woman is pleased to have child. We’ve moved on to better reality programming like Jersey Shore.
Hey, where’s my new post?
I know it’s been a while since my last post. Today’s post is actually over at Sweetspot.ca, Sweetmama to be more accurate.
Apparently I am raising my daughter fabulous. I knew it. Anyhow, check out Sweetspot every Wednesday for a new Distracted Daddy guest post and then check back here for more posts that won’t be over there. This Wednesday’s post is about music class.
I’m also on Twitter. So if you like my blog but find it’s too much to read then my Twitter is just for you. Follow me and enjoy little self-referential postings under 140 characters, like these gems:
Okay, that last one doesn’t make much sense. It’s a reply to someone else’s tweet. That happens on Twitter. Tweets replying to other tweets and something called retweets. And yes, my name is backwards on Twitter but my correct name was taken. It was taken by some guy who signed up and never tweets. Hopefully, I’ll get it back. Until then I’m @DaddyDistracted
My manternity leave has ended. For four months and fifteen days I was a stay-at-home dad to my growing baby girl. Admittedly, I was reluctant to take the leave. I never pictured myself the stay-at-home type.
I watch television, I’ve seen the hapless father montages play across the screen where the father can’t change a diaper and inevitably gets covered in baby powder. I assumed my fate would be the same. But shockingly I was a competent and dare I say good father to my little girl.
Despite my wife’s best explanations, my expectations of the leave were slightly warped. I thought I’d be swimming in free time and made a list of various projects to accomplish. I won’t post the list. It will remind my wife of all the failed projects. But let’s just say the list hovers at a twenty percent completion rate.
Looking after a baby, it turned out, was surprisingly busy work. And it was work. Changing diapers. Cleaning up. Play time. Nap time. Bottle feedings. I was busy and my personal hygiene began to suffer.
In the beginning, I treated the leave like going to the office. I awoke, showered, got dressed, and began the day. That routine soon crumbled under the weight of the leave. Daily showering was the first to go. It became an every other day routine and sometimes a weekly thing.
My wardrobe changed drastically, partly out of self-preservation. Baby spit up is not kind to nice clothes and my official manternity leave outfit became a pair of cargo shorts and a free beer or concert t-shirt.
This paternity leave is brought to you by Budweiser and a band I used to like.
Like most women, my wife’s maternity leave outfit consisted of tank tops and yoga pants. Yoga pants being an article of clothing that sees yoga as much as sweat pants see sweat.
During the leave I rediscovered napping. I was heeding a well-worn piece of advice that we heard again and again. “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” That’s some good advice. My daughter regularly took two naps a day. Some days it was difficult to take both naps. I was usually well rested after one. Napping was great. I’ll never know why the European siesta hasn’t caught on here in North America but I’ll miss naps nearly as much as I’ll miss my daughter. Nearly.
Because I’ll miss my daughter. The time we spent together was wonderful and I don’t regret being a stay-at-home dad. She won’t remember this time. She has no memory. But I think we’ll have formed a deeper bond. She’s just a baby and her personality is just forming but I got to know her. More so than if I saw her in 45-minute intervals before and after work. She’s a great baby. And I’ll remember our time together very fondly as I rejoin the workforce with my new skill set. Surely being able to quickly change diapers and deal with temper tantrums will translate into the workplace.
As a new parent there are a lot of important child-rearing decisions. Breastfeeding or formula? Cry it out or co-sleep? Name spelled correctly or phonetically? A big decision for us – should we put the Baby on Board sign in our car.
Yes, I skipped the whole debate about having a car-free baby. Maybe if we lived in New York. Or inner Mongolia.
In the industrialized city where I live, the hospital staff wouldn’t let us leave with our baby until she was securely fastened in her car seat. Not our arms.
And like every parent, I remember that first drive home from the hospital. Barely hitting the gas, afraid that every oncoming car was a short-range missile. It was a 20-minute drive that took closer to an hour. So you need a sign. A 1-800-I-Don’t-Normally-Drive-Like-This-But-These-Are-Special-Circumstances.
You drive differently with a baby. Babies are distracting and more so in closed environments. And my daughter always chooses to sit in the back seat where I can’t quite see her. Thankfully we have a special mirror aimed at my rearview mirror so I can monitor her. That rearview mirror is checked and rechecked. There’s never anything interesting in my blindspot, but in that rearview there’s a baby.
She’s usually in a good mood in the car. She’ll smile if she catches you smiling. She enjoys the gentle rocking of the road. Sometimes she’ll sleep. She loves it when I parallel park. Partly because – unlike her mother –I can and partly because she can clearly see my face reflected in the mirror. Smiling at her has not helped the accuracy of my paralleling.
Which makes me think that I need that sign. That I need to broadcast to the world that my driving ability has somehow been impaired by a little tike who divides my attention like I’m a teenager texting.
Of course, our car already says baby on board with the mesh sunblock in the rear passenger seat. Or the pack and play in the trunk. Or the toys. Or the frazzled parents. Or the diapers in the glovebox. The signs are easy to see without an actual one.
All fathers are blind. Ask our wives and they’ll tell you there are things we simply cannot see: dishes, dirty diapers, signals. Ryan Knighton is the only father I know of who has an excuse. He is truly physically blind. He’s been losing his eyesight slowly throughout his adult years thanks to a rare genetic condition. In his memoir, C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the dark, he details his unique experience as a blind father. Or more appropriately as a new father, who just happens to be blind.
They say when you’re blind all other senses are magnified, but Knighton is quick to point out that you simply use your senses differently. It’s not like that horrible Daredevil movie with Ben Affleck. Knighton is not changing diapers through his newfound skill of echolocation. No, he’s feeling his way through the process. Literally.
And that’s what makes his book so identifiable. This is what we all do as new parents. We figure it out. There’s no manual. Parenting is as uniquely different as every child. You do what needs to be done in your circumstances. Sometimes your circumstances entail that if you can’t see your crying daughter’s mouth you simply repeatedly jab the soother in her face until you find it.
Parts of C’mon Papa like parts of parenting are absolutely terrifying. Like the cover hints, Knighton takes his daughter for a stroll down the street in the Baby Bjorn. The very busy downtown street. I can only imagine the looks on the faces of passersby. So can he.
Or there’s the time where he’s listening to his daughter eat but can’t identify the distinct sounds of her eating versus her choking. That is until he recognizes the distinct sound of his wife, Tracy, dislodging food from their daughter’s mouth. James Patterson has nothing on these thrills.
Despite the struggles detailed within, Knighton never uses his blindness as an excuse or a crutch. He adapts, and does so with humor and irreverence. He is after all a new father first and that requires good humor more than anything.
This is the last known picture of our Sophie the Giraffe toy. The picture was taken during a birthday party at an indoor playground. When the cake came out we must have left Sophie behind. Later that day we called the playground’s lost and found to recover Sophie. They never found Sophie. Sophie was missing. I suspect that Sophie was taken by another child or misguided parent.
You see, Sophie the Giraffe is a very popular children’s toy. She is hip. She is trendy. And like most giraffes Sophie is from France. She was likely taken from Africa during the height of France’s colonial power. Just like Babar the Elephant. The French seem to have a penchant for co-opting large grazing animals from the African interior.
If you’ve had a baby in the last 5 years or so, you own a Sophie. Teething babies across North America are spreading their teething spittle over the antlers of this little French giraffe. The antlers of an immature giraffe being a natural nipple substitute.
Sophie the Giraffe is a squeaky chew toy. She’s made of soft rubber and squeaks with the slightest pressure. When Sophie first arrived in our household, all of these characteristics made our dog very interested. Sophie looked and sounded quite similar to his squeaky chew toys. Our poor dog doesn’t understand marketing which is the only thing that distinguishes Sophie as a baby squeak toy and not a dog squeak toy. That and maybe a higher grade of rubber.
After Sophie’s disappearance we tried to entice our daughter with Sophie’s lesser known companion, a mushroom. Not a hippopotamus or a zebra, a mushroom. More proof that Sophie is of French origin. This mushroom, let’s call him Maurice, is similar to Sophie is many ways. Maurice has chewable antlers atop his head and Maurice squeaks when squeezed. But Maurice is not Sophie. Our daughter recognized this and rejected Maurice like he was a cast member of the Jersey Shore applying for a master’s degree.
Sophie was the expensive, molded rubber, Afri-Franco chew toy that our daughter wanted to masticate. Not some second-rate unnamed mushroom. It’s a shame that Sophie was stolen from her home for yet another time.
Reading to your child is important. I knew this even before I was a daddy. When we were expecting I imagined reading various books to my daughter, but never realized it would begin while she was a baby. Reading, I thought, was a little kid thing. Turns out it’s a as-soon-as-the-baby-is-born thing. We’ve been reading to our illiterate daughter for months. And she now has a favorite book, The DOG book.
The DOG book, as described by the back cover, is “a delightfully doggy novelty book, with tabs to pull and fluffy bits to stroke!” The back cover also warns that this book is “not suitable for children under 36 months due to small parts.” And perhaps lack of reading acuity. My daughter is only 11 months and she repeatedly grabs at the moving parts within the book. Something a 37-month old child wouldn’t do. She successfully tore off the itchy dog’s leg. It was later reapplied but now the itchy dog can no longer scratch, scratch, scratch.
There is a good variety of dogs; terriers, poodles, pointers, retrievers, mutts, and pugs. The dogs are photoshopped together on a sparse white page like a canine iPod ad. They are surrounded by trees and other foliage. I’m no botanist. I’m not even a subscriber to High Times or a patient at a Californian ‘medicinal’ clinic. But some of the foliage looks suspiciously like marijuana. There’s even a bulldog that looks particularly baked, his eyes are bloodshot and droopy, more so than usual for his breed.
My daughter has a word for dog it’s “buh-buh.” When she sees this book that’s what she exclaims with arms outstretched. No matter her mood, no matter the time of day she will always stop to read this book. It calms her down. She gets a pleasant contented look on her face as it is read to her. It’s quite sweet.
The writing of the DOG books is rather juvenile and goes for the cheap rhyme instead of challenging the reader. It’s Shakespeare written at a Dan Brown level. Here’s a sampling of the iambic pentameter that I’ve read dozens if not hundreds of times:
Good dog, bad dog, neat dog, sloppy.
Silky dog, shaggy dog, soft ears floppy.
The plot is only noteworthy for its twist ending. You don’t see it coming during the first read, though after the second or third it becomes obvious. It’s a twist worthy of M. Night Shyamalan. Early M. Night Shyamalan. Not Lady in the Water Shyamalan. Not The Village Shyamalan. This is a Sixth Sense Shyamalan twist. I don’t want to spoil it here, in case you have the book and are planning on reading it to your child. But if you’re willing to read on I’ll let you know.
At the end of the book, hidden beneath a flap, there is a cat. Yes, I know. A cat in a dog book. My daughter always enjoys the ending. When the cat is revealed she playfully paws at the page. “What’s a cat doing in a dog book,” she must think to herself.
Probably trying to steal their stash.
For every stage of my daughter’s development there is a formed piece of brightly colored plastic. At around 9 months our daughter could stand, provided she had support. Standing or leaning was a big step. It required a piece of plastic. The piece for this stage was the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Table. The redundancy of the name is a nice touch.
The Laugh and Learn Learning Table or LLLT or Table is quite simply a table designed for very small people. It’s the perfect height for someone who is three apples tall. That’s Smurf-size, if you missed the reference. Upon closer examination the table is a dinner table or a restaurant table. It’s covered in various foodstuffs.
Saltine crackers. Cookies. A slice of pizza. Alphabet Soup. Some fruit. Salt and pepper. All the food is anthropomorphized with smiley faces and beady little eyes. It’s a carb-heavy meal, nutritionally devoid of… nutrition. Jamie Oliver wouldn’t approve. The people who made Lunchables would.
There’s not a green vegetable in sight. Sorry. There are peas –hidden under a napkin. That’s an old trick kids should learn early. The peas even exclaim “Surprise!” when they’re discovered.
“Surprise, you have scurvy.”
This table isn’t designed to teach healthy eating. It’s designed to drain three AA batteries as it lights up and sings songs in two modes; Learning Time and Music Time. They are differentiated by very little. In Learning Mode when you press the cookies it sings and counts to 10. However when you press the cookies in Music Mode it sings the exact same song without the lyrics. No learning. Just acoustic.
Pressing various buttons produces different songs or audio clips. The related button sounds are quickly cut off if you press another button immediately. This teaches cause and effect. However, due to fast button mashing I’ve heard the table say things like “blue… apple” or finish the ABCs like this “…L M N O… That’s a spicy pizza.”
The main feature of the table is the bowl of Alphabet Soup. Various letters float within the soap. Not all of the letters, just C, Z, X, Y, B, and A. That’s 20 shy of the full alphabet and a terrible Scrabble hand. A detachable soup spoon accompanies the soup. If you were to look at it independent of the table you might assume it’s a bright red woman’s pump. The pump/spoon rattles.
For the few weeks when our daughter was content to simply stand this table was her anchor. She loved spinning the wheel, grooving to the various songs, and reaching for the spoon. Then she discovered she could walk, provided she had help.
The table then became her launch pad for walks. It was where she would stand arm outreached begging to be walked by mommy or daddy or anyone within grasp. Begging to neither laugh nor learn. But to walk.
When I began my manternity leave at my daughter’s 8-month mark, I knew we would need to sign up for various classes to occupy ourselves. When I saw that the local pool was offering infant swimming lessons we were quick to sign up.
I’d read somewhere that newborn babies are natural swimmers. That it’s some kind of evolutionarily ingrained behavior that’s leftover from their time displacing liquid in the womb. That during those gestational months little babies are essentially fetal Michael Phelps’s.
Before our first class, I had a lot of questions about how babies swim with those massively-absorbent diapers. Should I put her in a diaper for swimming and risk turning the deep end into the shallow end? Alternatively, do we go diaper-less? And risk murky-ing up the pool water with a poorly timed poop. What’s that euphemism? Dropping the kids off at the pool.
Luckily, I spoke with a parent more well-informed than I. She told me about swim diapers. Diapers designed specifically to make sure that the kids don’t go in the pool. So I picked up some swim diapers and my daughter was ready to learn how to swim.
I was eager for her to learn how to swim, I imagined my daughter looking like the baby on Nirvana’s Nevermind album, floating peacefully in a pool, reaching for that dollar bill on a fishing lure – only without a penis.
I hadn’t realized that at her age she wasn’t learning to swim as much as learning to be carried around the pool by daddy. There was little actual swimming involved. I carried my daughter around the pool in my arms, kept her submerged to shoulder level and sang songs with appropriately altered lyrics. In the pool it wasn’t the Hokey-Pokey it was the Fishy-Wishy.
My daughter was “swimming.” And she didn’t seem to like it. That first class she held onto me in absolute terror. Nearly every aspect of the pool frightened her. The shower before the pool scared her. It was loud. She didn’t want to go near it. So she didn’t shower before going into the pool, despite signage that urged otherwise.
Other babies splashing frightened her. Pool noodles frightened her. Parents in poor-fitting swimwear scared her, understandably. She cried for most of the first lesson and the second. By the third she discovered splashing. She loves splashing.
For 10 weeks my daughter and I splashed our way through swimming class. The class was later in the day and if mommy got off work early enough she would come to the pool to watch us swim from the viewing gallery. Mommy doesn’t really know how to swim. She’d much rather be poolside with a gin-based beverage. Which is fine, that just means that swimming in the pool can be a daddy thing. And drinking by the pool can be a mommy thing.
It was a Friday evening. My wife and I were in the backyard with our daughter. We were relaxing. Maybe enjoying a cocktail. Our daughter was pleasantly playing on the deck. My wife and I discussed landscaping plans – where to place various shrubs, grasses, annuals, biannuals, and other plants that our pug will fertilize. The backyard was in dire need of help. It had lain fallow last year when we were expecting. Weeding doesn’t seem to be an activity that women enjoy during their third trimester.
During this discussion our daughter stood near the vegetable garden. My wife and I had this exchange regarding our parental responsibility:
“Do you have your eye on baby?”
“Yes. Do you have your eye on the baby?”
So that was two distracted parents each with an eye on the baby. That should add up to one attentive parent with both eyes on the baby. Except it didn’t.
Neither of us knew how it happened. One moment we both had an eye on the baby. That was the official story. The next moment she turned around and looked at us. Black bile was oozing from her mouth. It was mud. Dirt. She was eating dirt.
You know how you tell a baby not to eat things by saying “No, dirty.” Which essentially means, “No, it’s covered in dirt.” Well, dirt is dirt through and through. It doesn’t get dirtier.
And this was garden dirt. Dirt that we’d encouraged to be dirtier by mixing in various top soils, purchased animal manures, and something called sphagnum. This was in hopes that it would encourage the growth of nutritious tasty vegetables. Not that our daughter would skip the entire photosynthesis process and get her nutrients directly from that soil.
We panicked. Scooped her up and rushed into the house. We immediately began washing her mouth out with a wet cloth. Taking extra care to get all of the dirt from her mouth and her hands. Her grubby little hands, those tiny dirt shovels, were covered in the dirt too. We couldn’t believe that she ate the dirt.
Eating dirt is bad, right?
Well, not necessarily. A quick googling revealed that some believe eating dirt is good for children. That it’s akin to their immune system exploring the environment and helping to build the appropriate responses to outside stimuli. That kids who eat dirt are better off than kids who don’t.
So I suppose our daughter eating dirt is nothing to panic about. As long as it doesn’t become her favorite meal it’s okay and maybe even beneficial. All I know is that a few hours after the dirt eating disaster I had to change a diaper that was soiled. Literally.