Tuesday, September 2, 2008

my next dissertation

is totally about Sarah Palin. Does it get any more fascinating?

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Wow - long time no write. Well, long time no write on this blog, though some decent work done on The Big Project and periodic long-winded comments written on other blogs (especially the addictive offsprung.com - nice people!)

Also, D is in a period of so much very rapid development and so much very rapid action that it's kind of hard to survive through it, let alone reflect on it. It's kind of like when he was a newborn and I spent so much time adjusting to the constant need and newness that I couldn't string two coherent sentences together. OK, like that but with more regular sleeping, thank god. But as it turns out, that failure of coherence back 19-20 months ago wasn't just due to the lack of sleep. It was the paradigm shift. We're in another paradigm shift, and it sometimes brings me to tears, it's so interesting and profound.

I mean, for instance, we're presently standing here at the division of ego and superego. I AM HELPING TO FORM SOMEONE ELSE'S SUPEREGO. There are few more frightening concepts out there than that. The people standing behind your superego, your neuroses, your anxieties -- those secret uberMenschen -- those people, the primal They -- they're now L and me, fer crissake. Recognizing that you are becoming someone else's subconscious forces is the very essence of the psychedelic acid trip that is parenthood.

Now, this process has of course been progressing since D was born and so isn't very sudden at all, but it is suddenly more verbal and overt. When he had less physical and verbal agency, he had fewer choices, and therefore less opportunity to do something "good" or something "bad." It's arguable how much choice he has now, but he certainly has some, and we try to listen to his opinions when we can. (Yesterday, for instance, he asked for a "wed" shirt. This was notable as he almost always asks for "gween" when asked, regardless of whether there is a green option or not -- e.g., the answer to "what kind of sandwich do you want?" is generally "Gween.")

So now that he has some capacity to choose what he's doing, we sometimes praise D for following directions (not pulling unripe tomatoes off the plant, letting go of the cat's tail, hesitating before pouring an open cup of water on the floor) with the phrase, "Good boy!" As in, "Good boy, D! Nice to pet the kitty gently!" or "Good boy! I like how you put your markers back in the bucket!" This may sound innocuous to you. But in my heart, I know it isn't. I'm certainly aware of studies which suggest that praise can be a double-edged sword, creating a please-the-praiser motivation rather than an intrinsic motivation, and that if praise is offered anyway, it should relate to task performance rather than to a child's essential qualities. So there's that.

But there's also hearing how your praise is heard. Not long after we started with the "good boy" business, he developed a new frustration word. Whenever something isn't going his way, he says "Gooby! GOOBY!" I at first thought it was a version of "Let go!" ("Wet go!", sadly, having enjoyed a far-too-brief moment in the sun at our house as D moved on quickly to saying "pwease!" when he learned that when a baby says pwease it truly is the magic word, at least around here.) But I realized that this word arrived after I told his fire engine to be a "good boy" and stay in one piece as I was putting its parts back together for the umpteenth time. D tries to mold the world as we try to mold him, trying to make it follow his directions in exchange for a couple of nonsense syllables. How to feel about that? I don't know. Dictatorship flows downhill, I guess.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


You know, I don't think there's any time in the last two years that I've thought, boy, I really wish people knew what I was doing right now. I haven't been hitting any hot clubs, having any deep and meaningful conversations in coffeeshops, observing things quirkily by myself in the rain. Moreover, the sense that I need to share my life with the world because nobody is OBSERVING me, dammit, has been permanently obviated by the fact that I am followed everywhere by a small human appendage. Including to the bathroom. (Are there many tweets from the toilet? How close do people take this minute-by-minute life documentation thing? And man, how sorry are you that Yoko Ono is too old for Twitter?) Plus, now that the appendage has taken to parroting my every utterance, I'm even getting a fairly constant stream of feedback.

"Let's build a sandcastle!"
"Do you want to go in and get something to drink?"
"Dink!" (Generally repeated several times, like an extremely small fratboy.)
"Oh holy sh**! Fu**!" (In response to the cranberry juice being poured on the white couch.)
"Fik! Fik!"

And this is why Twitter is not for parents. We already have micro-blogs. They're called THE TINY BRAINS OF CHILDREN! MWAH AHAHAHAHHAHAHAH!

(Thanks to Rekha for her post.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

he's the happy daddy and he's also the dog!

Title of today's post brought to you courtesy of my new favorite Telly sketch on Sesame Street, "Happy Family." Song goes, "I'm the happy mommy!" "I'm the happy kid!" "I'm the happy daddy, and I'm also - the dog!" "He's the happy daddy, and he's also the dog!"

Our happy daddy isn't also the dog. Thank god for that! We had a very pleasant - a.k.a. low stress - father's day, even though it involved brunch. This is mostly thanks to the fact that Abba, Kiss and Scouty were up here, providing no small amount of entertainment to our own little meal-wrecker. I gave L a watch he'd been wanting - he's really super easy to buy for, since he routinely gets excited about various objects - and I gave my dad some Ray Charles cds and a card promising an artistic rendering of the photograph of his choice (paint or pencils, depending on the photo). I figured one of those things would fit the bill. I think it turned out to be the Ray Charles, but I'll have fun with the photo project anyway.

I think I've figured out why I've been so exercised over the pregnant women issue. Jello. The lime green kind. I suppose it was an obvious point, but I think I was confused because it wasn't just jealousy, but rather the experience of emotional conflict. I would like to have another baby, but I also would really like to return to full-time work. These two possibilities are in direct conflict, at least for the foreseeable future. I've decided in favor of work, which means that while part of me is satisfied, part of me is still un peu triste. So that part comes out as unwarranted snideness towards people who are doing what part of me would like to do.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Suddenly, they're everywhere again. I'm happy not to be among them. Honestly, I can't imagine going through the last eighteen months again anytime soon. It was a wondrous experience that I will think of with love and amazement for the rest of my life but I am wholeheartedly looking forward to a little autonomy -- for all of us. The baby years mean that someone is always hugging you, lying on you, pulling or pushing at you, wailing at you, sticking things into your nose, whacking you unintentionally in the larynx, and really, why have a child in the first place if you don't enjoy all that to some significant extent, but it is one thing to have that kind of intense interaction with someone periodically throughout the day and kind of another to have it every waking minute, which seems to be the way things start out. And are only now slowly, sloooowly beginning to ease off. Today, for instance, he spent a good fifteen minutes trying to take apart the sewing machine. Luckily, his motor skills do not yet allow him to do any real damage, but I can now foresee a moment in time when he could possibly spend a good hour or so at it, and probably make the machine entirely inoperable in the process, but during that time not be interested in any love-smooshing or entertainment-seeking or stuff-whining at all.

I write this in full knowledge of the fact that I will be desperate for the love-smooshing at some point in the not-so-distant future, when I feel like he's not interested in hugging at all anymore and I will tell him "remember when you were a baby and you cried so much whenever I tried to put you down on the ground because you just wanted me to hold you all the time?" And he'll be like, "yeah, WHATEVER MOM" and then he'll go take apart the sewing machine again. At that point, I might start seeing the appeal of making another of the little clingy ones. But I kind of doubt it, as I might just start carrying the cat around again and possibly be satisfied with that.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

dun dah, dun dah dun dah dun dah DUNDAHDAH!

That was the theme music from Jaws, if you couldn't tell. It's up there to express the sneaking realization that the Terrible Twos are upon us.

It's so strange, the process of adapting to toddlerhood. I'm moving from the belief that my baby is an essentially helpless being who needs help to do everything to understanding that he is an essentially powerful being who is capable of doing things himself (or getting me to do it for him.) The first belief results in my making decisions out of pity for his helplessness, while the second results in decisions about how to support his developing independence. And obviously it's not that I feel only one of these things to the exclusion of the other - the new understanding of his abilities is phasing in as my belief in his helplessness phases out - but I think the toddler tantrums serve to mark the tipping point between which of these beliefs is dominant. When he starts thrashing and wailing because I'm not intuiting his needs quickly enough - and his sudden "needs" are now more along the lines of wanting a popsicle or some particular thing on a shelf - then I realize that he isn't crying from pain, hunger or fear, but from momentary impotence. From shortness and from motor control that works pretty well, but not yet perfectly. Wanting but not getting these things won't hurt him - it probably benefits him, really, to some extent. What would life be like without a few unsatisfied desires? If the popsicle doesn't appear until tomorrow night, isn't it all the sweeter?

Anyway, this is a challenging period but full of the learning for both of us. He's learning more about consequences and how asking calmly generally works better than crying for something. (I'm trying to push the "please" too, to create another marker separating a good request for something from wailing/grabbing/thrashing around for it. Also, who can say no to a polite kid? Useful life skill, there.) I'm learning how to detach emotionally, a little, when necessary. The nice thing about loving a baby is that there are basically no boundaries - if a baby wants something badly, it's almost certainly good for them - food, milk, being held. This really isn't the case with toddlers. There are lots of things toddlers want badly which aren't necessarily good for them. However, it's kind of difficult to make this emotional transition from being all Yes to being mostly No, with some Yes and some Later.

None of this has been helped by the terrible early morning wake up time. 5:15. 3:45. 4:45. It's like a parade of bleary moments that you remember from the other side of the evening in your early 20s. Basically, that sums it up. Having a toddler is like peering through a dark window at your teens/early twenties. It's not quite the same thing -- we'll be getting that in 13-14 years or so -- but it is kind of an early run-through. Toddlers are apparently just teenagers without acne.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

political fun with the seventeen month old

After a few minutes of checking out the NYT photo slideshow, he was pretty well trained to respond to photos of the nominee with "Bama!"

Extremely cute, and made me proud. Let the brainwashing begin!