My newest column for Stillpoint Magazine is out, and I wrote it as we were unpacking our things in our apartment in Amesbury, MA. Now, it is published when we are packing up again. As of tomorrow, Alfie’s 1st birthday, he will have lived in 3 places in a year:
1. I live in Amesbury, and my plants are dying. Amesbury has identity issues. Its bucolic side is home to vineyards, farms, and the birthplace of poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Its businesses, however, parade with the gentrified urbanity of its sister, Newburyport. Here, Amesbury feels like the younger sibling, jealous that Newburyport got a date to the prom, and we’re still looking at an old yearbook.
2. I’m turning 30 this year, I’ve recently returned to Gordon as both a staff and faculty member, and then there’s still that I-have-a-son thing. I would call this a transition year, but I’m not sure there’s been a time in the last decade when I’ve had any clue where I’d be a year from where I currently stood. At what point does “transition” become just my version of same-old, same-old?
3. We moved to Amesbury because it is the middle point linking our old place in Dover, NH, and Gordon. It’s as if we got stuck between where we were, and where we are trying to go. We moved, and it seems we’re still moving. In fact, there’s a strong chance that by the time this column sees print, we’ll have moved to Beverly to be closer to work and friends.*
Latest column, in which my baby has her first kiss:
I go to New York for a reading and leave my wife and the baby at home for the third time in Grace’s 10 months of life. When I get back, my baby who is afraid of other babies touching her has kissed a boy. Her first kiss.
My wife says she will never forget the name Roy. She says our daughter leaned forward and touched Roy’s hand. Then stuck out her mouth and gave him a kiss on the nose.
I did not expect history to be made.
Roy screamed, though not without pleasure, I’d guess. Roy’s mother went out of her mind at the cuteness.
If I had been in Boston, I would have been at work. So I would still have missed it. But as it is, how can I not think of all this as too early? Something I should not have to miss yet. Something I should be happy to miss, later. Something that shouldn’t involve one’s parents. I can remember, my first kiss, thinking, This is my first kiss. I can remember thinking small, personal fireworks.
What can babies know about the momentousness of life? Everything, to them, is momentous. This is why, as I understand it, they put everything in their mouths. Because, when everything is new and wonderful, the distinguishing thing is, how does it taste?
We had a party for our almost-one year old (don't make me reflect on that yet. I still have until Friday). The highlight, besides the obvious shower of all things love-infested, was a small moment where I decided I wanted to step out the back door into the yard. Here's what normally happens when I want to do things like this.
Thought:I want to go outside.
Exhausting Mental Exercise:Where's my wife? She's already outside. Where's the baby? Inside, with me. She's getting "a break" so I shouldn't bring the baby out there. But I need a break. But, clearly not as badly, since I don't have a child waking up every few hours every night (if we're lucky) to attach himself and eat his way back to sleep. This logically means I should stay inside. Which means I really want to be outside.
Result:I stay inside.
HOWEVER. Here's the same scenario, plus grandparents that do not care about inside/outside, as long as they are near the baby.
My parents came up and helped out with the baby today, who is always good for other people. She knows how to be loved—my wife’s genes.
They took pictures and we envied my mother’s new iPad. New things. I tried to teach her how to use it. My dad kept angling for a second grandchild.
It’s not like he doesn’t have other kids. Or is there something to this not putting all your eggs in one basket?
We tried to talk about how exhausting it is, attachment parenting. Trying to give our daughter everything she needs. But we didn’t mean we wanted to try something else. My dad said they let us cry it out whenever. He said, And look at you, you turned out fine. I said, Not really.
I was thinking, If you only knew. I was thinking, You only need one egg to make an omelet.
Seriously, why do we pin all our hopes onto these two gestures? Baby Grace is not having it. Maybe it doesn’t look fun enough? We’re clapping and waving like clowns on speed and getting nothing. Yesterday, she slammed two egg shaker things together and we got really excited about it. So sad.
My theory is she’s replaced clapping with dancing and waving with throwing her head back into the ground. Happiness means never having to say goodbye.
So, we got a little overzealous, I think. Other babies were waving. Other babies (younger!) were clapping. We needed that, so we started teaching alfie. Somehow, he got the two confused. Now, when I wave goodbye, he starts clapping.
Anyone else ever do this? Follow your baby around eating what she’s dropped on the floor—so that she won’t? Maybe we should just get a dog. Or one of those robot vacuums. I mean, it’s 2012 already. Why don’t our houses clean themselves?
Those little rice puffs are everywhere now and they’re so small it’s like you’re not eating anything.
I’m sacrificing my sense of taste and civilization and future.
No Pain, No Gain, Or: Things I Keep Hoping Aren't Symbols For The Idea That Trauma Is The Only Way To Sleep-Train
Exercise:I'm not talking whey-guzzling gym town here. Just some basic calisthenics to keep the body from atrophying. This usual means some very ungraceful push-ups and sit-ups in what we once thought would be alfie's room, but is instead a patch of carpet surrounded by unfolded laundry, a changing table, and a writing desk that is stacked with everything but the evidence of writing. If I hit things at that right level of toning without overdoing it, a bit of soreness hangs around. And, as Dr. Wikipedia says, this "is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers."
Editing:All that cutting. "Having had a chance to be right" to "I was wrong."
Job:Put up with this. Endure. Keep taking it until one day (really?) things emerge as definitively the thing worked for.
Election Season:Meaning, ELECTION SEASON.
Plants:The oregano is growing like crazy. But, only straight up, in awkward stalks. If I continue making sure it gets plenty of food, water, and daylight, it'll keep snaking out in long, woody shoots that'll eventually flower, go to seed, and otherwise stop providing us with herbage. However, if I cut it back, its cells will divide, propagating and thickening into new, abundant growth.
Sleep issues are no stranger to both writers of this blog. Sometimes I wonder if we have sleep issues so we write about them, or if constantly talking about somehow proliferates the problem.
Anyway: the problem remains.
We’re moving at the end of the month, and it’s become a nightly whispered mantra to say “no more.” Meaning: we want alfie in his own bed. He’s getting bigger, flailing more wildly, and has this weird obsession of needing to have his feet propped on someone’s body (we’ve tried bundling the blankets—it doesn’t work, and it leaves us even more short-sheeted).
Also, he’s teething again (though, I’ve learned not to actually expect to see more teeth for weeks on end). So, the sleep-squirming happens about once an hour all through the night. I think back to last summer, when he was an infant, and sometimes it feels like nothing has changed.
"No more." But, what happens when teething keeps him from staying asleep in his own bed?
“Once upon a time, this column used to be about relationships. It used to be sexy, or at least sexier. It used to go places, see people, attend events. Now—I have faced the fact—it is about a baby. It is about a 10-month-old named Grace who doesn’t sleep well, most of the time, who is pretty in pink and loves to eat and hates to drink and wants to keep moving always and wants to be entertained always and has just started dancing and calls her mother constantly and her father intermittently and pulls hair and noses and grows and gets thinner and fatter and smarter and less interested in being taught and becomes more attached and yet more independent…” READ MORE