Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Social Butterfly Who Weighs a Ton

The New Little Guy is many things.

Physically, he's a big boy. He's also a smiler. He's a talker. He's a crawler. He's an eater. He's an adventurer.
When he's not talking or laughing he's
practicing good oral hygiene with
his Mom's toothbrush. 

Above all, he's a social creature.

But when he is alone, entertaining himself on the living room floor for instance, he doesn't remain in silence as he's often providing a soundtrack of sorts.

And that's great for Mrs. Blackwell and I because, even if he's out of sight for a moment, there's usually a chorus of noise to announce his precise whereabouts.

There are the squeals, squawks, yelps and laughs — lots and lots of laughs, including one that sounds like he stole it from one of Bevis or Butthead.

And, because I can't leave him hanging, I'll counter his laugh in similar fashion. And because he's apparently seen Bevis and Butthead, he'll counter my laugh with another of his own.

So, we'll go back and forth, offering each other laughs that sound as if we're both mentally deficient.

He enjoys all manner of back and forth, not just laughter. Sometimes he's content take a passive role. He'll sit on someone's lap (usually Mrs. Blackwell or myself) while two people have a conversation. But it usually doesn't take long before he requires a heavier level of engagement.

He'll turn and attempt to pull himself to a standing position. Once achieved, he'll move his face directly in front of his mom's or mine, before opening his mouth and drooling on one of our noses.

He could likely do this for hours. Unfortunately neither I, nor his mother, have the stamina, or tolerance for someone else's drool running down our face.

So, oftentimes, we'll put him on the ground and just as often he doesn't like this and he'll let us know by beginning to cry the moment he's set down. This cry isn't one of pain, discomfort, hunger or any of life's necessities going unmet. Nope, it's a clear, cogent and potent demand for hands-on attention.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like this every time he's set down. It's whenever he decides he's interested in us.
In one of his parents' arms. AKA right where he belongs.

To that end, he frequently tries to keep up with Mrs. Blackwell or myself, to be part of whatever exciting adventure we're partaking in.

So if one of us is walking toward the kitchen pantry, he's crawling and shuffling behind. If we're heading back toward the kitchen counter he's right on our heels.

But it usually takes just a few back-and-forth trips before he decides he's had enough and demands to be picked up.

I'll offer up the disclaimer that, yes, Mrs. Blackwell and I both know this is how babies start manipulating and training their parents. The jury will be out for the next 18 years or so as to whether we're handling this right.

So, yes, a big part of his being social also means being directly held or otherwise handled.

At this juncture, it's also pertinent to remember what I mentioned at the top here about the boy being heavy. It's been a while since he's been weighed but suffice it to say, he's a load. After about 3 minutes of holding him, my arms start turning to jelly.

So, I put him down which, as previously mentioned, is frequently met with instantaneous crying.

Now of course there are times when we let him voice his displeasure for a few minutes while we wrap up whatever it is we're working on.

Like I said, he's open to conversation with anyone. 
But sometimes, you just don't want to hear a baby cry. Sometimes you need to be able to hear yourself think.

So, for us, sometimes the only answer is to hold onto him while we go about doing whatever it is we need to do, usually it's something fun like putting groceries away or cleaning up a spill on the kitchen floor before running out the door late for work.

All the while, we're holding the little guy and all the while, he's invariably satisfied to be held.

As I mentioned before, we're well aware of the perils of this arrangement. One can easily flash forward a few years and see a spoiled, corpulent, 12-year-old throwing his dinner plate across the table demanding that his mother or father "make more food!" or some equally disturbing scenario.

For now, this arrangement works — most of the time. Eventually Mother Nature will take over, he really will be too big for us to hold onto and we'll have no choice in the matter.

And, come to think of, maybe it's that thought that makes picking him up worth it each and every time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

He's (Always) on the Move

My day starts like most people who've got a couple little kids I'd bet.

The alarm goes off and I fight it for as long as possible before finally relenting, rolling out of bed and beginning my day. It usually starts the same way it ends, with a quick check on the boys.

Wake up time and eating time elicit similarly
happy responses.
I go to the New Little Guy's room because more often than not, I can hear that he's up. Most days he's sitting up in his crib just squeaking, squealing and chattering away giving notice that he's awake.

When I crack open his door, I'll observe him on his own for a moment or two then I'll make a noise to draw his attention.

Invariably, he'll turn his head and smile and instantaneously wash away my early morning malaise. After all, when a kid greets you like that, you've got to at least pretend to be chipper.

In short order, I'll retrieve the guy from his crib, he'll pat my back with his closed hand as if to say, "Let's go old man, I've got things to do."

In no time at all I am indeed a little more chipper, no need to pretend.

Next up is The Boy and this is more of a crap shoot.

Some mornings he too is wearing an ear-to-ear grin while others he'll pull the covers over his face and say to me, "Would you like to leave you alone now?"

First-person, second-person confusion notwithstanding, his message is pretty clear: "Dad, leave me alone."

Just as frequently he's smiling and quick to suggest we go downstairs and make breakfast.

After these exchanges the routine loosens. I'll often head back to my room with the little guy. I'll play with him on the bed for a bit before realizing far more time has passed than I'd thought.

Sometimes The Boy quietly reads a book as we
we get ready. Other times he dances on
 the couch with his gigantic zucchini. 
Then Mrs. Blackwell and I begin the mad dash getting ourselves and a combination of the boys ready for the day ahead.

Outfits must be assembled.

Coffee must be brewed.

Lunches must be made and, somewhere in there, I've got to take a shower, as does Mrs. Blackwell.

In the midst of the madness the boy will often do his own thing; he'll sit on mom and dad's bed and play with a book or magnetic letters and, while the world swirls about him, the New Little Guy decides that he too wants to take part.

His goals however are not so multi-pronged as his parents'.

In fact, his goal is singular: whenever mom and dad aren't looking, get to the stairs as quickly as possible.

He's nine months old and while he can climb stairs, he's not equipped to descend them. And while we've got a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs, for a variety of reasons, we don't have one at the top.

So, we just have to be aware because he's clearly taken it as a deeply personal challenge to get to the stairs. It's to the point that, if Mrs. Blackwell or I catch him before he's made it, he'll accelerate his pace to a full-sprint crawl in the hopes that he'll outpace us.

It's equal parts hilarious and terrifying to watch your baby's chubby little legs and arms hustle as fast as they can toward a flight of stairs.

Caught! Moments before his next foray into
the shower.  
To combat this, we've taken to putting the New Little Guy on the floor in our bedroom — with the door closed — when we're showering or otherwise busy. He can crawl around in there while we do our thing and he's never a half-second out of sight.

So there are no stairs to concern us when he's confined to the bedroom but, God bless the little guy, that doesn't mean there isn't a way for him to keep the proceedings interesting.

Because he likes to be near the action, he's taken to staying in the bathroom while I shower.

He'll tug on the shower curtain and prop himself up on the tub. It's actually a further convenience for me because he's that much closer to me and that much further from trouble, or so I thought.

Earlier this week he negated this sense of security.

As I stood in the shower struggling to make myself presentable for the outside world, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the warm water for just a moment. That moment was — apparently — far too long.

When opened my eyes, the shower curtain was no longer fluttering under the little guy's grip. Instead the inside clear curtain fluttered inward toward me.

My gaze fell immediately to the shower floor and just as it did, I saw the little guy gently slide down into the tub with his big, blonde head leading the way.

When all else fails an orange Slinky provides about 30
seconds of distraction before he's again
trying to crawl into the tub. 
There was no thud. It was more like someone had slipped a wet fish over the edge of the tub and let its weight guide it down and through.

His upper body carried him clear through to the other side of the tub and the slick surface provided momentum enough for him to glide and rotate smoothly onto his back. I'm pretty sure the water didn't so much as ripple around his chubby, cherubic form.

My first reaction was a mixture of reflexive fear and shock. And, if the look on the little guy's face was any indication, he was equally shocked himself.

In a moment his eyes shifted, narrowed and his mouth started to turn downward. It seemed to me that he knew he'd bitten off a bit more than he could chew and with his bed time shirt and a — thankfully — fresh diaper getting soaked, he was getting less comfortable by the moment.

I got his clothes off, cut my losses and decided to continue the shower with the little guy in tow. Naturally, he agreed with that decision.

So, there we were taking an impromptu shower together. Me getting later for work by the moment and he, once again, grinning ear to ear pleased as punch to be part of the action.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

An Apology to the New Little Guy

I don't know how much my youngest son weighs now.

I don't know how tall he is and I couldn't tell you how big his head is around. For the uninitiated, these are the standard measurements medical folks use to gauge a baby's growth.

But, from a parent's perspective, when each of those measurements tops the 95th percentile, what difference does it make?

"Future's so bright...."
This kid is big. Now, just a week shy of the nine-month mark since his birth, he is wearing clothes for 18-month olds.

Based on his early proclivities, he's going to need every bit of that heft and padding to endure the regular crashes, falls, tumbles, slips, smacks and trips he puts himself through.

His future is likely to be one filled with bumps and bruises punctuated with the occasional trip to the emergency room.

He crawls quickly. Often he's just trying to keep up with me, his mom or his big brother but other times he's off on his own mission. Lately the stairs have been his destination of choice.

On those occasions when he is following us, he lets us know if we're getting too far away from him. He'll squeal and cry a little to remind us that he's there and that, whatever we're doing, he wants in.

He's taken to putting anything that fits into his mouth, in his mouth. When this scenario is at its best, it could be food that fell under the kitchen table hours before. When it's worse, it could be a butter knife his forgetful father left on his high chair tray.

Which brings me to the greater point here. I owe my Little Guy a deep, heartfelt apology.

I apologize to him because he's had a tougher road to hoe than his older brother. When The Boy came along he was the first — for everything.

Mrs. Blackwell and I were learning on the fly and to flatten that learning curve we consistently erred on the side of excessive caution.
Both boy's are able to drive at the grocery store.
From birth, justice as fairness! 

Food. The temperature of bath water. The cleanliness of the floors he was crawling on. The age-appropriateness of his toys.

We watched him like a hawk. When he went mobile one of his parents was always, always, always hovering nearby.

We surveilled and examined his world to a granular, case-by-case, moment-to-moment degree for the first couple years of his life.

"Is your pillow soft enough?"

"Is the tag on your pajamas bothering you?

"Is your bottle warm enough?

"Did you need your special blanket, your Mickey Mouse doll and your other special blanket?"

He was a baby, he was fragile and vulnerable and so we did what many parents do, we grossly overcompensated.

Flash forward to Saturday morning when I lost sight of New Little Guy for who knows how long. That moment of terror hit me like an electric shock and I ran a panicked lap around my kitchen and family room before locating him.

He was perched on the third step of the stairway toward our second floor chewing on God only knows what.

And sometimes he finds trumpets. 
He smiled and let out a giggle when I found him, which made liberating the contents of his mouth easier (I don't know what it was but, yes, it was soggy and gross, thanks for asking).

I'm not saying that this type of thing never happened with The Boy. It's just that it undoubtedly happens more with the New Little Guy.

Admitting this is a tad painful because you want everything to be equal for your kids. You don't want one kid to have more than the other, or to have it easier. But, the sad fact is there is no "equal." That's an ideal that doesn't exist and, frankly, aspiring toward it is a fool's errand.

I say this as the middle of three boys and the son of parents who fought this battle regularly. The reality is that kids who come after the first born are bound to have it a bit tougher, at least early on.

I think it boils down to the fact that once you see one kid go through life and survive you automatically adjust. So when the next kid comes along, you know they'll be okay. They don't get that  same allowance of patience, of coddling and sheltering that their older sibling got.

Your parental reflexes change by the time the second kid comes along.

That doesn't mean you don't feel bad about this as a parent. To the contrary, I feel bad about it all the time and, as a second born myself, I'd like to think I'm attuned to it more than most. But, at this point, I'm ready to accept reality and try my best to bend it toward a better ideal.

Later in the same trip to the grocery store, some how some
way the first born ends up with the Ben & Jerry's.
 Justice as subjective fairness.
I'm not sure how that effort manifests itself but, at its core, I know that the motivation is to ensure that neither of my kids feels shortchanged, regardless of what I might think of my own parenting.

If this approach works, when they grow old and reflect on my parenting, they'll resent me equally.

Up to this point I've accepted responsibility for my role in the New Little Guy's rougher road. Now, I'll divest myself of some.

The fact is, this fellow likes adventure more than either of his parents are accustomed to.

My parents have never expressed to me that I was a particularly adventurous little boy. On the other side of the parenting equation, I'm convinced Mrs. Blackwell was born with an actuary's guide in her hand and consulted with it before making even the most mundane decisions.

For his part, The Boy is a fun little dude but, he's more of a button pusher than a boundary tester.

So, it's particularly ironic that we've got this little creature of extremes skittering around our home attempting to scale our stairs and roll off our beds and treating the mere notion of gravity with disdain. And it's damn near incomprehensible how he greets each and every close call with a grin and, often, a giggle.

He possesses many of his parents traits and, as we've all learned (the hard way on a few occasions), a few that we don't.

Yes, we're in the midst of another ride and while it's not our first, in many ways it feels like it.