Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Make Room for Baby Pt. I

Two nights ago Mrs. Blackwell and I were awakened from our slumber by an increasingly unfamiliar sound.

The boy popped up at about 1:30 and he was howling mad.

I suppose there are worse silhouettes
that could greet you late at night. 
We’ve been fortunate that he’s by and large a solid sleeper. He gets about 10 to 11 hours a night, but not on this night. He awoke angry, frustrated, maybe scared but definitely ticked at the world; and he wanted us to know about it.

Completely ignoring my wait-and-see-if-he-stops-crying strategy, Mrs. Blackwell went after the boy. As she left the room I wondered if she’d have any luck quelling his fury.

But as the minutes wore on and the audible anger continued, I lost hope. I then wondered what her next plan was. I didn’t have to wait long for my answer.

The crying drew closer, closer and still closer before the door to our bedroom opened.

Drifting through the doorway was the silhouette of my wife, backlit by an impossibly bright hallway. In her arms she was holding an angry, gyrating, little old man with hair so wild, so big and disheveled, I questioned if it was the boy or something else.

I’ve seen a version of this before but, I just couldn’t remember the boy looking so big in her arms. Aside from that increasingly full head of hair, when we hold him his long legs now dangle somewhere around our thighs and his arms reach far around us.

He's a little weak on the earlier albums but, from the
White Album on, he knows his stuff.
He is, by weight, an average size. But by every other anatomical quantifiable he is a big boy. This fact is quite apparent when he’s sprawled out in his crib and you see how much less room he has now compared to just a year ago.

It’s equally apparent when he’s sprawled out in our bed, which is exactly where Mrs. Blackwell brought the boy. Yes, we’re well aware that this is not the recommended course of action.

We know that bringing a toddler into your bed as means of placating them could mean giving the kid the green light to use this as a strategy from here to eternity. But when you’re tired and you’ve got work the next morning, one can peer through their sleepless fog and envision a fate far worse than the possibility of rewarding a manipulative child.

Sometimes you’ve got to break a parenting rule — for Mrs. Blackwell and myself that time is 2:13 a.m.

Naturally, the boy immediately perked up once nestled between Mrs. Blackwell and I. He then commenced to dig into his catalogue of baby babble, which has grown to include about a third of the song titles in The Beatles catalogue punctuated with unrelated phrases strung together.

It’s fun, it’s cute but it was also very, very late. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hug Like You Mean It

In light of my recent reflections on life’s many awkward moments, it seemed appropriate today that I would run into an article entitled “Your Child Should Never be Forced to Hug a Relative.”

I’m sure the title hits home to many people.

If only it was this easy to spot the bad guys. 
I recall many times being forced to offer up a hug or a kiss on the cheek to a relative or family friend when I really, really didn’t want to. When you’re a kid, there are a few of those experiences that you go through that are uncomfortable, if not cringe inducing.

Unfortunately, moms and dads care little about such matters when they’re in the midst of convincing friends and family what well adjusted, family-friendly children they’re raising.

But, while offering up a hug to a bony old aunt you’ve never heard of can be a bit awkward, what’s the harm?

Well, according to the aforementioned article, plenty.

You see, apparently, once you’ve forced a child to “submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend’s feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them.”

Good God.

And here you just thought you were being polite by making your kid give Great Aunt Gertrude a hug. In reality you were forcing your kids “to touch people when they don’t want to” which “leaves them vulnerable.”

The article states explicitly what kids will be vulnerable to (and you can imagine, it’s pretty much the worst stuff imaginable).

I’ll let you decide what you think of the validity of this report. 

I agree that affection should really never be forced but, I will add that I’m extremely weary of being someone who feeds into a culture of fear. Kids pick up on that too and the last thing I want is to have raised a twelve-year old who is in reality, a suspicious, cynical 50-year old.  (That’s what boarding schools are for.)

I’m not sure what the line is here but regardless, this article got me thinking about it. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Relentless Ridicule — That's What Friends Are For

In about two weeks I’ll be reuniting with some old friends. We’ll retreat to a cabin on a lake in the middle of nowhere, drink beer and in general be boring men recounting glory days that never existed while pretending we aren’t tired by 10 pm.

I’ve lived away from my childhood home for about ten years now so meeting up with old friends is always special and if we see each other every two years, I’m fortunate.
While there might be some more checkered incidents,
most of my youth is summed up here.

Reconnecting with people who’ve known you since you were a little kid playing road hockey in front of their house grounds you — quickly. For the most part, I’ve found that to be a good thing for me.

It’s also a good thing that this reunion is happening well away from the ears of my wife, my parents, even my son who wouldn’t understand and anyone else who has come to know me in recent years. While there are no skeletons in my closet (Mrs. Blackwell knows all of the mostly boring details of my life) there are those little anecdotes that even I might not remember.

And, when it comes to my history of embarrassing moments, two facts come to mind:

1) I can’t remember them all because, frankly, there’s just too many.

2) In an ironic twist, I surrounded myself with friends who have long, detailed memories and can in fact remember them all.

Fortunately, we’re an equal opportunity crew and everyone takes their share of abuse, their turn being the sole subject of ridicule if you will.

It’s been that way for years and it will continue to be so with us.
From left: me and two people who never let me forget
every mortifying, cringe-worthy moment of my youth.

I can only imagine what Master Blackwell’s life will look like when he’s my age. Never mind what the world will look like. Who knows? Miami could be under two feet of water and our phones could be driving our cars. We can’t be sure. 

I do however, feel safe predicting that good friends will still be in fashion and, if Mrs. Blackwell and I do our jobs, the boy will have a few buddies who’ve known him long enough to remember things about him even he’s forgotten — or wishes he could.

Having a group of friends who, no matter how long they’ve gone without seeing each other, can pick up where they left off is special and the older I get the more I see just how special.

One day when he’s older maybe I’ll bring my son with me on one of these trips so that he can learn firsthand that his father isn’t the sophisticated, cool cat he knows him to be.

I’m sure it will come as a shock to hear stories of his father being anything but cool and far from sophisticated and I know there’s a group of guys more than willing to fill him in.