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It creeps in gradually, piece by piece, until you finally realise it and it hits you: your love has changed. All the milestones, all the little things you watch for and monitor and keep track of, they add up as time goes on and it’s not until you step back, away from the details, and you see the bigger picture, that the pieces making up the whole have changed.
It could be because you spent Friday night with your wife just scrolling through the photos and videos on your iPad, and on the computer, and on your phones. Marvelling at the first delicate hours and the first silly smiles, laughing at the recent claps and dances, amazed that eight months passed by in two hours on the sofa.
And it could be because you had to go out and get a new car seat, because she’s outgrown her old one, and because the baby stuff store is close to your doctor’s surgery it’s a route you’ve taken a lot over the last eight months. Eight months ago they’d started building a block of condos close to Yonge and Davenport, and each time you pass it grows, and now you see it and it hits you that now there’s a building there.
It’s no longer a hole in the ground, or a shell, or a building site, it’s a building. It’s not a theoretical mass of potential, you can look beyond what it could be, because you can now see what it is.
So maybe those are the reasons you see her so differently now, maybe those are two of many contributing factors. But you think back to that little girl who came home with you from the hospital, and what it was about her that you loved: The fragility that you wanted to protect. The innocence that you wanted to preserve. The fact that she was yours, that you had made this, that this was your responsibility -
(A couple of days after coming home, your wife is in the bathroom, the baby sits in your arms as you rock on the rocking chair. She’s so new, she still looks at you with no comprehension, so you whisper, as quietly as you can, “I’m your Daddy, and I’m going to look after and keep you and your Mummy safe for as long as I can,” and by the time your wife has come out of the washroom you’ve just about wiped and hidden all the tears in your eyes)
- But the bigger picture has changed with all the little building block milestones. She has a personality now, she doesn’t just react to things. She instigates playing by hiding her face from you in her stroller. She claps and laughs when the woman in the Baby Laptop sings the ABC song. She sees you come home from work and a joyous realisation covers her face and she flaps her arms and legs in a ‘welcome home’ dance like a chubby butterfly. She dances when Taylor Swift comes on the radio, and splashes in the bath and loves peaches and carrots but not avocados and bananas.
Your love has changed, because the thing you love has changed. She’s no longer a theoretical mass of potential. She’s a little person, with a personality, and she’s a little person with a personality that you love.
An interesting thing about talking to other parents is how some of them interpret your adoption of different parenting techniques as a rebuttal of their own abilities. Somehow the fact that you’ve decided to do something different to them is, on your part, a tacit message that you think they’re terrible parents.
The conversation usually goes with them telling you that they’ve adopted Doctor Pastrami’s patented Book-Bath-Feed-Book-Feed-Sleep technique, and that it’s worked very well for them so far. You non-judgementally respond by saying you’ve had excellent results with the Sprogrest Institute’s Bath-Book-Feed-Book-Book-Feed-Sleep technique. What they hear, however, is you telling them that they’re unfit to have a child and you’ll be calling social services as soon as they’re out of earshot.
I guess most of us have the insecurity coming from the fact that we’re completely winging this whole ‘raising children’ thing, and when other people do things differently to us it comes to the fore and we get defensive.
The worst for this, I’ve found, are members of the older generation, who were often given different information, which was considered the best at the time. “Why aren’t you putting her to sleep with a smoked mackerel on her forehead?” they ask. “I always put a smoked mackerel on my children’s heads when they went to sleep, and they were wonderful sleepers.” (And if the interlocutor is your baby’s grandparent, you’ll get the additional “…and YOU turned out okay…”)
“Well,” you say in response, “at that time the perceived wisdom was that it was best to put smoked mackerel on a baby’s forehead. You were doing the correct thing at the time. But subsequent studies indicated that the practice led to a higher risk of Haddock Temples in later life, so it’s not really recommended any more.” Still, the rejection of this hitherto-accepted practice is seen as a personal insult.
“Humph,” the other person will grumble, inwardly seething at the offence. “You are still tying half a parsnip to her right elbow on Tuesday lunchtimes, though?”
“Of course,” you answer, “how else will we keep the Lymph People at bay?”
Audrey is still at the stage where she’ll pretty much only go to sleep if someone is rocking her. 99% of the time that person is me, because if her Mum rocks her Audrey just assumes milkmilkmilkmilkohmygodmilk. For this reason, I have compiled a list of my most useful and effective rocking techniques.
When I got my iPad, I did what I’m sure many other people do when receiving their first piece of Apple hardware: Googled the phrase “free iPad games”. I spent several evenings amassing a bunch of titles of varying quality, some of which I kept, some I deleted before I’d finished playing the first terrible level.
Of the games I kept, few have seen more play-time than Tiny Tower. For the uninitiated, this game basically involves building a tower block, with shops, services and residences in it. Your people live in the residences, work in the shops/services, and earn money that you can use to build more floors.
If it sounds like there’s absolutely no point to Tiny Tower, that’s because there isn’t one. Sure, you can paint the floors different colours, and move your people around, and…well, that’s it. But still, I find myself automatically opening the game and restocking my Planetarium so I can get that little bit closer to the $3,000,000 I need to build my next floor and open a sushi bar.
I’ve found myself questioning my sanity for this game (and a newer game by the same company that involves airplanes). There’s no point to it. I’m not beating any high score set by another person or myself previously. I’m not going to get to some end point and see a cool animation and congratulatory message. It’s growth for growth’s sake. I’m just going to keep building this bloody tower for the sole purpose of building more floors in this bloody tower.
A while ago my wife bought an app on the recommendation of a friend. It’s called Baby Log, but I call it Baby: the Game. When the baby eats, we go to the app and enter the time spent on each boob or the amount of milk from the bottle. When we change her diaper, we note its contents. When she falls asleep, we hit ‘start’ in the Sleep module. When she wakes up, we et cetera.
Ostensibly the reason behind this app is making sure our child is displaying the requisite number of bowel movements, reminding my wife which breast she needs to start feeding Audrey on in the next feed and hey the app says we started bathing her fifteen minutes ago we should probably check on her by now oh good she’s ready.
But having been conditioned by these pointless-yet-engrossing build-a-tower/airforce/planet games, I’m becoming convinced that the growth of my child is inextricably linked to my interaction with Baby: The Game. If I feed her but forget to enter it into the app, well, it didn’t count. The poor thing’s probably starving. Did she fall asleep at 7:45 or 7:50? Those five minutes could mean the difference between levelling up later today or having to wait until tomorrow.
Yes, that’s right. “Levelling up.” The app doesn’t give any indication of this, but if we keep playing, Audrey levels up. It’s like in Tiny Tower, how I moved a new bunch of residents into the building yesterday because I’d earned enough money to build a new apartment. On Tuesday we’d accumulated enough milk feeds and sleeptime in Baby: The Game that she levelled up and can now watch the mobile above her crib rotate.
It might not seem like much right now, but it’s early days. I hear later on, I can use 1300 dirty diapers to purchase the ability to make consonant sounds. That’s going to be awesome.
“Okay guys, today I’m going to show you how to hold a baby. So, let’s say this is your baby, okay? Yes, Gregory, you have a question?
“No, Gregory, this isn’t your baby. This is a doll.Your baby is still inside your wife. Yes, that’s the lumpy bit in the middle. We went through this last week, Gregory; you might want to check your notes.
“Okay, going back to holding the baby. this way here is acceptable; like this is not acceptable, as it could damage the baby. Note the difference. Why don’t you take it in turns to practice? While you’re doing that I’ll go over some of the…sorry, what’s that Gregory?
“No, Gregory, as I said before, it’s a doll. It’s not moving because it’s a doll. It was never alive, Gregory.
“Look…please stop crying, Gregory.
“Okay, that’s better. Now, show me again how you were holding the baby - sorry, doll - just now, just before you thought you’d killed it. Okay class, can anyone tell me what’s wrong with the way Gregory is holding the baby?
“That’s correct Linda. The baby is upside down. Sorry Gregory, I know it’s not easy, but you’ll get the hang of it. This part is the head, and these things here are the legs. That’s better, now it’s the right way up. Excellent! Now, is Gregory holding the baby correctly now, class?
“Very good, Colin, that’s correct. Gregory is holding the baby by its neck, which is quite dangerous and could result in the baby losing consciousness.
“Oh God, Gregory, I told you before, it’s not dead, it’s a doll. I’m not going to call the police, it’s not a real…you know what? Class dismissed. I think we’ve all learned enough tonight. Let’s go home.
“Gregory, that’s not your wife, that’s a birthing ball.”