It is December 30th. I have turned six months old. This means I will have to wait 20 or 30 more years until I receive a retrospective honoring my work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It also means that I can give myself my own retrospective right now. So here we go.
There have been many milestones in the past 180 or so days. I have progressed from a chicken-ish scrawniness to a Thunder-Thigh-ed, Popeye-armed brawniness. Whereas once I could only flop around on my back, I can now flip to my belly and back again. I am able to roll under the table and find ancient dust bunnies there which are delicious, though a bit dry. I eat oatmeal, squash, and sweet potatoes, and will move on to mango and pears soon. I have tried avocado and found it overrated. I am very ticklish. If you write me a check for $50 to my 529 education fund, I will write and tell you where to send it.
I have said ‘ha,’ and ‘ah ha’ and ‘mama’ and when I put them all together, ‘ah ha mama!’ it sounds like I have had a major revelation. There has been a revelation: I have discovered the joys of tracking. I track the cat as he walks across the room. As I track him, I practice grabbing for his tail. When I latch on to that tempting tail, I am sure something interesting will happen. I have learned that if you track a teething toy carefully you can put it in your mouth by yourself, and this is extremely satisfying. I have learned that if you roll really fast toward the Christmas tree you can grab one of the lower branches and almost get it into your mouth before your mommy stops you.
Aside from these skills, I have acquired two more: quick and expert sock removal and nap avoidance. If you need a sock quickly and expertly removed I can help with that, as long as it is the left sock. (I don’t know how to remove right socks.) I can also help you avoid taking a nap if anyone requires you to do so, no matter what their station in life is or level of authority might be; I am there for you.
In my spare time I have been reading some books about parenting and I’m struck by the changing nature of the ‘truth’ offered in them. We know that early childrearing books approved spanking. Also, enforced silence. Children should be ‘seen and not heard.’ There were rigid feeding schedules and starched-stiff clothes. And everything was in black and white back then, at least according to the illustrations in the books. We know these old school methods were a disaster, because the people raised by their commandments are now running the Republican Party. What a mess.
Then things swung the other way. There is a generation of Free Love children whose parents read somebody named Dr. Spock, and all those children raised according to Spock’s recommendations became anti-war protestors. After that, things got pretty free form, ‘anything goes.’ There is somebody named Ferber who has the cojones to suggest that you let babies cry themselves to sleep. Have they locked that guy up yet? Penelope Leach in Your Baby and Child says babies can do what they want – she’s my favorite, but she doesn’t go far enough. Today’s Attachment Parents have staked out the extreme position, moving the family power center directly to the baby. This works for me, because I figure that somebody who drools when they see a bowl of room-temp oatmeal is amply qualified to make the big decisions for everyone else. T. Berry Brazelton recognizes that babies know things and engage in pre-language dialogues with their parents. Well, duh. About time somebody figured that out.
These parenting books are kind of all over the place. What is a parent to do? Well, you might ask what parenting manual my parents use.
Let me tell you: they are still reading What to Expect When You Are Expecting! Somebody should tell them they don’t need to expect me any more. I am already here. I can’t be too hard on them, though. I have seen an old photograph of my father as a baby, in the late 1950s. He’s being held by my grandmother Jane, and she’s smoking a cigarette and there is a can of beer on the table. Parenting has come a long way. My parents do not drink beer from a can. They drink wine from a glass.