Saturday, November 29, 2014

baby FAQ, month 7

Q: So how good are you at putting helpful reading into practice?

A: Har. I read Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, by Judith Warner, which is a slightly dated (she wrote it in 2004, before the organic / natural / Pinterest-driven craze among the mainstream really took off) but excellently-done book about the insanity which is modern motherhood. She was the first writer I've encountered to explicitly make the connection between the huge wealth disparities in our society and how that has driven the frantic piano / French / soccer lessons for three-year-olds, because if you don't get into the right preschool and so on down to the Ivy League college, you cannot succeed as an adult. These days, being in the middle class is increasingly synonymous with drowning in debt and living paycheck to paycheck, and people want more for their children, so they try to give them every advantage even when it means draining their own already-desperate coffers and going crazy. Warner talks about the rise in children who cannot play by themselves because they have never been left unstimulated - mom's been in their face drilling them with flash cards and educational toys since they emerged from the womb, and they grow up with no imagination. (Perdita should have an excellent imagination, by this standard. As a matter of fact, I'm ignoring her right now! [Not really. She's sitting next to me at the table happily eating her Mum-Mums (non-organic) off the tray that we let the dog lick after her meals.]) Warner also waxes eloquent and appropriately-angry about the impossibilities of daycare costs and the way every mother - working full-time, working part-time, stay-at-home - is made to feel guilty and inadequate about her situation, and how the insistence that that situation was a "choice" rather than an occasionally heartbreaking necessity doesn't help anything. It's a really good book. 

Anyway, so after a day reading this book on my breaks, and agreeing wholeheartedly with it, and feeling so much calmer about being an under-achieving mom, I came home to find that Perdita had received her first "report card" from daycare. AND FAILED MANY THINGS. And the degree to which I absolutely lost my shit was both hilarious and tragic. 

She does not play with two objects at the same time. She failed completely drinking from a cup. She can't pull the cover off a hidden toy (isn't that also how you test dogs?), and got a big fat ZERO on "shows interest in discovering the consequences of own behavior" (how on earth do you tell if a seven-month-old has that interest?). 

As we went down the list, Berowne and I protested to each other that she does SO "babble more than two sounds" and say "dada" (she says it non-stop!) and "sit without support". So then we theorized that she only does all that stuff at home, and is clearly spending her time at daycare supine on the rocking swing staring silently at the wall like a Romanian orphan. 

I also said, "Okay, these measures are for 0-9 months, so she still has two months to catch up! She's not a total failure yet!" The words tasted like ashes in my mouth.

Then we got to the very bottom of the spreadsheet, and the comments section, where it said that Perdita has just discovered she can get around by rolling and is just beginning with solid food. And we were like, hey, this is literally a month out of date. And everything was okay - until I realized that the next quarter she will be ten months old, and will therefore be tested on the 10-18 month measures, which involve things like walking and speaking four-word sentences. OH MY GOD SHE WILL FAIL EVERYTHING. Time to break out the flash cards! Because the daycare assessment is presumably part of her permanent record, and the Princeton admissions office will snort with laughter at it over their brandy and cigars! 

Q: Is she at least crawling?

A: Full-on! Imagine if the only thing holding back the Flash was a bulky diaper. She's like the wind if there's a nasty nylabone in her line of sight, and faster than that if there are plugged-in power tools in the room. (Berowne was finishing some bookshelves yesterday.) Don't worry; she didn't reach the tools; my book wasn't that good. 

Q: What have you read?

A: Stone Cold, by C. J. Box. This series is getting too much about a secondary character in whom I'm not interested at all and also too gory. But I'll keep checking out the new ones, I'm sure.

I also muddled through a Val McDermid (The Vanishing Point) which wasn't any good and re-read Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers. Yesterday we got our first snow of the season and it was bitter cold, and it was the perfect day to re-read British mysteries and drink lots of tea and eat Thanksgiving leftovers. 

Q: Does she say "mama" yet?

A: No. Someone tries to convince me that she does, but if so then she's saying it in a surprisingly deep voice. 

Q: How's her signing?

A: She signs for milk, happily does high-fives for hours, and makes the "daddy" sign at the dog. So I'd say excellent. 

Q: I'm not sure the high-five counts as sign language.

A: Who are you, the Princeton admissions office? Shut up!

Next time: more between-wars British mysteries and mommy failures, I imagine. Now off to buy more Mum-Mums, although I could achieve the same long-term effect by just putting glue directly into her hair.  

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