Wednesday, March 25, 2015

baby FAQ, month 11

Q: Eleven months??

A: I know! What happened? Oh, right, the bony hands of time.

Q: Any big developments?

A: She has some teeth coming in on top. Eyeteeth, though, not front teeth; apparently she is a vampire. Which would explain why nothing can induce screaming quite like the sun falling across her face in the car.

Q: Well, fangs will help with tearing into that solid food, right?

A: I don't see how she could tear more into it than she does now. Her trencherman skills generate wonder from bystanders when we go out to eat, and the report from daycare this week was that she demanded seconds for lunch and then fell asleep while eating, without ceasing to eat. Her eyes were completely shut but she was still bringing food to her mouth. I'm so proud. I think.

Q: Is she talking?

A: Not really. As people seem to delight in telling me, how early she's meeting all her physical milestones means she won't talk until she's about four and then will have a terrible time with grammar. Because no one can be intelligent and athletic! Apparently the popular wisdom around childhood development is based on high school stereotypes, and my child has already been labeled a jock.  

Q: How is your perpetual daycare guilt?

A: Diminishing, actually. I finally sat myself down and really thought about being home with her, and the enormous responsibility that is, and how ill-suited I am to it. Which is not to say that I'm ill-suited to being a mother - well, maybe I am, but that's not the point. Home with her, I would probably manage to keep her fed and clean and mostly uninjured. But if I were home with her, the only way she'd have access to kids her age is if I went out and found those families and made (shudder) playdates. The only way she'd have access to certain games and toys and learning experiences would be if I arranged them. The only instruction she'd receive on letters or numbers or colors before kindergarten would have to come from me. And the immense pressure of finding a good daycare was, for me, nothing to the pressure of being solely responsible for my child's intellectual and social development in the first five years. I am sure there are parents who are thrilled and excited about that responsibility, and jump right into the playdates and lesson plans and sensory activities. Which is awesome! But it's not for me.

Q: And what are her caregivers teaching her this month?

A: That dinosaurs and babies co-existed, if we are to judge from the temporary wall mural entitled "DAWN OF THE BABIES" and featuring a dinosaur surrounded by little caveman figures with photos of the babies pasted on their faces.


A: It is an amazing sight, and I will miss it when it is taken down. (Note: I have seen the older kids' classrooms, and they are not actually being taught that dinosaurs and humans co-existed. Relatives: breathe!)

Q: What have you read in the time you save by not designing sensory activities or being the parent who points out chronological inaccuracies in the Infant Room decoration?

A: Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, by Cristin Aptowicz. There wasn't a whole lot of intrigue in this, but there was a great deal of innovation. I have been to the Mütter Museum, but knew almost nothing about the doctor himself. A solid biography, with the added horror factor of describing the state of medicine in the early and mid-nineteenth century. Makes me more grateful than ever that I was born when I was, and more inclined to sneer at the hectoring "women have done this naturally for centuries" peer pressure towards childbirth. And how'd that work out for everyone? Oh, both women and babies died in droves? Sounds like a tradition we should definitely keep up through shame! Or maybe each individual woman could have agency over her individual experience, JUST SAYING. I like to think Dr. Mütter would agree with me. He certainly didn't have much patience with his colleagues who said that easing pain during childbirth goes against what God wants.

A Death on Diamond Mountain: A True Story of Obsession, Madness, and the Path to Enlightenment, by Scott Carney. I told you it's always "a true story of [something], madness, and [something]"! Always! Anyway, this was my Early Reviewers book about a dude who joined a faux-Buddhist cult and starved himself to death in the desert, while his wife tried to heal him through prayer instead of getting the help which would have saved his life. It's a very well-reported book about terrible, manipulative people.

Sixpence House, by Paul Collins. A slim memoir about Collins trying to move his young family to a town in Wales which has almost more bookstores than inhabitants. When Collins talks about books, it's fun; when he talks about other things, I wasn't as interested.

Gone to Ground, by John Harvey. Very dull police procedural.

The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein, by Dorothy Hoobler. Biography / literary study of Shelley, Byron, Mary Shelley, and others in their circle. I liked it a lot.

Season of Darkness, by Maureen Jennings. Another very dull police procedural.

Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell. Funny popular history about presidential assassinations. Good times. 

And now I must dash if I am to shower before the baby wakes. It's a rare morning when - even getting up at four - I actually manage to work out, shower, and eat breakfast, but I'm okay with our routine. I'm okay with everything about our ravenous vampire jock baby. (A shame about her mullet, though.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

a few books and highly-adaptable guilt

Perdita is now ambulatory in a bipedal fashion, by which I mean: we're boned. She is still doing the zombie-stagger, but she's always been quick to perfect a physical skill once she's learned it. Her hurling-items-to-the-floor ability, for example, is unrivalled. So I imagine there will be running in the near future. Oh man.

The daycare guilt continues to be hilarious in its determination to reshape itself to any situation. Her current daycare didn't actually have five days available, so one day a week she's at a new place, and I felt horrible about making her adapt to a place she didn't know, and terrified about leaving her at a place I didn't know, and so on. This Monday was her first day there, and she came home with a sheet listing the "developmental skills I worked on today" and a picture of her working on her fine motor skills by making a collage. Also they clean and sterilize the bottles for you (which is good, because I managed to forget everything except the actual baby when I picked her up, so those will be some clean bottles waiting for us next Monday), and wash any dirtied clothes, and have an in-house cook. It is ridiculous.

So now, of course, I feel guilty that she's not at this place five days a week. Never mind that at the place she's been for seven months I know that she is safe and cherished and has lots of friends, and she's clearly not lacking in terms of developing skills, and it's as close to affordable as a non-sketchy daycare in eastern Massachusetts gets (insert hollow laugh)... but in their daily reports there are occasional misspellings and frequent abuse / neglect of apostrophes, and she has never made a collage, and so if I leave her there her Ivy League chances are shot, right? You have to include daycare collages in the application package, don't you? And a child exposed to an erroneous apostrophe before the age of one will never recover, we all know that.

The thing is, I am not actually more comfortable with the new place. Some of that is its newness, but some of it is just that it is so giant and industrial and sanitized, and so obviously dedicated to Visible Learning to show the parents (which is not to say that Visible Learning doesn't result in real things learned; it does; it just seems a little show-offy when the kid's at an age when all fine motor skills are used in the service of trying to eat non-edible items, including the developmental skills report itself). But there is part of me convinced that if I really had her welfare and future in mind, I would switch her immediately to the full week at Fancy-Pants Learnatorium. I shouldn't prefer the other place. Staff members there have visible tattoos, and not in a hipster Cambridge way.

I suppose if I was a really dedicated mother, I would stay at home with her and personally craft a curriculum up to the Learnatorium's standards. Ha! Merely contemplating that makes me need to lie down for about three days. It also reminds me that the pressure, like the guilt, will adapt itself to any situation. There will always be some reason why you're not a good enough mother, no matter what you do, so screw it. She will thrive at her current place and learn about apostrophes at home. (Berowne will teach cooking and carpentry and sailing and music, and I will cover apostrophes. Seems fair.)

What I have read lately, other than the Learnatorium's parent handbook, which is about the length of the Canterbury Tales:

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears, by Pema Chödrön. Short and soothing, though not my favorite of her works.

The Ides of April, by Lindsey Davis. She's moved on to a series about her previous hero's daughter. I didn't like this, unfortunately, and don't think I'll keep reading in the series. Which always means that in about six months I will totally get the next book in the series out of the library, not because I forget that I didn't like the first but that when it comes to books I am an incurable optimist. I just can never stop hoping that every book I pick up is going to be awesome, and no matter how disappointing a once-enjoyed author has become, when I see that s/he has a new book out, I always go, "Ooo!" I will never learn!

The Killing of Crazy Horse, by Thomas Powers. Powers wants to show, I think, that the death of Crazy Horse really was the moment when everything ended for the Native people of America, but in service of this idea he jumps all over the place chronologically and goes on tangents about the players in the story, and I got pretty bored by this.  

On a weather-related note: I was kind of hoping, as many of us around here were, for just two more inches of snow, to break the record. And the current situation is nasty and slushy and there's no place for all the water to go. But when I take the dog outside in the morning, and the sound all around us is that of melting, I swear it is like bells. We'll surely have some more wintery weather before it's all over, but I at least will be greeting spring as gladly as Demeter this year.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

baby FAQ, month 10

Q: Any big milestones?

A: The other night she took four shuffling unassisted steps. But the important thing is that she took them to get to her bookshelf, after we had tried bribing her with food, toys, and the long-suffering dog. "She walked for books!" I shrieked. "SHE WALKED FOR BOOKS!" Never mind that her primary goal in reaching said bookshelf is to take all the books off the shelf and throw them on the floor. SHE WALKED FOR BOOKS.

Q: How many of her books are you ready to take outside and throw on the grill because you have already had to read them 6,000 times?

A: There are three primary contenders. I can only imagine how much worse this is going to get.

Q: How's the mommy guilt?

A: Berowne starts a new job tomorrow, about which we're very excited and happy. But it does mean Perdita will now be in day care five (long) days a week instead of three. And my guilt and anxiety are so extreme that you'd think she's starting day care for the first time, instead of thriving there for over seven months. I should probably keep reminding myself that if I were home with her all day, within a week I might be deliberately feeding certain books to the dog. (Not to mention the minor point that we would no longer be able to pay the mortgage or have health insurance. We need both incomes, which means my guilt is less about the fact that I genuinely enjoy and derive self-worth from my job and more about a conviction that I should have accepted I had no right to be a mother as long as I had to keep working full-time. In other words, my guilt is stupid.)

Q: Are you feeling guilt about having so few FAQ about her in this post?

A: Absolutely, although I am trying to blog with her sleeping on me and that is challenging, hence the brevity.

Q: Does she still sense a great disturbance in the Force when you want to eat?

A: Yup. The quickest way to make her either wake up or throw a tantrum where she was previously happy as a clam is for me to think about eating something. 

Q: What have you read lately?

A: London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets, by Peter Ackroyd. Mildly interesting, though I think you need to know London to appreciate it.

A Lady by Midnight, by Tessa Dare. Very cute romance novel, although it does ask us to believe that a malnourished street urchin grows up to be your standard Stud McHugeLarge. But that was my only quibble, and an adorable dog features prominently. I am a woman of simple tastes, really.

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, by A. J. Jacobs. Jacobs decides to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. It's an entertaining and rather cute book.

Company of Liars, by Karen Maitland. A really really good novel set during the plague in England, although the Evil Child character is way too over-the-top for only one other character to realize that she's evil. Everyone else is all, "Awww, sweet little thing, we must protect her!" while she's casting runes and killing small animals and intoning, "You're all going to die," (seriously), and even if you're running from the plague and really starved for cuteness in your life, I think there is a limit.

John Saturnall's Feast, by Lawrence Norfolk. Novel set during the English Civil War and about a cook. Our hero is the only character with more than two dimensions - his love interest is never anything but sort of snobbishly crabby for the entire book - but I really liked Norfolk's writing style and the descriptions of food and the manor house's kitchen were great.

Stone's Fall, by Iain Pears. Huge novel in three parts with three different narrators. The parts diminish in interest and sympathy as they go on, unfortunately; I liked the first section, the second was okay, and the third was a slog. 

The Mummy Case, by Elizabeth Peters. This series of period mysteries continues to be adorable, though the precocious child character is wearying.

Unfamiliar Fishes, by Sarah Vowell. A brief history of New England missionaries in Hawaii. I enjoyed it, even if it's a subject I'm not passionate about. 

Q: How's the snow? 

A: Still here, in plenty. We've had several days of bright sun when it's too cold for anything to melt, which is kind of grim. However, we can see the clothesline again, so that has to be a good sign, right?