Sick Bags

I wonder how little humans think of traveling? Do they know they are miles and miles from home? Or is home to them just being near mom and dad? Do they feel the passage of time and space like we do and are just unable to communicate it or is it all just pops and buzzes until they get another sippy cup full of milk?

I think of these things when we plan trips to far off lands. It's not like we go on vacation a lot, but even road trips to San Antonio gets me thinking about baby-time and toddler-time and how they relate to adult-time. I also think about how jumping in the car and heading to New Orleans, at one point a grand idea, is now nearly out of the question. It's not that Rowan travels poorly, it's that I have no patience in packing for these excursions. I give Cheryl enough guff for packing 12 pairs of socks for a weekend in Houston. I nearly blow a gasket when I think of all the kid stuff we have to add to it. It's not for the patient or weak of heart. Trips to Houston have evolved from cloth diapers to disposable because lugging around 20 dirty diapers in a grocery sack was starting to get hazardous to our sense of hygene.

It's not to say that all trips are bad, but the reason you go on vacation is to get away from it all. Somehow taking a diaper bag and suitcases and toys and books and toiletries to me isn't really getting away, just taking it somewhere else. I'm just transporting a lot of stuff to another geographic location, and I hope to hell it fits in with the decor and outlets. Getting away would be winning that vacation show that doesn't tell where you're going and you can't take much with you. That's getting away.

But guess what, I can't do that. Cheryl can't do that. Well we could, but only for a short time. It's not like either of us can just pack up and leave the familial unit for two weeks and jaunt about in the Mediterranean. But it's part of being a parent, and sometimes the little trips to Sea World or the zoo is enough to keep you sane while at the same time running around like a crazy person making sure your pride and joy isn't getting her fingers bitten off. Watching a child learn and grow and explore is a kind of vacation. You stop being so clinical and logical and responsible and just open your mind to the wonders that surround you.


Miniature Evolution

People may wonder what it's like always writing about one certain thing, one person. I can hear it now in an email from someone surfing in on a whim, "Don't you get tired of constantly recounting such small events? Don't you do anything else in your life?" The answers of course are No and Yes. Both Cheryl and I have plenty to do. A lot of it isn't fun, but it doesn't necessarily involve Rowan either. We have our hobbies and our interests that we do our best to make time for on a daily basis. Sometimes we have time, sometimes we run out. But if you pause for a moment and think about it, wouldln't you want to be there for every advancement your child takes? I was beside myself when she said "wow," her mouth got really small, then really big, then really small again and this soft timbre poured out of it in a gentle little "wow." Rowan has a whispery voice, almost gravely, like she was a womb-smoker, and to think that I'll miss one new word just terrifies me. Have you ever heard a parent tell another parent that their child just said a new word or did a new task or action? The parent that missed out has this tone of voice and change of posture like they missed the only day of sunshine in 200 years.

Let me tell you, it's worth it. I've never played a video game or read a comic or have seen a movie (with one or two exceptions) that make me feel as good as watching Rowan learn something new. It's like a drug, I want her to evolve and evolve exponentially until she's merely a creature of light, barely existing in our plane of reality. In between the crying and the whining and the tantrums are long periods of laughing and giggling and monkey-see-monkey-do. And from one monkey to another, it's just priceless. Right now she can probably say between 10-15 words and understands what they are. A few of them are crystal clear, others a bit mushy. (We know "schle" means "fish" because that's what she says when she points to a fish. I don't think F's are quite picked up yet.)

So it comes as no surprise then that I find myself spending huge amounts of time talking to, tickling and tormenting Rowan. I don't mean torment like hang in the iron maiden and start pulling chains, but I like testing her boundaries, just like she's starting to test ours. I like to see how much poking she can take before she melts down. I like hiding things from her until she either loses interest or starts swinging. It's only fair. She needs to learn that the world is not about her and when she pushes my envelope, I'm right there to push back. I need to know what I can expect from her as a person, that's how we learn to relate. Some may think I'm mean, but I've got her best interests at heart with most every action I take and I'll pit that against anyone who says they're a good parent but don't know what makes their kids mad.


What did I just say?

It's come to my attention that it's really hard to discipline kids. I'm just as convinced that Mrs. Squiggles is a special case, as she seems to want to laugh when you discipline her. Seriously, Cheryl and I cannot find a way to make her understand that her actions are incorrect according to societal norms. We can't punish her because she thinks it's a game. We've tried time outs, spankings, ear pulling, hand swatting, toy removing, scolding, ignoring, and even stern leanings on with about as much success as Martha Stewart selling IMClone the day before. It's just not working. Frankly we're getting a little concerned that our daughter is a masochist and loves pain. Funny thing to say about a 15 month old but I can't image any other reason.

The bad thing is that she's at the age where she knows that there are reactions to her actions. She knows that hitting a bright orange star makes it beep a tinny rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle" (which I just figured out is the same tune as the Alphabet Song. Just never put the two together, but that's another story...) She’s just not at the stage that she understands that her actions have consequences, not just reactions. She's still at the cause/effect level. So it's hard to teach her this. "Yes when you bite something it makes your teeth and jaw feel good. But you can't bite people because it hurts them." Do you think a 15 month old would understand that? Well don't because she doesn't.

So it's hard to teach them right from wrong, it's also hard to understand when they reach the teachable age. When will they understand these things? Also, will it ever stop making my heart ache when I take a toy away from her and she sticks that bottom lip out and makes that face like "How DARE you remove that object of amusement and pacification. My only recourse now, dear father, is to make you feel like a heel." Commence the barrage of salt water pain.

I'm sure parents have grappled with this for ages; how, when and to what extent you should discipline your child. But why does it seem like we were better kids? Why does it seem like our parents had it easier? We weren't bad kids were we? Did we bite other children? Did we slap our parents in the face then laugh like a clown just farted? Did we collapse in a heap when we didn't get our way?

Of course we did, silly. That's why grandparents are so happy.


Future Perfect

I’ve given a lot of thought to what Rowan might be when she grows up. All parents do. Anthropomorphize the child. (In fact, can we actually do that? Anthropomorphization is specifically for non-humans performing actions that we assign human actions to. A child is a human, but until a certain age they act on instinct like a cat or dog would. Would this be called homogimorphization? And can I add that word to my Word spell check?) At any rate, we do it to kids. They smash a Playskool keyboard and suddenly they’re going to be a concert pianist. They like jumping on the bed, they’re going to be Bella Coroli’s next protégé.

It’s egotistical really. At heart all parents just want their children to be happy and healthy. With that in mind, why do we assign these futures to our kids? Is it to make us feel better about having them? Are we that worried that they’re going to be failures that we have to give them an occupation before they get a full mouth of teeth? As much as Rowan thrills me when I watch her learn to run without falling over, I’m torn over letting my imagination move with thoughts of a famous athlete daughter and being true to her as a small human, just celebrating the small feats. I wish I could ask her. “Do you mind if Daddy trumps up a lifetimes worth of proxy admirations or would you rather I simplify your existence and only focus on the present?” But I can’t. I can’t even guess what the answer would be.

Honestly? I hope she’s an Olympic hockey player. It’s hard thinking of that living in Texas, but we have hockey here too. I’m from a cold climate. I played a little street hockey. I think it’d be neat. Or maybe an artist. There’s really nothing she could be that would upset me. Cheryl has a more beneficent approach; she just wants to see her happy and healthy. It really puts me in my place. There’s no greed there, no misplaced yearnings of past youth. “Just be you, I’ll have to deal with my own childhood in my own way, I won’t force it on you.” That’s nice. A lot of parents should see that. A lot of the parents who get competitive during tee-ball games should be that way. Just because you have an overextended desire to reach back into the past and be something you’re not, don’t use that poisonous nostalgia to shape a life that’s only yours for a while. Children are to be molded, not controlled. Eventually they will become people like us. I can hear all the soccer moms and dads now. “But I’m teaching them teamwork and social skills.” You can get that by being in girl scouts or a church group, it doesn’t have to be sports. Being in these leagues is ok, but I would be afraid that it teaches kids about being TOO competitive, too eager to beat another kid at something, too happy when someone else looses. I’ve nothing against these parents, I just hope my kid would do something a bit more intellectual. Why? Because I was in sports as a kid and I’d rather she didn’t turn out like her old man.

And I’ve officially gone on a rampage of thinking leading to a different point altogether.

I hope Rowan grows older, never grows up. I hope she becomes a happy kid, a decent and smart teenager, a fine young lady, a strong mother, and a fun old bat. And I hope she outlives me.