Feeble Knees

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ch-Ch-Ch-Change Me!

Oh the changes that have taken place in the past nine months. Me changes. Mr. F changes. Bug changes. Diaper changes.

This is the new song Mr. F came up with for use during diaper changes. To the tune of David Bowie's "Changes" we sing:
"Ch-Ch-Ch-Change Me!
Turn and face the strange odor
Ch-Ch-Ch-Change Me!
Oh look out this one's a stinker!"

This is just one of the new hidden talents that have emerged post-baby: our ability to parody any song a la Weird Al Yankovic. I have sung "Dry that Baby" to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus, "Clean Up The Baby" to the tune of "Roll Out the Barrel" and so many more that don't immediately spring to mind but always seem handy when the occasion warrants. Apparently there is nothing like a happy tune to distract my cranky guy and make him grin. Maybe it's not my singing that cheers him as the complete idiot I voluntarily become in an effort to snap him out of a fuss.

Which leads me to another thing that has changed in the last nine months: our complete surrender of personal pride. Oh the things you do to keep a happy baby happy, or nip a fuss in the bud. We've worn strange things on our heads, made noises and faces that'd make Jim Carrey proud. We've acted like gorillas, we've danced silly dances to the hum of silly tunes, we've bonked ourselves on the head with toy hammers that go BOING! There is not much room for pride in the life of a parent. It just gets in the way.

Another change: the relinquishing of self-will.

You want to go to the store to buy a book for someone. This takes a great deal of tactical planning. It is currently 11:30 am. You'd like to go at one, but you can't go at one because the baby needs to nap somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00 and he will NOT nap in the car, thank you, nor will he nap in the huge cushy overpriced stroller that looks like a Lunar Lander Model (LEM). So, knowing he'll nap for exactly 38 minutes (give or take two minutes) the earliest you can probably attempt the trip is 3:00 (don't ask me why this doesn't add up mathematically. It does add up if you apply the Infant Unconstant to the equation.) Ok, so 3:00 it is. You start packing the diaper bag now, before lunch, so you'll be ready to go.

Of course baby throws you a curve and decides he doesn't want to nap until 2:30, which he communicates by means of very loud protestations and banging of feet on the crib walls when you attempt to put him down at 1:30. You could fight it, and try to wait him out but he'll just scream and holler until you finally give up and take him out of the crib at 2:10. Immensely pleased with your capitulation, he will play for ten minutes and then cry to be held, whereupon he promptly sacks out in your lap.

Okay, 2:30 it is.

He sleeps exactly 38 minutes. It is 3:08. You could go now, but it's twelve minutes to the store. Then you have to find the book, then ideally you'd like to browse for a few minutes. But now you're treading on dangerous ground because The Big Fuss Hour starts on the dot at four PM. You might be able to make it out and back if you left THISINSTANT, but you can't go at THISINSTANT because he just pooped and that's going to take a couple minutes to deal with. Then there's the getting one little squirmy body into his car seat. And the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking ever closer to the Hour of Reckoning.

You have two choices: give up and try to get out tomorrow morning when his disposition is generally sunnier and you run less risk of dealing with a complete meltdown in a nice quiet bookstore filled with people who will shoot loathsome "how-dare-you-reproduce" looks in your direction. Or you can screw your courage to the sticking place and hit the road.

Do you feel lucky punk?

It is situations like these that have taught me, time and time again, that some times it's a good thing to surrender my own agenda for the sake of world peace. I could drag him out and then have to take him out of the stroller when he begins whining and stretching out his arms in a pitiful attempt to grab my leg. Then I'd have to bounce him vigorously on one hip to calm him down while repeatedly trying to catch the binky as he spits it forcefully towards the floor.

Maybe I could do it one day when I'm in great shape and don't have so much pain in this creaky arthritic frame of mine, but not this day. Maybe there will be a day when I won't be sensitive to the stares, disapproving looks and hostility of other store patrons, but not this day.

This day, we stay home.

This is just one example of how a child (can) impact your life and choices. Some more stout-hearted than I would maybe still forge out into the wilds of suburban strip malls with their wailing progeny in tow. I can't do that, and I won't do it. That puts a few limitations on me. Some would say I'm depriving myself. Well, yeah, I am. Momentarily. Temporarily. For Now. There will be time for bookstore trips and such like when the child is older. It's tough and sometimes it's annoying and frustrating. But in the end it's the right thing for me to do. I have to pick my health and sanity over trivial things, which forces me to examine everything I'm tempted or inclined to do and answer myself honestly "is this wise? is this prudent?"

I also used to be a pretty dignified person, maybe a little starchy and withdrawn to some. I've been broken of that too. That's not a bad thing, all things considered. I like to think my sense of humor is being refined and forged by fire. I'm more likely to laugh off things like getting pooped or peed on. And if you can laugh that off brother, you'd be amazed what else you can take in stride.

Which brings me to perhaps the biggest change I've noticed in the last few months. It's been a hard lesson but an invaluable one. I'm still learning it and in no way have mastered it. It has the power to completely change the outcome of any situation, however foul.

Attitude Adjustment.

Having a child and having a bad attitude are not a good mix. You can't have both under one roof and expect to survive the day without losing your mind. So the attitude has to go. Feeling bad for yourself for getting pooped on has to go. Resentment over not being able to go out and do all the things you used to do has to go. Feeling like you're going to put an ice pick through your head if you have to play with that same blasted toy again for the N-teenth time has to go. Focusing on all the bad things that happened today (getting pooped on, multiple fuss sessions, the screaming fit he threw when you tried to change him) all have to go.

It's as though a light's been shined on all my crummy thoughts (and everyone has them at some point...if you're a parent, this means you too... don't lie!) and I've been shown that keeping them around in my brain is a choice and really I could do without them. They don't help. It's not that I deny I'm having them, or that I'll ever prevent them from popping up, weed-like, where they are least wanted. But I don't have to nurse them. I don't have to cultivate them to the point of seeding even more crummy thoughts.

You would think that as a dedicated Christian who reads the Bible and studies God's word in earnest, that I'd have learned this before. To some extent I did, and I would have told you before Bug that I had a good handle on my "Thought Life" and keeping things clean. But since Bug, it's gone so much deeper into areas I never paid any mind to - all the real nitty-gritty storehouses of selfishness that have built up and calcified over my thirty five years.

So how have things changed? Well, I can't say I've managed a lot of change in this area other than to become aware the problem exists and to arm myself against it. This means recognizing an ugly thought when it raises its head ("I am so sick of rolling this stupid soccer ball back and forth") and attempting to neutralize it or redirect my thinking. ("He's growing up so fast, soon he'll be running around with this in the back yard.")

Just this slight mental adjustment has the power, if I let it, to turn my mood around to focus on something more positive, good, pure and hopeful. Some days require constant re-adjustments like this. Someday he won't want to cuddle anymore and he won't be this clingy, so I should enjoy this now and get my hugs in while I can. He's so strong now, wriggling in my arms. Remember when you were desperate to put weight on him? Look at him now, he's healthy and growing just the way he should.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

And when all else fails, sing silly songs. Repeatedly. World without end. Hallelujah, Amen!
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