Saturday, December 29, 2012

Babies, Kids, The Whole Nine Yards

I recently visited the neighbor girl that used to baby sit me as a kid. She is married and lives with her husband in San Francisco. They brought their lil man Hudson. It was the big visit to Grandma and Grandpa in Pittsburgh. Hudson was the cutest little man. Well behaved, he was a keen observer. We gave him a Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear. Usually at that age, Winnie the Pooh is the big staple. It’s not scary and plus he won’t swallow anything. At eight months, Hudson is a fearless explorer like the river named after the British pathfinder. This Christmas, one of his discoveries was tissue paper. To Hudson, tissue paper is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Actually, it may even be better.

To attract him to the Winnie the Pooh bear, his possible future sleeping companion when he goes through the Boogey Man phase, his father shook the red tissue paper in the bag. Hudson, fascinated and ready for adventure, crawled towards the bag and tugged at the paper until it came out. There was more, and it would be work. So his father simply removed the rest of it and gave his little man the bear.

As old and jaded as I am, I couldn’t imagine being that small. I couldn’t imagine tissue paper being the world of the unknown, the exotic. I couldn’t imagine the world being so big. But I guess when you are crawling it is big and dangerous, and dogs are probably giant scary creatures as big as a T-Rex.

As Hudson went for the bear, crawling on all fours, the first stage of human development and ironically like the stuffed creature who was his gift, he bumped his head. As he crawled he bumped his head again, and again. Hudson didn’t cry. He didn’t even let out an inkling that it hurt. Little eight month old Hudson soldiered on.

As he kept crawling he kept bumping his head over and over again!

It was adorable in a way, because when he didn’t get it he had grit and determination to just keep going. Although little, you can tell he is a tough guy already. I gasped hoping the child wouldn’t get hurt. To Hudson it was no big deal. He was learning to crawl. His parents were good about it but I found myself having a small heart attack everytime he bumped his head. Football players bump their heads, but they wear helmets. If I bumped my head I would worry about brain damage and probably cry. In a way, Hudson is stronger than most adults. But still, that is a lot of head bumping. Wow.

I talked to my mother later. I asked her if the bumping of the heads is normal for children. She said it was actually very normal for children when they learned to crawl, and that is why parents with crawling infants put down carpeting and other padding so the little ones don’t get hurt and that they can explore safely. For as cute as Hudson was, a baby can sure give you a heart attack. They are high risk little creatures.

 Skipper was quick to point out that it made sense that a baby would hit it’s head learning to crawl. It’s head was the biggest part of the makeup and the rest of the body had to catch up. I asked my mother if she was prepared ahead of time for this as the oldest of six, her being seventeen years older than her baby brother. “No, you learn everything the first time with kids of your own.” My mom said.

We talked a little bit about a kid’s first year of life. My mom said that it took a while for a baby to sleep through the night. I asked her why babies just didn’t sleep like normal people. Skipper said their head was big, their body was little, and they had to almost triple their body weight within their first year of life. That is a lot of eating to do so that they could make those growth markers, and because their stomachs are so teeny they by-pass food quickly so they need to eat constantly. My mom added that until a child is two, if it doesn’t wake up on time you need to worry about things like crib death. She told us that when we didn’t wake up at exactly the same time she would panic. Babies are cute, but this is another way they give adults mini-heart attacks.

We talked about pregnancy. My mom said she was sick the entire time. I asked my mother why people did it more than once. My mom smiled and said, “Usually it is by accident.”

Then my sister Skipper told me when she was delivering babies in her medical school class with my brother Wendell-that less than two percent of the children she delivered were planned. Skipper informed me that many of the mothers insisted they used birth control. Apparently it does fail two percent of the time.

Oh no!

Weight gain, morning sickness, painful birth, no sleep, and then worrying if they might get injured or die in their crib in their first two years are a lot of stress. It’s not like it gets better. That is just the beginning. Kids cost money. You have to buy them clothes. You have to insure them in case they become ill. You have to buy them more clothes when they grow out of their clothes. You need to potty train them and not get angry when they go everywhere. Oh and when they learn to talk and learn to say no they get on your last nerve. Those are the times you want to send them into the woods and hope for the best. But then you don’t. Part out of love, but partly because Child Services doesn’t look kindly on the Hansel and Gretel parenting approach.

Of course there is school. There is not expecting a genius because you probably won’t get one, but praying they aren’t too horribly retarded. There are spelling words, math facts, reading books, science projects, the dreaded parent teacher conference and PTA. Oh and then there is hoping your kid makes friends and hoping they fit in. There is teaching them not to be bully meat and then hoping that they don’t master the lessons too well so that they become the bully.

Junior high is a nightmare. There is the whole clique thing, the whole dating thing, the whole hormone thing. And that goes with a bad attitude. That is knowing your kid will disobey you and disappoint you because they want to be adult. But they aren’t adults, and yet the big, bad world is beginning to beckon. It’s harder to get them to study and focus when some new hit show in on TV. It is acne and the crying if it’s a girl or the fist fighting stage if it’s a boy. And again, it’s not releasing them into the wild during this phase as well.

Then there is high school. They aren’t as bratty. But now there are new worries. They want to date and be unsupervised. You now run the risk of getting an early grandchild. There is learning to drive and hoping they don’t crash and hoping their friends are safe drivers. And then there is the whole after school activities and finding what is right for them. There are college visits, college apps, refinancing the home so you can pay for college because FAFSA is a freaking joke if you don’t live in a box.

After that they go to college and you hope that they don’t flunk out or meet their premature end during a night or partying. There is hoping that again they don’t get pregnant, don’t get mono, don’t get sick with something with you so far away. But now you are releasing them into the wild and hoping for the best because they are over eighteen. The wild of being away and new ideas. You hope they remember their roots, remember your values, and remember to wear fresh underwear every day. You also hope you can pay for the next semester. And you wish they were little again, but then you remember that was no free lunch either.

The next step is the journey to adulthood, where you worry about them being gainfully employed and finding a partner who treats them well and doesn’t use them as financial support or as a punching bag. You worry about them being on their own and hoping they are good people, at least you tried, right? You hope that they don’t break the law because now they can really punish them. You hope someone doesn’t hurt them. You hope they are making good decisions. Hope is the key word here, because now you can’t change their minds.

And then when they raise their kids, they don’t want to listen to anything you say. What do you know? You only had a few of your own. But now you can be grandma and give them candy when Mom and Dad aren’t looking.

I don’t understand why teenagers just have sex and think it’s going to be easy once they have a baby. It sounds like hard work and quite frankly, horrific if you aren’t ready. I asked my mother why anyone wanted kids as I laid out all the things you have to go through and how sometimes they are a headache. She said, “Kids make you laugh and are funny. And Hudson is soooo cute.”

Yes, Hudson is cute. Cute and a lot of work.

Kids are cute, and a lot of work.

I’m cute and I’m a lot of work. Ask my mom.

I think I can wait until I am about one hundred to have children. In this day and age it seems nothing is stress free and safe, not even an elementary school.
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
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Portion of proceeds go to the children's library at Sandy Hook Elementary School

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