Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Full-Time Daddy Days Are Like Shnitzengruben

What the hell are shnitzengruben, you may ask? For my cinematically challenged readers, they are the German sausages Lilly Von Schtupp (Madeleine Khan) serves to Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) in Blazing Saddles, prompting an exhausted Bart to declare upon his return to the jailhouse, "Them shnitzengrubens can really wipe you out."

So now, you're saying, it all makes sense. Now that your favorite blogger/two-time parent has had a couple of months to get accustomed to this solo daddy routine, he can safely report that it remains one of the most exhausting regimens one can subject himself to. From the earlier-than-usual rising, to the non-stop calls for entertainment, to the lugging the increasingly heavy car seat around, to the frenzied rushes for warmed-up formula bottles as an end-of-his-wits 5-month old screams in the next room, it is a routine that is not for the squeamish among us 44-year-olds. Never mind the fact that I actually try to work on these days, too.

Take yesterday. A seemingly innocuous day, the highlights of which were a visit my the housekeepers, a trip to the park for some swing time, and the nightly effort to get dinner rolling with a pent-up, babbling baby in tow. Sounds pretty manageable, yes? Well, let's not forget about the other things that weave their way into the day--the driving Jackson to/from soccer practice; the scramble to de-clutter the house so the housekeepers can actually clean; a furious string of emails to schedule an interview for a story I'm working on; the attempt to repair a broken leg on one of our dining room chairs; the calls for paperwork to be faxed (and re-faxed) to my real estate agent cousin, who's helping Sarah short-sell her underwater condo; and, of course, the increasingly impatient catcalls of a baby who no longer is content to stand in his circular activity center and fumble with all the colorful built-in toys surrounding him while Daddy handles the aforementioned tasks.

All of which leads me to this familiar refrain: How do hard-working single parents do it? I'm talking about the ones who have few resources, work multiple jobs, rely on childcare they can't afford, and have no option but to put on a happy face for baby at the end of an exhausting, never-ending, blindingly stressful day. These people are the heroes of modern society, and quite often the ones that ass-backwards laws like Arizona's anti-immigrant stance target.

It's a thought that makes me very thankful to be a privileged, educated, middle-class white man who can work from home and handle the demands of parenthood with aplomb. Now excuse me while I get back to balancing Max on my head as I pay bills, plan dinner, keep my clients at bay, and try to squeeze in some quality time with the human breast-milk factory who shares my bedroom.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

4 Months Old, and Taking Control of His Life Already

You know that feeling you get as the parent of an infant, the one that tells you that your newborn knows something that you don't? Well, go with it, 'cause it's true. I have proof.

Last week (yes, this is evidence of my too-infrequent posting habits--I'll try to pick that up), Sarah's mom was in town, so I got excused from a trip to the pediatrician for Max's 4-month checkup, which includes two shots and an oral vaccine. Mind you, up until this point, all of the previous pediatric appointments--even those that ended with shots--had been joyful occasions (well, up to the insertion of the needle anyway), with Max showing off his numerous wonderful qualities (which obviously have nothing to do with me), and the doctor finding him endlessly entertaining. At one point, she told Sarah, of Max's seemingly excessive nighttime sleeping patterns, "Don't question it--just consider yourself lucky."

Something tells me her tune was a bit different after this latest appointment, in which Max launched into what has been described to me as an epic meltdown. Even though he left the house his usual happy self, he apparently started to crack right as Sarah and her mom walked into the doctor's office with him. He proceeded to cry, louder and louder, throughout every second of the exam, sending unsuspecting infants and their sleep-deprived parents running for cover. I picture it like a grotesque cartoon in which we zoom in on the baby's crying mouth, which is consuming all of its surroundings.

Things got even worse when the doctor decided to find out if a fever might be causing this outburst, and lo and behold, Max's temperature registered at over 100, enough to get any new mother headed down the worry path, and Sarah was no exception. What was especially disturbing about this fever was that there were no signs of it earlier in the morning AND Sarah had given Max a dose of baby Tylenol (since thrown away amid the recall!) in anticipation of the shots. (The previous round of shots was followed by 5 painful days of Max wallowing in discomfort.)

In any case, the upshot of the tantrum and accompanying fever was that the doctor decided to skip the shots and vaccine and have us come back. Which apparently was just what Max had in mind, because by the time he had settled back in at home, and mom and grandma had filled me in on the theatrics, he was back to his normal self. I mean fully back--no crying, no fever, no nothing. And here's the weird part--the fever never returned. It was as if the whole thing never happened.

There's only one conclusion a sane person can draw from this episode: Max did not want those shots. How he knew he was getting them, where he found the inspiration to hatch his diabolical plan, and what gave him the self-awareness to recover so quickly is totally mystifying--not just to me, but to Sarah, her mom, the doctor--everyone involved.

Which brings us back to my original point, about your baby knowing something you don't. That something is how to really best meet his needs. Because heaven knows, his needs do not include pulling his pant leg so a giant stranger can jam a needle into his thigh. I just hope it's not a foreshadowing of what will occur the first time we ask him to clean up his room. I have to admit, though, I'm thinking about using his strategy the next time I'm asked to spend my weekend doing yard work.