One more thing 3B will blame me for when he’s a teenager

Here’s the thing about having a baby: I want nothing more than to be perfect for him, but I’m not.

I want to always do exactly what he needs, if it’s rocking, holding, swaddling, or simply paying him the attention he needs–but sometimes I find that I fail. Of course, there’s are the obvious failures that I can’t overcome–for example, I can’t feed him. I’ve lost count of how many times he’s been fussing and rooting and, on our way to Mama for a meal, he has given me that look of betrayal and anger, as if it were my fault that I don’t have lactating breasts, then let loose with a bloodcurdling screech.

And, although I still feel bad–almost pained–when I just can’t figure out what is upsetting him, I’ve largely gotten over my feelings of guilt. I know that I’ll probably eventually figure it out, and I take solace in the fact that I’ll try almost anything to comfort him when he’s upset. Almost anything . . . you know, short of fixing him a dry, clean martini to help him relax after his hard day napping. Perhaps that’s just because we’re out of olives right now, or perhaps that’s because he’ll have to fight me for it if he wants it.

The failures that pain me the most, especially when I look back on them, are the times when I feel that I haven’t tried as hard as I can for the little guy. Most–no, all–of these times have come in the middle of the night, when I’m trying to soothe him back to sleep after he’s eaten or gotten changed. As much as possible, I try to take care of him after he eats at night to let Mama get back to sleep as soon as possible, since he just sucked a bunch of energy out of her. Although, I have to admit that she’s much better than I am at staying awake long enough to get him back to sleep.

So I find myself, after midnight, in the glider-rocker, with the little guy on my lap, in my arms, on my chest, or over my shoulder. While he’s not crying, he’s still fussing–definitely not going back to sleep soon. Now, perhaps if this was during the day, and I was fully rested, I would get up and walk him around a bit. But these episodes take place in that groggy, head-full-of-tar time when Hypnos’ cement boots are still trying to pull me under the waves of sleep washing over me, making my legs and feet heavy and my thoughts slow and stupid. So I stay in the rocker, struggling to stay awake.

What 3B probably needs most at this time is more attention from me. If I could just focus on him a bit, I could probably figure out from his fussing what it was he needed, but all the neurons that I can muster are working on how to maintain my consciousness, leaving none for his worries. Their work is not made any easier by my constant rocking which is having the effect on me that I want it to have on 3B–it puts me right to sleep.

As I was slouched there, early one morning, after a spectacular change-feed-change-feed-change cycle, which seemed to take longer than Wagner’s Ring Cycle, I went through my list of options:

  • reading, which is right out because that requires too much light, which would wake up 3B
  • talking to myself, which is right out because it makes too much noise, which would wake up 3B
  • rubbing Tabasco sauce on my eyelids, which, according to a reliable source, works for Marines in Iraq, is right out for what I hope are obvious reasons
  • trying to find a movie or show to watch on TV among all the infomercials in the wee hours of the morning

Right. So I flipped on the tube and came almost immediately to VH1 Classics, which was replaying the videos from the first day that MTV was on the air. How could I not look, especially given that I’m still trying to figure out what songs to request at my upcoming reunion? I was already feeling guilty for not being able to stay awake to help soothe 3B to sleep, and now I was adding to that my guilt for exposing him to TV and bad 80’s music all at once, but I was desperate.

It turned out OK in the end, however. The light and the noise didn’t bother him, and they helped me wake up enough to pay attention to his needs, shift his position when he needed it, and even walk him around the room a bit, until he was sound asleep. Unfortunately, it was so effective on me that by the time I took him back and put him in his bassinet, I was wide awake and hooked on the beauty and the horror of what I was seeing:

  • Split Enz “One Step Ahead,” with unbelievably bad white-man-in-the-80’s dancing (it takes one to know one)
  • Kate Bush “Wuthering Heights,” in which she really does a horrible mime-stuck-in-a-glass-box act in addition to all the spooky overacting
  • Phil Collins “Turn It On,” which apparently not only required no jacket but also required no shirt–leaving enough room in the wardrobe budget for his two lovely red terry cloth wristbands . . . for the record, Phil Collins clad only in wristbands is as much of a turn-on as watching milk curdle
  • REO Speedwagon “Don’t Let Him Go,” proving that there were so few videos, MTV would play anything, no matter if the lead singer was wearing a horrible, white, skintight jumpsuit with zig-zags drawn all over it
  • Some Lee Ritenour video, which must have been the last one on the shelf . . . I’m not sure how else they could justify playing it

It turns out that there were videos that held up over time, even if the effects were a bit cheesy. Both Pat Benetar’s rockin’ “I’m Gonna Follow You” and the Pretenders’ apropos and badass “Kid” kept my hope alive that better songs would come along until I finally started to drift off myself.

But I’m still haunted with the thought that 3B may have absorbed this experience as he drifted off, and that I may have have again failed my son by dooming him to a life of loving skinny ties, big hair, and cheesy lyrics.

  • REO Speedwagon. Great choice!

  • That is an extremely early exposure to the boob tube, young man! That’s not the boob he needs right now.

    OK, lecture over. I can’t count the times I’ve thought, “Whatever works, just get me out of this unsoothable child hell!”

    One nice thing though: my kids still fall asleep with me in the glider every day at naptime (one at a time though, the 2 year old is chubby and the 4 year old is lanky). That glider has been the end-all-be-all of parenting tools.

  • There is absolutely nothing wrong with exposing him to bad 80’s music! It makes up for the times that you had to listen to your folks’ Perry Como or Bing Crosby records. It’s all part of the cycle of life.

    By the way, the glider never did shit for us. We ended up selling ours on EBay to some overanxious parents. Worked out great. One thing that worked for us (in terms of putting Peanut to sleep when she was first-born) was sitting in the bathroom and turning on the sink. The sound of rushing water has been proven to be very soothing to newborns.

  • Anonymous

    Dude Turn it on, was from Phils band that he hijacked from Peter!!!

    TCB back on the air.

  • Kate Bush is an unqualified genuis. I regret to say I will have to fight you for saying her video to Wuthering Heights was rubbish. How about tomorrow, at dawn, behind your house? You get to choose the weapons.

    If we mere mortals are incapable of understanding her great art, it diminishes us, not la Bush.

  • Just start a therapy fund now for when he’s older and you’ll be all set. The pro-active approach works best.

    And I’m sorry, but I love REO Speedwagon.

    Gotta take it on the road baby, it’s time for me to fly!

  • Oh yeah.

    You’ve totally ruined him for life.

    May as well give up now.

    (heh heh – Lo … the sarcasm.)

  • Oh, and SWADDLING sounds ridiculous but seemed to work miracles for both my babies.

    Also, here’s the (completely unsolicited, I’m aware) advice that I give to all new parents: It gets way WAY better at the 6 week / 2 months mark. WAY better. The kid slows down with the random crying, which is verrrry helpful for the nerves.

    Trust me.

  • If you lick your fingers and rub under your eyes (the baggy bits) then when the water evaporates it makes your skin go tighter and forces your eyes open a bit – this is a great tip for staying awake night! And when you are too tired even to say shhh shh shh, saying chh chhh chh sounds just as soothing and uses less face muscles. Trust me, I’ve been there… oh, and don’t worry about your fight with dad-to-be over Kate Bush – he’s a friend of mine, and never been in a fight in his life!

  • If I’ve never been in a fight, it’s only because my enemies know not to start futile battles.

    This is true and definitely not a load of self-agrandising nonsense. Anyway, you started it. You were mean about Kate Bush. I hate you. I’m telling my dad.

  • Right. Actually, I didn’t start this fight, your pal Suzy (who apparently prefers to be referred to as “a broad”) started this.

    As for part the second: Who said anything about not liking Kate Bush? I love Kate Bush. . .used to have posters of her and the whole bit, but I don’t like bad mimes, and she was incredibly awful in that video. Really. Check it out.

    And the parts where she acts like a speed skater? Or a helicopter? Those are just job security for choreographers.