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The Story About the Baby, Volume 38.

Soon, our baby daughter Cordelia will be nine months old. Other people think that the first birthday is really important. I’m much more interested in the beginning of her ninth month, because that’s when she’ll have spent more time outside the uterus than inside it.

As usual, Cordelia learned a new trick this week. The new trick is WONDERFUL. If we leave her in her crib with a full bottle, she can find it, lift it, and drain it all on her own. No more getting up in the middle of the night to feed her!

This is a development of awe-inspiring convenience. I feel like someone who has just been handed a knife for the first time, after spending years carving roast turkeys with a brick.

As I understand it, leaving a bottle in a crib with a baby is a bad thing, because the milk rots their teeth or something. Well, she doesn’t have any teeth worth noticing. So I am just going to stay away from parenting books for as long as I can. I don’t want to let anyone spoil my fun yet.

Jamming Fingers Into Our Baby’s Mouth

Several months after she actually started teething (or, at least, acting like she was teething, with the expected screaming), Cordelia finally has her first tooth. That sharp little scout has finally cut its way through her gum and started looking around, seeing if the coast is clear. Then the others nineteen will erupt and she can really start doing damage to daddy’s fingers.

The moment my wife Mariann noticed the first tooth, she called me over to see it. Since Cordelia wouldn’t open her mouth, Mariann tried to pry it open. Cordelia, hating this, fought her mommy off. Then I tried to pry her mouth open with my fingers. No luck. So I stuck my finger in her mouth and just felt the tooth stub, Cordelia hating every moment. Then my wife was so excited by the new tooth that she jammed her finger in the baby’s mouth. Then I took another turn. Then we quit, satisfied for the moment, leaving an extremely pissed-off baby behind.

It is the ability to occasionally engage in such degrading exercises of raw power free of consequences that is one of the best things about raising a very small child. The infant’s total lack of long term memory is the greatest gift nature gives to parents. This won’t last for long. Soon, Cordelia will be able to remember things, and, with my luck, she will inherit my ability to hold a grudge for decades.

Sometimes I remember something stupid or unfair my parents said or did when I was, like, eight, and I remind them of it. In great, crushing detail. And I’m sure Cordelia will do the same thing to me. She is sure to also inherit my capacity for evil.

So I’m going to enjoy my parental power now. Because soon, all of this crap will be recorded in my daughter’s little mental ledger, and before you know it, I’ll be eighty, and Cordelia will be “forgetting” to make my lime jello because of some minor disagreement regarding her stuffed bunny when she was six.

I Would Rather Die Than Eat Her Food

The fruit is fine. The vegetables are ok.

But that rice oatmeal they sell. Jesus! That stuff smells like a pig’s ass that’s been dipped in liquid paper.

Cordelia eats it. But she sure don’t like it.

Cordelia and Daddy Versus the Hippies

Today, at the Farmer’s Market, I pushed Cordelia in her stroller past a street musician. He was a crusty, bearded, old hippie, singing old folk standards and playing some weird-ass mandolin thing. The aura of a life misspent hung heavily in the air.

As I walked by, the fellow decided to introduce my daughter to his Happy World Of Whimsy And Merriment. He turned, bent down to her, and strummed his instrument at her.

Cordelia looks up at him with a dismissive look of pure annoyance.

I was so proud. Never before have I been so sure that she is her father’s daughter.

Street musicians are my NEMESIS. Street musicians, and white people with dreadlocks.

Avoiding the SIDS

My favorite thing about have a nine month old is that is she getting out of the SIDS Danger Zone. Now I say fewer things like “Hang on. I have to make sure the baby is still breathing.” and more things like, “Oh, just put the blanket in there with her. If she’s going to commit suicide with a blanket, it’s time for her to get on with it.”

But the danger has not yet ended. Babies can get SIDS up to one year of age, or so I’m told. And our baby is now determined to do the worst thing a baby can do (besides take up smoking): sleep on her belly.

Our kid is a tummy sleeper. And there is nothing we can do about it. Those foam things they sell to keep the kid from rolling over? What a fucking joke. She flops out of it, chews on it for a little while, and throws it out of the crib. Then she lies on her stomach. Because she hates me.

We’re out of the “Baby can die and it’ll be MY FAULT.” stage. We’re now in the less dangerous but more unnerving “Baby might die and daddy can go piss up a rope for all he can do.” stage. It is a good preparation for the next few years. Or, at least, the large portion of the next few years I’ll totally hate.

Books Are For Losers and Squares

There are many lessons I will need to teach Cordelia to help her make her way through life. One of them is this: There is never anything worthwhile to be gained, emotionally or intellectually, from reading books.

I think this is going to be a tough sell. Cordelia is already quite a little book fetishist. She loves holding one of those big cardboard baby books (the ones with pages so thick and sturdy you could build a garden shed out of them) and flipping through it carefully with her pudgy fingers. Then, when she tires of the pretty pictures in one, she rolls over to her little bookshelf and pulls all of the books off it, flipping briefly through each of them in turn.

Peculiar behavior, but understandable. When she sees a picture of something on a page, she pokes at it as if trying to grab it. Sadly, she then finds that the object does not come away in her hand. You see, she still labors under the delusion that books still have something to offer her.

Soon, she will realize that a drawing of a ham is only a sinister fiction, and true succulent happiness can only be found by throwing the dishonest book away and going in search of a real ham. When that day comes, she will be well on the way to wisdom.

Less Holding, More Restraining

Sometimes, I miss the early days when holding Cordelia was basically the same as cradling a ten pound bag of butter and sticks. While I am looking forward to when she can walk (and my spine can recover), holding my daughter is now less a happy moment of parental love and more an effort to restrain a small, writhing, squealing primate.

She does not like being in laps. She does not like being held. The moment she sees something interesting, she tries to launch herself in its general direction, pushing off against my torso with her legs. When she is in my lap, she wriggles in all directions like a spiny little worm. She also tries to scratch my eyes out. That part is unintentional. I think.

This is another thing the books never warned me about. When Cordelia is not being held, she’s a smiling little angel, putting on all the adorable expressions she has developed to get me to lift her. Being a sucker, and hoping for some sort of loving daddy-daughter moment, I do so. Once she’s been picked up, however, I basically become second-hand furniture, the sort you don’t worry about scratching because you’ll get something better at IKEA later. The moment I hold her, she places her hand firmly on my cheek, digs her nails into my skin for better leverage, and pushes herself around so she can grab and devour a piece of lint.

I hope I never accidentally drop her. Then she would learn another of life’s precious lessons: gravity is a lot less forgiving than daddy is.


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