Thursday, October 15, 2009

All right, I'm calming down now.

Wow! I want to thank everyone who left advice or encouragement on my last post, as well as those of you who emailed me. It’s all very encouraging, and has helped steady my nerves a great deal - it's comforting to know that babies don't necessarily turn your life upside down. I can deal with merely being knocked sideways. However, if any of you have more ideas or thoughts, keep them coming – they were much appreciated by us both.

While Amynah understandably nervous about labour, she’s much calmer about the “ever after” part than I am. For Mothers, I think there’s a certain confidence about the fundamentals: warmth, love, and food are biologically provided for. Dads lack the same innate knowledge – I’ve seen our daughter on the ultrasound, and felt her kicking, but it’s an intellectual understanding. And since I lack the anatomical tools to provide for my daughter’s basic needs, I turn to the traditional solution of homo habilus: somehow, I am certain, that if I can just acquire the right stuff, I can make everything all right.

Comparing the barren, utilitarian space that is “the baby’s room” with the rainbow-bedecked fantasy suites that fill parenting magazines in our doctor’s waiting room was filling me with anxiety: shouldn’t there be colour in there? A Hanging Garden of stimulating mobiles? Calming pictures of barnyard animals and puppies? We have an open staircase in our apartment with rough concrete steps: shouldn’t I coat those with rubberized foam or something? Is it crazy to want to sand the corners off all of our furniture? (Yes, it is).

Of course, I turn to technology because there’s not much else I can do, other than make life easy for Amynah. Also, to be frank, I am not completely at ease with children, especially babies. Nor are they completely at ease with me. A couple of weeks ago, we bought a bassinet from a woman in Brentwood. Her four-year-old daughter was enchanted with Amynah, laughing whenever Amynah laughed. As those of you who know Amynah can guess, this meant the girl was laughing a lot. In contrast, whenever I looked in the kid’s direction, she would cling to her mother’s leg, saying at one point “Mommy, I don’t want to see that man anymore.”

Sure, I was a stranger. But a mere month before, my friend’s similarly-aged daughter had done her level best to ignore me during our recent visit, while fawning over Amynah: "Amynah, do you want to see my room? Amynah, can you read me a story? Amynah, are you going to stay here?" Though she'd met me before, I was wallpaper to her. In fact, the only time she deigned to recognize my presence at all was in the morning, when Amynah was sleeping in. The little girl looked at me: “So, Mark…” she said, pushing aside her bowl of cereal. “Yes?” I replied, grateful to be acknowledged, ready to be the star. She put me in my place immediately: “What do you think Amynah would like for breakfast?” Apparently, she thought I was Amynah’s manservant, as she later ordered me to water the plants in front of her house.

Then there was the little French girl who tried to blind me. It’s not just the ladies I fail to charm: my friend’s son, when two years old, pressed himself into a corner in abject terror when left in a room with me, and the following year refused to say my name – I was just the guy living in Amynah’s apartment. He also head-butted my nose, but that was an accident. Probably.

Of course, babies are a different kettle of fish, and I’m sure ours will like me just fine. If not, I’ve already started buying stuff to win her over: who wouldn’t love the guy who puts this doll in their crib?


Travis said...

You will learn techniques for dealing with children and discover the will to use them.
You will become more tolerant of children, and more understanding of their ways.
You will become more interested in children in general.
You will have to.

You will not however necessarily either come to like children more or be liked by them more.
You do not need to feel guilty about this.

belsohni said...

One of the good things about newborns is that they can't put themselves in danger if they're in a safe, enclosed bed. Really, your baby could sleep in a wooden drawer and be safe at that age! So you don't have to baby proof it all right away. You just have to keep a step ahead of the baby's development.

I worried about steps and sharp corners too. (The foam cylinders that insulate hot water pipes can be handy for some sharp edges.) But the thing that hurt my child was a feather I allowed her to play with (no joke).

Daniel said...

I think you are, perhaps, exaggerating your difficulties with children here. I know my two kids are rather fond of you, in large part because you don't talk down to people who are younger than you (a quality you share with Amynah).

Also, children enjoy watching strange animated creatures that do ridiculous things. So just be yourself and you'll be fine.