Time slips away. As John Lennon said, “life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”
Since Cam’s birth, I’ve barely had time to think, let alone to write. The result is that I’ve not worked on any of my books, haven’t really written any articles (business or otherwise), haven’t felt “productive”.
But the truth is that my job, today, is to raise my child. Which means that all of the other things that I thought were important, just aren’t. So I don’t write, unless it’s to record stuff about him.
Life, though, is DEFINITELY happening. Since the last post we’ve moved and I’ve switched jobs. More importantly, Tina and I shuffle things around on a daily basis to make Cam’s life better. My life is just about making his better.
And I love it.
I wasn’t sure I could do this parenting thing. He didn’t come with an instruction manual and I was hard pressed to understand why they would let us take him out of the hospital at 4 days old without any kind of certification, training or guaranty of our ability to keep him alive. But they did, and we have.
It’s taken lots of long, sleepless nights… and more money than one could ever contemplate. But it’s totally worth it the moment I hear him get up in the morning and ask Tina for “Da”.
I like writing about funny things. Recalling the moment of humor and the setup for how it all transpired is incredibly satisfying when I can do it so that others find the funny, too. Life, of course, isn’t always fun and games. As a parent, the feeling I feel when looking at Cameron more often then anything else, second only to unbridled joy is abject terror.
Which, if you know me, isn’t like me. I’m not really afraid of anything. Snakes, spiders, the dark… even buying feminine hygiene products alone. Nothing bothers me that much. But I worry about Cameron. I worry about him getting sick or injured. I worry about his life and his future. I worry about whether he’ll have good friends. I worry about whether he’ll want to have a family of his own and whether, once he’s grown up, he’ll look back on his childhood with fondness.
I suppose these are the worries any parent has with regards to their children. But with only a 16mo old, I don’t really hear anyone else talking about it. Granted, that could be because I work out of my house and all of my coworkers are hundreds or thousands of miles away. It could also be because Cam’s just too young for me to stress out about these things quite yet.
However, I don’t think I’m really stressing. There’s a difference between stressing and worrying. I don’t lay awake at night. I don’t get cold sweats. I don’t hyperventilate. At least not yet.
I don’t stress because I know that he’s got a loving home. He’s got 2 parents who will do anything for him. He’s got 6 grandparents that love him, too. He’s got a nanny who smiles as big as he does every morning she walks in the door. And he’s got a large family and friend network that he doesn’t even yet realize is there, too.
On the other hand, I worry because I want to be a good dad. Sure, I want to be the cool dad. But I also want to be the dad that he can come to with serious questions and discuss deep topics without fear of judgement or ridicule. I want to be the dad he wants to bring to show and tell. I want to be the dad he wants to play with. I want to be the dad and man he wants to eventually be.
When Cam was born, his grandma gave me a laminated poem. It was written by John Wooden, late coach of the UCLA Bruins. It’s a wonderful reminder for both dad’s and mom’s and sets a great expectation. I hope I can meet it.
The Little Chap Who Follows Me A careful man I ought to be, A little fellow follows me, I do not dare to go astray For fear he’ll go the selfsame way.
I cannot once escape his eyes, Whate’er he sees me do, he tries; Like me, he says, he’s going to be, The little chap who follows me.
He thinks that I am good and fine, Believes in every word of mine The base in me he must not see, The little chap who follows me.
I must remember as I go, Through summer’s fun and winter’s snow, In building for the years to be The little chap who follows me!
A few days ago, I wrote about Cameron and baby crack. These are the talismans for every parent. Things that they can do that will instantly affect their child’s behavior (usually to distract the kid from whatever has currently got them wound up).
For Cam, one baby crack item is Elmo. He just loves the voice (the PoE). Curiously, he hasn’t yet put together the voice and the image. So when we took him to the mall a week or so ago and he saw a wall of Elmo’s – no reaction at all. But press Elmo’s hand on one of these digitally-enhanced stuffed animals and poof: a smile on Cam’s face that simply beams.
But Cam has a few other items that are just as transformative. And in our house, you can guess that it didn’t take long to figure out that the telephone is one of those things.
You all know that I’m a geek. Including work-related numbers, there are five different phone numbers you can dial right now that will ring on either my left or right hip (no, please don’t try). So it should be no surprise that I have my cell phones on me almost constantly. Add in Tina to the mix and there are now several phones that tempt Cam with their bright buttons.
Cameron, of course, pays attention to them. Almost from birth, he’s just a little more tan than any other child his age from the proximity to the glow of a Blackberry or iPhone. We didn’t actually intend for this to happen, of course… but we use our phones a lot for work and I have my own addiction to my iPhone. The result is that he wants what we pay attention to… and besides, isn’t a Blackberry just a cool device to play with?
Now, Cameron greets most toys with an open mouth hug. Phones are no exception, which is good for neither him nor the phone itself. But after the initial desire to eat it comes the desire to push the buttons – especially on Blackberries (he is just now realizing the iPhone has a reactive screen). And he does so with aplomb.
This is troublesome because phones aren’t cheap. So I figured I’d get him his own to play with. Visiting the local Verizon store, I was informed that they don’t have any old demo phones that they can give away. Apparently all of theirs are real and have to be returned upon retirement. But the Verizon rep said that he’d worked at Radio Shack and that they always had dozens of non-working examples in the store that were no longer on display.
So the next time I was near Radio Shack, I stopped in. Unbelievably, the Verizon rep was right. This store had more than 30 phones for me to choose from! Picking a Blackberry that looked like mom and dad’s but wasn’t exactly the same color, I thought this would give Cam the best of both worlds: something he could play with and something that wouldn’t use my cell phone minutes to dial Antarctica.
I brought it home and proceeded to bathe it with Clorox wipes. Figuring that it had been held by hundreds of people who didn’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom, I almost decided to dunk it in bleach. But I wiped it and let it dry about a dozen times (not exaggerating). I then made sure that it was completely solid and nothing could come off it (the battery door was already glued shut).
Approaching Cam’s room where he was playing with his nanny, I called out “guess what Dad got you?” as I walked into the room holding the Blackberry in front of me. Cam stopped what he was doing when he saw it. Momentarily frozen in place with sheer excitement, I could see the facial transformation as his smile lit up. In what I think was as close to a run as he could get, he charged.
Grabbing the Blackberry out of my hands, he proceeded to press the buttons with such rapidity, I thought for a moment that he was a crazed rat in a Skinner box looking for a food pellet from an empty chamber.
I let him have the Blackberry for about an hour before I decided that it was too much. He wasn’t letting go. He wasn’t playing with any other toys. He wasn’t responding to verbal enticements from his nanny or me. He appeared not to be interested in food, either. All he wanted was to press the buttons. Baby crack, indeed.
So now I’ve got Cameron’s Kryptonite. I just don’t know how I can ethically use it.
There are a lot of things you do as a parent that, had someone told me I was going to do before Cameron was born, I would’ve never believed. Singing, dancing and talking in a high-pitched voice are just the beginning. Changing explosive diapers (you never saw poo like this before) is another. But perhaps the most challenging thing as a parent is getting your child to be calm when they’re losing their cool.
Interestingly enough, most parents learn to tune out their own child’s particular brand of whining. It’s a defense mechanism, I suppose. If we weren’t able to ignore it, there would, unfortunately, be more incidents of infanticide. Cruel? Absolutely. True? You betcha’.
In fact, there was event a recent study done that whining is, in fact, the worst sound known to mankind. Thankfully, it is at those moments when you also get to see parents at their absolute best. The creativity can be astounding. For the most part, though, they’ll cajole, convince and yes, even bribe.
So what can you do with a 16mo old who barely understands what you’re trying to tell him? Well, you start with toys. It’s ugly, but bribery is first on the list. Core to this is the belief that the child’s frustration is centered on the desire for something they don’t currently have. So you think it’s a toy and you’ll give them ANYTHING if they’d just stop screaming.
Driving down the highway with Cameron in his carseat today was no different. He started to fuss and without taking both hands off the wheel (and without looking at him, either – a learned skill I never really thought I would need), I reached back, grabbed one of several “car toys” and placed it in his lap. You could hear it a few seconds later, bouncing off the back of the seat in front of him.
Nope… that wasn’t the toy he wanted.
No problem – I’m prepared. I have more.
Crap. Not that one either.
OK. Maybe I can tickle him to take his mind off whatever’s got him frustrated. Still driving one-handed… still always looking at the road, I reach back and start with his feet. Tickling up his leg and onto his chest, I’m not getting any love in return. In fact, the screaming is getting worse.
Tina finally decides that maybe he just needs to be entertained (Yeah, remember Tina? She was sitting in the front passenger seat the whole time. Would’ve been nice if she’d helped the driver. But whatever. She was helping now.). Her idea? A napkin.
Somewhere, in the distance, I heard a 1950’s comedic rim-shot. A napkin. Pshaw.
Do you know how many problems there are with giving a little boy a napkin? The first place it’s going to go is into his mouth. Then we’ve got wet napkin. Wet napkin in the car, on his carseat, in his mouth. Which leads to wet napkin in his hair, under his fingernails (yes, they have them), probably in his nose, too… in short, everywhere. Tina realized this after a few seconds, too, and decided that perhaps she should use the napkin to entertain Cameron.
Her plan? Napkin Ghost Puppet.
Napkin Ghost Puppet
Holy crap. It worked. I want to make fun of it, but I can’t because it solved the problem. You don’t even need me to tell you it was successful – you can simply see it in Cameron’s face.
Flash forward a few hours later and we were back in the car. As it was close to dinner time and Cam again started the slow burn to complete meltdown. Given the time of day, we know this could get really ugly. So, we went straight for the jugular. We pulled out the baby crack and fed it to Cam like candy. Of course, I’m talking about the little red monster himself: Elmo.
I don’t know what it is about the voice, but Cam could be (and has been) in full temper tantrum mode and Elmo’s “la-la la-la” is the same as whipping out a Snausage in front of a golden retriever.
Crying? Over. Volume? Silent. Motion? Still.
And apparently parents everywhere know the Power of Elmo (PoE). From a recent episode of Cougar Town:
You just can’t argue with the PoE.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of Elmo on my iPhone. It’s my one iDevice I didn’t have the full range of Elmo already installed and we really needed it. Do you know what happens when you give a baby crack addict a taste of the good stuff and then don’t have any more? Yeah, it’s not pretty. Luckily we were close to home and got him fed and in bed just in the nick of time.
So I’m off to go load the rest of our Elmo collection onto my iPhone. In the meantime, if you have other baby crack items that you’re willing to share, we’re willing to try them out. Put them in the comments to share.