July 6, 2013 by The Friday Facts
Part 2: Shitty
If Sonny was put on this earth to thaw my feelings towards babies I think it’s fair to say that he’s been a spectacular success. It’s not that he’s perfect. No one who licks peoples’ eyeballs could ever truly be described as perfect. But he’s given me all the joys I could have ever realistically expected from fatherhood. Sonny is ten months old now and, while there are times when I want to ring his little neck, there’s still not a day goes by when I don’t remind myself how lucky I got with him. And luck is the word, because I’m not delusional enough to think that any of his best qualities can be chalked up to good parenting. Yet. Still…..
5 SHITTY THINGS ABOUT BABIES
They learn stuff
I’m aware that this one also appeared in my last post about the ‘awesome’ things about babies, but it’s a double edged sword, this one is.
When Sonny was born, I allowed myself roughly two years of exposing him to all manner of pop culture vice (violent movies, cuss-laden songs….porn?) before I had to start concerning myself with what he would absorb.
I’ve since had to (very reluctantly) review that timeframe.
Not so long ago, I was feeding Sonny in the living room whilst simultaneously catching up on Game of Thrones (anyone who says men can’t multi-task can bite me). Like anything else that appears on TV, the show had Sonny’s undivided attention from the first moment.
It was during a particularly nasty battle scene when, without warning, he flipped. One moment he was sitting there, happy as a clam. The next moment he became incredibly distressed; his gaze never moving from the screen. I went through my usual role call of possibilities (did he hurt himself? Was something stuck in his mouth? Nappy change?), but nothing doing. The scene changed and he calmed himself, but when it flicked back to the battle scene, he was off again. I picked him up and walked him around the house and he chilled quickly, but the news was in: he was picking this shit up.
I reacted to this new development the way any concerned father would – by turning to my son and saying “Oh for fuck sake, are you seriously telling me I’m gonna have to stop watching violent movies in front of you this early on in the game?”
I’ve always been highly suspicious of moral high-handedness when it comes to babies. If you believe some of the more hysterical schools of thought, simply allowing your baby to leave the house is enough to have child welfare called on your ass. But an issue like media violence is so complex that I don’t think there’s a single person in the world who could claim to have the answers. That said, as a self-confessed parental anarchist, I have to confess to walking away from this particular scenario with my tail planted firmly between my legs.
Swearing, though. Now that’s a different story. Frankly, I’m yet to hear an argument that convinces me that exposing kids to rude words that they’re going to learn eventually anyway could somehow scar them in a way that genuine parenting couldn’t trump.
One of the reasons swearing is so taboo is because it’s associated with aggression. These days, however, swearing has become so casual that you have to wonder if it is really the demon tongue that it perhaps once was.
Either way, I’ll soon find out. Because the reality is that Sonny has been exposed to every single profanity known to man, and he’s not even a year old yet. None of this has been intentional, you understand, it’s just the way I talk. And, til proven otherwise, I refuse to believe that this is somehow going to lead to him selling his body in an Amsterdam red light district at age 15. If it turns out I’m wrong, and that my sailor talk has led Sonny to a life of crime and debauchery, well there’s a post you can all look forward to….
Once again, this could just as easily fall into the ‘awesome’ category, but here’s the thing I’m rapidly learning about babies: most of the things that sound beautiful from an idealistic point of view are actually really frustrating in reality.
The new parent is acutely aware that their baby’s adorably intrepid nature is an integral part of their development. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s really fucking annoying when you’re constantly dragging him away from danger.
Sonny can’t walk. He can’t even crawl. He moves around like Sean Connery dying in the Untouchables. His unwavering ambition to explore every inch of the house – from the Far East to the New World to the bit on the map that just says “Here there be dragons” – is cute. But why is it that, if you stuck him in front of a teddy bear, a DD sized boob full of milk and a rusty, AIDs-riddled hypodermic needle, he would go for the needle? Every. Single. Fucking. Time.
They get sick
There are two aspects to this one: the emotional and the gross…onal.
Pre-fatherhood, I would often pick up on the distress in the voices of new parents as they relayed the story of their babies contracting some such ailment as a head cold or upset stomach. In keeping with my almost sociopathic lack of empathy, I would offer advice based on the times I, too, had to nurse the only person I ever cared for: me. “Just give her a couple of Coldral and plonk her in front of Season 2 of Arrested Development with a bowl of chicken soup!” I’d gleefully advise, banging yet another nail in my “grown up” social coffin. “And if pain persists, roll a spliff. That’ll take the edge off.”
The inevitable response was that the distress came not from the sickness itself, but rather from baby’s inability to understand what was happening to them.
Needless to say, now that I’m a parent, I kind of get it.
There’s generally a limit to babies’ emotions. They cry when they’re tired or hungry or need a change, but for the rest of the time, they’re happy. When they get sick, though, they’re in uncharted waters. They don’t understand what’s happening to them and that frightens them. You, on the other hand, do understand. But in spite of all the little vehicles of communication you’ve worked so hard to establish with them during their brief lifetime – facial expressions, noises, movements, whatever – there’s one message that you have no way of getting through to them: that everything’s going to be okay. As a parent, that hurts.
Then there’s the physical aspect. Babies are a paradox in that they are the most beautiful creatures on god’s green earth (puppies aside), yet at the same time, they’re fucking gross. Sonny recently contracted, get this, “Hand, Foot and Mouth disease”. I know, right? Sounds like something that would wipe out entire populations of rodent species in one hit. If ever there’s an ailment in need of a PR overhaul it’s that one. For the uninitiated, HF&M disease is a delightful little ailment whereby the baby develops lesions on, you guessed it, the hand, the foot and the mouth.
In Sonny’s case, it was all more M than H or F. The others never really took off. It began as a gentle rash on the cheeks.
“Is this a thing? Should we be worried?”
“Nah, it’s no big deal. I’m sure it’s just a passing whatever.”
Within the next 12 hours our baby looked for all the world like he had – let’s not fuck around here – the bubonic plague. His lips blew out. Hideous scars began to appear all over his face. Horses reared violently when we walked by. Cows began to run around in circles and flowers died. Passers-by made the sign of the cross and mumbled things in Latin. Storm clouds gathered.
When we eventually took him to the doctor he said there was nothing we could do but ride it out. We asked if Sonny had touched something poisonous and the doctor said to ride it out. Had we fed him something we shouldn’t have, we asked? Ride it out. That’s what the doctor said. We enquired as to whether we may have sinned in a previous life and the doctor said this: ride it out.
So we rode it out. Sonny turned out fine, just as the doctor said he would. It was just unfortunate that the signs of recovery happened to be scabbing up. In much the same way that coughing up an abundance of coagulated yellow phlegm is, despite appearances, the first sign that you’re actually recovering from the flu, these flaky, salt n vinegar thins were the first sign that Sonny had gotten over this hideous Satanic contagion. Man, can’t wait for more of this.
To many, babies and shit are forever associated. It’s what puts most people off having one in the first place – a baby, that is.
As far as the reality goes, I’ll quote the concession speech of a recently deposed leader of this country by saying that, when it comes to babies, shit is “… not everything, but it’s not nothing either.”
With newborns – aside from the Black Death that comes out of them in the first 24 hours (there’s a parent support group for this. Please tell me there’s a parent support group for this) – it’s actually not too bad. It’s only when solids come into the game that you need to suit up.
Making matters worse, in Sonny’s case, is that he appears to have chosen diaper-change o’clock as his time to shine. He can be as uptight and unsettled as he likes all day, but you put him on that change table and start wiping his ass and suddenly he turns into these guys. He smiles, he laughs, he might even belt out and old standard for you if you’re lucky. But the point is that, all the while, you’re wiping his ass.
Maybe it’s a powerplay. Maybe he says to himself, “you’re bigger than me, you’re stronger than me, you’re smarter than me. But right now, you’re wiping my ass so fuck you, sunshine.” Fair enough, too. If someone you knew asked them to wipe their ass for them you’d punch them in the head. But with babies you have no choice. Sonny knows this and his suddenly-jovial mood suggests that he’s either trying to make it better for you…or rubbing your fucking nose in it.
The only thing I can do to get me through this hideous dance is cast my mind some 50 years into the future, to a time when I’m withered, grey and pathetic and he’s married with three kids of his own. He comes to visit me at my nursing home to change my colostomy bag and ‘clean me up’. I beckon him over to me with one bony finger. Then I lean in close to his ear and whisper softly: “Who’s wiping whose ass now, mother fucker?” Then I keel over and die.
I was once involved in a carnal act with a particular individual with whom I was involved in a relationship when a stunted, shadowy figure appeared in the doorway, clutching a teddy bear. It was this very incident that led to me swearing never to have relations with a single mum ever again.
I’m not sure what the kid saw, if anything. I just remember a lot of scrambling for clothes; a lot of chaos. But most of all I remember his silhouette frozen in the doorway as the teddy bear, like his innocence, dropped in slow motion to the floor. Anyone that’s ever seen me naked will tell you that even a small glimpse is enough to scar for a lifetime.
As I left my companion’s house that day, pulling my jean legs up and slinging my jacket over my shoulder, I passed the kid in the living room. I squatted down and looked him square in the eye. I then offered him some words that more or less paraphrased the advice that Uma “The Bride” Thurman gave to the little girl whose mum she’d just murdered in the opening scene of Kill Bill: “It was not my intention to do this in front of you. For that I’m sorry… When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.”
The kid is probably about 18 by now, and there’s not a day go by when I don’t wonder where he is. And whether, one day, he’ll turn up on my doorstep in some biblical act of vengeance; aged teddy bear in one hand, 4-point-Shuriken star in the other. Because the fact is, I’ve (potentially) scarred this kid in a way that I always feared being scarred myself.
It’s one of the unfortunate side effects of parenthood: that the day your child is born is the day you’ve just created someone to whom your sex life is repulsive. Always and ever.
To us, Sonny is that someone. And I’m not one of those creepy new age parents who tries to sit their child down and explain that love is a beautiful thing and that they shouldn’t be afraid of their parents’ love making. Christ, if you ever catch me using the expression ‘love making’ I hereby give you permission to put a sharp bullet straight through my head.
I think I’ve spoken before about my son’s penchant for dry humping. He’s currently lobbying the International Olympic Committee to make it an official sport because, if it was, he has no doubt he would pull in Phelps-ian medal hauls. In many ways, this strange habit actually takes some of the pressure off myself and his mother. Because, if he did happen to walk in on us, it’s highly unlikely that he’d see anything more obscene than what he does to the couch in broad daylight on a regular basis.
It’s his facial expressions that are the worst. He looks like he’s extracting far too much pleasure from this primal act for someone who supposedly has no idea what he’s doing. In fact, the more I think about it, I’m wondering if it isn’t him that’s corrupting our minds.