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  • Samson

    October 27, 2005

    Sean will be two years old next month and he has accomplished many things in that short time. But growing a full head of hair is not one of them.

    Sean is descended from a long line of hair challenged men. His father’s face is so remarkably handsome, hair would only be a distraction. Both of Sean’s grandfathers, and even those before them, sported beautifully bald pates, as do all the uncles on both sides. Sean does not stand a chance of being a rock star as it is likely that he will be able to dry his hair with a Kleenex by the time he is in his 20s.

    Which brings me to this point: Sean has not yet had a haircut. Although he doesn’t have that much hair, he has these adorable longish golden curls down the nape of his neck. And here’s the problem: One of Sean’s parents can’t bear the thought of cutting his hair. The other parent claims that because his hair is so long, that he has been referred to, by strangers, as “she” seven or eight times (which means two because you know how one of the species of parents is given to mathematical exaggeration). The one parent reasons that he is a baby with beautiful golden curls. The other parent, the one with no hair, says but people have called him “she” seven or eight times.

    The Neat Freak Gene

    When Sean was first born, some people wondered if I was really his mother. He looked nothing like me. When his 85-year-old great aunt first laid eyes on him in the NICU she declared that she could have picked him out as Antique Daddy’s boy out of 1,000 babies. And she was right. They were both bald and had prominent chins. These days the boy looks more like me – uncooperative hair and usually wearing food. No matter whom he currently resembles, the quirky things he does that his quirky antique parents both do, makes him undeniably our offspring. And I have to wonder – how much of our weirdness is genetically hard-wired into his little (but obviously exceptional) brain?

    Sean’s father is an obsessive wiper-downer and I am an obsessive picker-upper. He deals in clutter, but can’t tolerate dust. I’m okay with a little dust, but can’t function in disorder. Antique Daddy will tell you that if he gets up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I will make the bed while he’s gone. But he is a wiper-downer and that is way weirder. The second he boards a plane and gets in his seat, he pulls out his Clorox Wipes and wipes down the tray, armrests, seat back in front of him, anyone sitting next to him — and then shows the grimy gray gossamer remains to any flight attendant that will make eye contact with him. Much weirder than putting your glass in the dishwasher anytime you put it down.

    So, the other day I’m busy in the kitchen, putting things away, and it’s kind of quiet, so I look into the den to check on the boy, because you know, toddler + quiet = bad. Anyway, he’s in there with a now empty box of baby wipes, wiping things down – the TV, the sofa, the coffee table, the toy box, his books, my books, his hair. And this is the scary part — he makes eye contact with me over the breakfast bar, holds up the cloth to show me and victoriously exclaims “Doot!” (which in English means “dirt”). And then he gives me the same “Can you believe this filth??” look that his father gives the flight attendant.

    The next day, I picked Sean up a little early from school and I had an opportunity to stand at the half-door to his classroom unobserved for a few minutes and watch him. Playing? Napping? Crying for his Mommy? No. He was tidying up the classroom. That’s my boy.

    Leg Hugs

    October 25, 2005

    A year ago, just as Sean was learning to walk, he was my lover boy. He always had love for Mommy — precious sweet toddler affection, which expressed itself in many forms, but always with slobber.

    I never dreamed how much I would appreciate someone standing in my lap and sucking on my nose. Or slobbering a slimy river of drool into my ear while chanting in baby baritone “mahmahmahmahmah.” Until one day, it happened no more.

    The more Sean perfected walking, the more independent he became and the less affection he had for me. Unlike San Franciso in 1968, this has not been the summer of love. I’ve had to beg, bribe, and barter every kiss from that boy since June. But, I’m not above that. I will grovel.

    Since September, Sean has moved on from walking and running to more advanced skills like flinging himself from furniture onto other furniture, or unsuspecting people as they pass by. The good news is that the change of seasons has returned my lover boy. This fall, brown is the new black and the leg hug is the new nose suck.

    In a fit of inexplicable, irrational exuberance, the leg hug is launched when the hug-ee is most vulnerable and least expects it. Which makes it all the more delicious.

    Yesterday, as I leaned over the back of the sofa in the proctologist’s position to grab a pile of laundry I had just folded (so that “someone” would not unfold it) I heard the slip slap of little Robeez clad feet charging in my direction. Before I realized what was happening, I was tackled from behind and goosed by a little boy face squealing “Mahmeeeee!” into that dark and scary place. Had this happened in public and by anyone else, sexual assault charges would have been filed.

    Likewise, the other day when I picked Sean up from school, he seemed particularly thrilled to see me. In a flurry of coats and papers and kids, he ran towards me and fearlessly flung himself onto me as though he were practicing a gymnastic vault off the springboard. He nailed his intended target, my crotch, and locked his arms around my posterior.

    From below, I heard a muffled “Mah-Mah! Mah-Mah!” When he finally looked up at me with those big blue eyes and raised his arms to be picked up, I saw that he had left behind his calling card — a big wet snotty spot on the front of my jeans, which in some circumstances could be hard to explain.

    But I didn’t care, because I knew that one day too soon, it would happen no more.

    Accept No Substitutes

    October 22, 2005

    Like most modern households with children, we have divvied up the child-care tasks. Antique Daddy handles the bedtime routine and I handle everything else up to that point. And I must say that he does an excellent job. With very few exceptions, bedtime is a happy and special time that both he and Sean look forward to at the end of the day.

    Antique Daddy was gone a few days this week, so I had to cover the bedtime routine. And I really thought it went well. Sean happily went to sleep each night. I thought I had tasted a little bit of that end-of-the-day magic that he shares with his daddy. I thought I had been accepted into the boy’s club.

    When Antique Daddy returned home from a long day of work and travel, I decided that I would give him a pass and let him relax while I put Sean to bed. I seated myself in the rocker and pulled out one of his favorite books to read. I patted my legs and motioned for Sean to crawl up in my lap. But he just looked at me like I was from Mars. He grabbed my index finger and yanked on it making it perfectly clear I was in the wrong seat. After I removed myself from the seat of honor, he patted the seat of the rocker and said, “Dah-dee. Scheep dow.”

    As Sean crawled up into his daddy’s lap, I sat down on the floor at the feet of the master hoping to gain some wisdom if only by breathing his rarified air. Sean looked down on me from his perch as if to say “Are you still here?” Pushing the book aside, he crawled down out of his daddy’s lap, and again by the finger, yanked me to my feet and showed me the door. He literally escorted me to the door — with a little push from behind lest anyone be uncertain about his intentions. At the door, I bent over for my goodnight kiss. He blew me a kiss and waved bye-bye, as in “buh-bye” and then slammed the door in my face.

    Daddy was home. Without ceremony, my services were no longer needed.

    Beach Vacation

    October 21, 2005

    “Vacation” and “toddler” cannot be used truthfully in the same sentence. You may be on a trip with a toddler, and you may even enjoy your trip, but you are definitely not on a vacation. You may even take a trip without your toddler, but you are still not on vacation. Once you have a child, you are never again on carefree vacation.

    Until last month, we had not taken a real vacation since before May of 2003 when I found out I was pregnant. At the time we were holding American Airlines “non-refundable, non-transferable, we-got-your-money-and-there’s-nothing-you-can-do-about-it-nannah-nannah-boo-boo” tickets, which by the way, is actually in very small print on the back. My obstetrician forbid any travel of any kind — no planes, no trains, no automobiles. Sure we have traveled since Sean was born, and as I said, vacation and toddler are by their very nature, mutually exclusive concepts, sort of like science and religion; sure you can put them together but never in a way that makes sense.

    Before Sean came along, Antique Daddy and I used to take a lot of vacations. Those were the days of abundant sleep, free time, and brain cells. That was before our thinking, vocabulary and budget revolved around all things “diaper”. One of the things we really enjoyed was hiking in national parks, especially Yosemite. Waterfalls, canyons, rapids, bears, national park hotdogs – nothing could deter us being the risk-taking thrill seekers that we are, uh, were. These days a risky thrill is letting the boy run around the house after a bath au naturel or as we say here in Texas, nekkid. The hard part of planning a vacation in those pre-diaper days was narrowing down the many exciting possibilities.

    Now vacations are a different sort of experience. First of all, the list of things you can do — or I should say, would be willing to do — with a toddler is much smaller. After reviewing our list of one option, we settled on a beach vacation. We figured after Katrina, how much damage could a 2-year-old do to the Gulf Coast? And even better, we managed to get another family to go along with us, with the idea that Sean might enjoy playing with someone under 45.

    As a couple, travel was a simple affair. We each packed one bag and one carry-on and that was that. But the boy requires more. The boy requires a staff that includes baggage handlers. After packing a U-Haul with a full pediatric pharmacy, nursery and life-time supply of diapers, wipes, creams and more diapers (pull-ups, pull-downs, over nighters, swimmers, convertibles, some that even change colors), Pack-n-Play, car seat, toys, umbrella stroller, clothes, books, blankets and food we headed for the airport and made our way to the Sunshine State.

    Once we arrived at our lovely condo, we couldn’t wait to take Sean to the beach to see the ocean. We spent an hour lathering up our fair-haired boy with SPF 4000 and loading daddy up like a pack mule with all the beach gear. As we made our way toward the beach, I was recalling photos tucked into Christmas cards that friends had sent of their children enjoying their beach vacation – happy little children in teeny tiny swimming suits, wearing funny little sunglasses and hats, playing in the sand with brightly colored buckets and shovels. I was already composing our Christmas letter in my mind detailing our fun beach vacation when we finally stepped foot on the sugar white beach of Destin, Florida.

    Was that the screeching call of a lonely sea gull that I heard over the mighty roar of the ocean? No. It was my son screaming in terror. “Pick up! Pick up!” (translation: Pick me up! NOW!) Like some psychotic crab, he clawed himself half way up my legs before sliding down to my ankles in a sad little foamy slather of SPF 4000 taking a portion of my swimsuit with him. Using a mountain climber’s grip on my C-section scar, he climbed his way up my torso using my breasts as footholds until he made it to the top of my head. I was just glad he didn’t have a flag to plant. Holding on to my eye sockets for dear life, he lodged his bony little knee firmly in my solar plexis and screamed “Ho! Ho! Ho!” (translation: Home! Home! Home!).

    Not exactly the pose I had in mind for our Christmas card.

    How I Spent September

    October 18, 2005

    Well, it happened. I knew it would happen sooner or later. I was hoping it would be later rather than sooner, but it was sooner, as in “the first day of school” sooner.

    I was warned by everyone I know who has ever had a kid in day care or pre-school or a church nursery or public that Sean would come home with a virus. So it wasn’t totally unexpected. I didn’t really expect it would be the first day of school. I didn’t expect that it would wipe out our family and my computer for an entire month.

    Monday, September 7th: Sean’s first day of his 2-day a week pre-school brought to us by the letter A, as in “antibiotics”.

    Tuesday afternoon: Sean is throwing up every 30 minutes. After about the third time, if he even so much as clears his throat I get an adrenaline surge and spirit him into the bathroom. He thinks this is funny and being the Pavlovian creature that he is, he repeatedly coughs and pats his tummy using the universal “I’m about to be sick” sign to see mommy jump. By the end of the day I have washed every towel we own and all of Sean’s pajamas, clothes and sheets at least once, but on the bright side, my gluteus maximals (and I do mean max) and thighs feels much firmer from running in a hunched over position while rushing a 22 lb. two-year-old to the bathroom.

    Wednesday: Sean’s second day of school, but Sean is still at home puking. Daddy is also at home, but with another manifestation of the virus to put it politely. It’s now two sick people to one care taker. The laundry continues and sleep is a concept with which I am no longer familiar.

    Thursday: Mommy is down for the count with both “manifestations.” Laundry continues unabated. I find myself wondering if I could get into one of those programs for heroine addicts where they are put into a deep sleep until they’ve gone through withdrawal and later wake up feeling all better. I would’ve paid a lot of money for that. Could we get a family discount?

    Friday: Everyone is in various stages of intesAMl distress and dealing with their own personal version of the virus. Negotiations occur throughout the day as to which parent feels the least worst and thereby is required to provide minimum care for the boy. Thermometer readings are the tie-breaker. And here’s the thing about the boy – since we all have the same virus, shouldn’t we all feel equally bad? No. The boy pukes and then is Mr. Happy Pants and wants to play. With me. Me, who needs to lay down and have someone bring soup and crackers and pat my head and say “There there, poor you.” I need MY mommy!

    Weekend: Everyone still feels like crud. Symptoms have abated somewhat, which just means that when an intesAMl event occurs, you are now caught off guard which then means, you guessed it, more laundry. In spite of the copious amounts of laundering, I praise Mr. Kenmoore or whomever it was that invented this nice machine. This kind of thing would be a lot less fun without a washer and dryer.

    Monday: We take Sean to the doctor who instructs us to feed him and to buy Pedialyte in a shade that matches our upholstery. That was immensely helpful.

    Tuesday: We are now all marginally well, albeit worn out, but well enough to board an airplane and head off for our first family beach vacation.

    Beach vacation: Rain, rip tide, Red Tide, Rita, Oreos, Leggos, Naval Air Museum, local carnival, shoe shopping, black eye, blah blah blah – but no throwing up in rental condo, so beach vacation is deemed a success. (Beach vacation another blog).

    Return from beach vacation and turn on computer. Not to be left out, the computer has come down with a virus. In it’s version of intesAMl distress, all of it’s physical memory has gone down the toilet, so to speak. Oh joy. This thrills Antique Daddy as you might imagine because he has sooo much free time to deal with my computer and this is exactly the kind of thing he wants to do when he’s not recovering from a virus and a beach vacation.

    October 3rd: Sean’s second day of pre-school now brought to us by the letter “E” as in epidemic. Pay $180 for another month of pre-school and by “month” I’m really hoping that means more than one day.

    Those Magic Words

    October 16, 2005

    Courtesy is an important life skill. I don’t think you can begin teaching this too early. Sean and I are learning sign language together and the first signs we learned were “please” and “thank you”. I also think one of the best ways to teach your child is by example, so whenever we are at the grocery store or bank or a restaurant, I always make sure to say “please” and “thank you” to the clerks and waiters so that Sean might see that it is proper to treat everyone with respect and courtesy.

    Just the other day Sean asked for something and he not only used the sign for “please” but also said “peas” (close enough). I was very happy that my work was paying off. Later that evening after Sean had gone to bed, I reported this progress to Antique Daddy.

    Antique Mommy: Well, my diligence is paying off. Today, without any prodding from me, Sean used the magic words.
    Antique Daddy: Abracadabra?
    Antique Mommy: [blink]