Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


It is 12:30, and baby has just cried himself to sleep in the crib for the first time. There was a titanic struggle of wills as I walked him and patted him and replaced his pacifier every time he spat it out, and then I got wise and shut myself in the bathroom for twenty minutes while he screamed himself into oblivion. When I came out he was flopped face down in the corner of the crib. I had to do some tender extraction work to get him to a nice breathable spot without waking him and starting the process all over again.

Babies are essentially selfish, says Augustine, and I tend to agree with him. The child would sleep in any odd position as long as I was holding him in such a way that I could get nothing at all done. But he is appalled at the chamber of horrors that is his crib, with its comfy pillow and soft comforter. "If thees is torture, chain me to the wall!" as the Chihuahua says in the preview for Oliver and Company, which used to run before some VHS movie we watched as kids.

Speaking of the kids, my oldest, 15 years and 9 months, just got her temps. The night before her test, she came bouncing into the living room, where I was pinned under the baby  and the four-year-old.

"Dad says I can help drive to Cincinnati next weekend!"

"I...," I said. "Oh my," I said. "I eeeeee. Aiiiiii. Nooooo. Ahahaha I oh my oh aaaaaaaah eeeeeeee nnng hahahaha oh my goodness." I expounded on this theme for sixty seconds.

"Mom, are you going to cry?" asked the 14-year-old.

"My life is just flashing before my eyes," I said, and indeed, my mortality has never seemed so real to me than at the moment I realized that I would be placing myself in a large hunk of metal going 65 mph with a brand new driver. Not that I don't trust my oldest. I do. She's a good girl with a good head on her shoulders. But aaaaaah ng hahaha. Oh Lord have mercy.

Speaking of having mercy, I made a rookie mistake on Friday by waking up the four-year-old to take him to Stations of the Cross. He made this penitential for all of us. I left him in the care of his sister in the cry room while I went to confession, and even through the soundproof plexiglass the whole church could hear him bawl, "I want to go to Confession too!"

You need it, kid, I thought. If only he had achieved the age of reason.

Speaking of the age of reason, a few of his older siblings are in that happy-go-lucky phase we like to call "cruising for a bruising". This involves selective hearing and the strange belief that Mom probably isn't serious the first five times she tells you to do something. Mother is serious, my child, as you will find to your detriment if I have to ask you to place your derriere in that chair again and finish the math problem, or if I have to tell you to turn off the show again, or if that table does not get set this instant.

"I can correct you, or you can correct yourself. Which will it be?"

"I'll correct myself," said the prime offender, slouching in his chair and fiddling with his pencil. But he is essentially unmalicious. His main issue is that he is nine-going-on-ten, and that is an age of cheerful callousness. If only he would apply the industry that informs his study of paper airplanes to the study of obedience!

Speaking of industry, my seven-year-old has set herself to learning a song, because she is ready to audition with the older siblings and mother for the community theater's summer production of Fiddler on the Roof. Fiddler is a big, big deal here, especially to the member of the household who finds that her age and seven-child figure are, for once, an asset in trying for a leading role. So there has been consideration given to auditioning, and it's not too early for a little girl to think about her first song. And so this evening, as I was reading an important document online, I also refreshed this video ten times so the girl could study her song.

"Honey," I finally said, "the auditions are three months away. You don't have to learn the whole song tonight. I need to read this through."

"But Mom!" she wailed. "I get to the third line and I can't remember anything! Can you play it again?"

This Gordian Knot I cut by singing the song myself into the voice memo app on my phone and setting her up with earphones so she could listen and look at her music to her heart's content. Some day, several months from now, I will wonder what this file is and click on it and be very surprised to hear me exhorting myself to whistle a happy tune.

Speaking of the theater, the 14 year-old and the 11-year-old tumbled out of drama today full of self-important giggles, and declared that they'd made a pact that I was to know nothing of the casting of the play until the night of the performance.

"Oh, I'll find out somehow," I said airily. "Someone's mom will tell me, or I'll talk to the director. You could have the fun of telling me yourself."

"We'll tell them all not to tell you. You'll never know."

Twenty minutes later, at home, they were going over in detail who had received which role, and how it lined up with their own fantasy casting, and the minute occurrences of the entire two hours of rehearsal.

Speaking of rehearsal, this is the first night in a while without rehearsal or performance, since Twelve Angry Men closed on Sunday. Darwin put in an excellent turn as Juror No. 12, the self-important adman, looking natty in a summer suit which cost him a few bucks at Goodwill, and a few goodies to compensate the household seamstress (not me) for lengthening the trousers. But the show is over now, and Darwin had intended to spend an evening of great productivity and word count. Instead, he took the 15-year-old out for some night driving at the park, supervised a math lesson, worked on German homework, listened to the girls tell him about the casting of the play, walked the baby, scooped the cat box and took out the trash, and spent a long time trying to solve an electronics problem that turned out to be a dead power outlet. And when he came upstairs, he carefully rolled over the baby, who'd obstinately turned himself nosedown again. Perhaps baby is ready to go to the mat for his ideal sleep position, but like the rest of us, like it or not, he has to catch his breath.


Foxfier said...

To quote my mom:
You, I trust. The million idiots on the highway, not so much, and you don't know yet."

Of course, I'm charging towards 40 and she still isn't content with how much practice I've got behind the wheel. ;)


My sympathy on the baby, and on the other kid related stress; it is kind of nice to hear that someone else is having roughly the same issues. (My kids are, of course, perfect. Perfectly what, we're trying to figure out.)

Emily J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily J said...

While it is liberating in many ways to have a licensed teen driver, it is also terrifying - especially when you trust the lives of your other children to them, and even more so when you realize how many teen drivers are on the road! Prayers to guardian angels seem like a good recourse. Our newest driver seems to think speed limits are a suggestion - I hope he gets pulled over for speeding soon, so that he has to feel the pinch of paying a ticket before he causes any real pain. I hope your daughter remains a reliable and responsible motor car operator!

Emily said...

"This involves selective hearing and the strange belief that Mom probably isn't serious the first five times she tells you to do something. "

My seven year old son is going through this right now. Just a moment ago he walked into my room and started yanking sideways on the dresser knobs, hard enough to twist the dresser several inches sideways. "GO DOWN. NOW.", I said. He continued to yank, while casually remarking that he hoped dinner was soon. I had to rise out of my chair and inform him that I meant what I just said and was not repeating it. He slunk downstairs, where two people promptly began crying due to whatever he did to bother them. Why? Is this just a boy thing? A "difficult" boy thing? And he's still going to do this at nine? Heaven help me.

mrsdarwin said...

Boys are kinda nuts. My 9yo and 4yo are having a pillow fight directly behind my head, and I'm ignoring it because they could be using their energy in worse ways. I hope I won't regret this when things start breaking.

I don't remember my brothers being all that ornery, but my fellows here have their days. I often wish they'd settle down, and then this past weekend I had one sick, and it made me sad to see him brought so low. And finally I took him into the doctor -- the urgent care, even! -- and it was a virus. A virus! I've been parenting for 16 years, almost, and I got played for a sucker by a virus! What a rookie move, sigh.

Emily said...

Yeah...kinda nuts. I think having two of them 15 months apart didn't help matters here, either.

My children are very active, energetic people. They don't get sick all that often either, but when they do it's always the lack of bounce that worries me most. It's disturbing to see a child who usually needs to be told multiple times a day to stop jumping on the couch, just lying on it for hours. I understand.