The Wild Thing

23 10 2009

There was a time would E would sleep through the night, 12, 14 hours, without so much as a rustle. We knew we were lucky, lucky to have a baby that would let us have the night to ourselves, undisturbed.

That changed when E started climbing out of his crib. I think it must have been around month 20, in the summer. He’d start awake from a nightmare, climb out of his crib, and seek us out for consolation. What were we to do? The kid just had a nightmare. You’ve got to let him sleep with you.

Pretty soon it was every night. We changed out the guard rails for a set that had an opening in them because there was no point in pretending that nothing was stopping him from just hopping over them any time he wanted to. We’d put him to bed and sneak out when he fell asleep, but at one or two in the morning, when we ourselves were sure to be in bed, he’d climb out of his crib, march down the hallway with his favorite blanket, and claw at our bed.

The Chinese have a nickname for their little ones. They call them Little Emperors. E is almost two now. He is eagerly testing out newfound powers of refusal, of demand, of whiny attrition. He is our Little Emperor.

And Dana just gives in. She’s ragged from all the school work and stress and doesn’t have it in her to deal with wet eyes and screaming sirens of protest. But I’m the Dad. I’m the man of the house; I’m the law. The buck stops with me, buddy.

So one night, when Dana is away, I decide to take the opportunity to put my foot down. I give E his bath, put him in his pajamas, and turn out the lights. I fish around for the Mighty Brite reading light and read him Goodnight Moon. He’s yawning. Good sign. We say our prayers, and I lift him in my arms and set him in his crib. As I do so, I say, “I’m leaving, E, and I want you to stay in your crib. I don’t want you to leave this room tonight.”

He rocks his head back and forth and ever so faintly says, “No. No.”

“Yes, E. Stay in your crib. I am closing the door,” and I latch the door shut.

Then I go down the hall, get in bed, and wait.

And, indeed, ten minutes later I hear him get out of his crib. I hear him run his hand across the door. What is this? The door’s never been shut before. How am I supposed to get out? I can hear him scratch at the groove between the door and the frame.

And then I hear him go nuts. He starts to whine. And then bawl. And then I hear him stomp around the room blindly. He starts opening all his drawers and flinging out all his clothes. I almost get out of bed when he starts throwing his toys. HeĀ  starts banging against the door, first with his shoulder, then with his head. He presses all the buttons on the toys attached to his bed. And then it sounds like he’s ripping pages out of one of his books.

I hear a thud, thud, thud, and then I realize he’s tipping over the rocking chair.

I’m sitting up now, but it’s suddenly gone silent. I sit uneasily for five minutes, ten minutes. What’s happened? Is he hurt — trapped, perhaps, under the rocking chair? Is he lying on the floor, exhausted? Is he back in bed?

I think I see a flash of light underneath the door. No… how can…?

And then, dumbfounded, I hear the doorknob being rattled. Chk-chk. Chk-chk.

Is my son seriously…? Chk-chk. Chk-chk.

And before I could answer my question, the door flings open, and E comes howling like a banshee down the hall, waving the Mighty Brite wand so that I see white flashes of his wrathful, grimacing face racing towards me like an avenging spirit.

I was literally flat on my back in fright. I almost fell out of the bed and found myself scampering away from him as he came to the side of the bed and started clawing up. When I got him to settle down and nestle into bed — my bed — sweetly asleep, I could still hear my heart thumping, and I had to laugh out loud, nervously, to force myself to exhale and calm down.

Needless to say, he still sleeps in our bed every night.


Lullaby: Smile in Sleep

7 05 2008


Lullaby: Smile in Sleep
by Robert Penn Warren

Sleep, my son, and smile in sleep.
You will dream the world anew.
Watching you now sleep,
I feel the world’s depleted force renew,
Feel the nerve expand and knit,
Feel a rustle in the blood,
Feel wink of warmth and stir of spirit,
As though spring woke in the heart’s cold underwood.
The vernal work is now begun.
Sleep, my son.
Sleep, son.

You will see the nestling fall.
Blood flecks grass of the rabbit form.
You will, of course, see all
The world’s brute ox-heel wrong, and shrewd hand-harm.
Throats are soft to invite the blade.
Truth invites the journalist’s lie.
Love bestowed mourns trust betrayed,
But the heart most mourns its own infidelity.
The greater, then, your obligation.
Dream perfection.
Dream, son.

When the diver leaves the board
To hang at gleam-height against the sky,
Trajectory is toward
An image hung perfect as light in his mind’s wide eye.
So your dream will later serve you.
So now, dreaming, you serve me,
And give our hope new patent to
Enfranchise human possibility.
Grace undreamed is grace forgone.
Dream grace, son.
Sleep on.

Dream that sleep is a sunlit meadow
Drowsy with a dream of bees
Threading sun, and the shadow
Where you lie lulled by their sunlit industries.
Let the murmurous bees of sleep
Tread down honey in the honeycomb.
Heart-deep now, your dream will keep
Sweet in that deep comb for time to come.
Dream the sweetness coming on.
Dream, sweet son.
Sleep on.

What if angry vectors veer
Around your sleeping head, and form?
There’s never need to fear
Violence of the poor world’s abstract storm.
For now you dream Reality.
Matter groans to touch your hand.
Matter lifts now like the sea
Toward that cold moon that is your dream’s command.
Dream the power coming on.
Dream, strong son.
Sleep on.

Note to Self: Enforced Slack

7 03 2008

On Monday, I attended a protracted professional development lecture on mental health issues for adolescents with an emphasis on anxiety disorders and OCD. Also on my mind was this article in the Wall Street Journal which talked about how Finnish culture promotes a kind of relaxed independence and, at the same time, deep valuation of reading and other basic intellectual pursuits — resulting in top-ranking academic scores on a global comparison.


During the lecture I brainstormed several parenting rules for myself to keep, several of which may seem radical but (to me) necessary:

  1. Strictly enforce sleep. Staying up past 11 is simply not allowed — not for recreation, not for academics. Eight hours (or more) a night. Period.
  2. College: Options without expectations. Take family trips to college campuses. Talk about my personal experiences about the advantages and disadvantages of going to one type of college over another. But DO NOT make any option — including going to college at all — mandatory. Community college? If you want. No college? Fine. Be educated; learn stuff; make something of yourself — I don’t care how, though.
  3. Go on retreats. Take summer vacations that require a nice long break away from technology and “normal” life: camping, hiking, travel. No phones, computers, communication or entertainment devices allowed. Books okay.
  4. Refuse to see grades. Don’t open report cards. Emphasize that life is about process, not results — that school should be about learning, growth, and self-actualization, not credits for a life not yet lived. Have my kid(s) cut and paste teacher comments on a separate report card without grades, so I can read those instead.
  5. Model reflection, confession, and problem-solving. Acknowledge and work through mistakes out loud.

100 Days and Counting

7 03 2008

So e had his 100 day celebration in Northern Virginia at Fiore di Luna. Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, I was able to corral several old friends to come and celebrate along with mom and grandmother.
Thanks, guys. Some quick shout-outs:

  • Cat & Hen: Pilgrim is adorable. I’ll be sure to visit often for more parenting advice.
  • TakTak & Math Girl: What an adventure your lives have been! I’m a little humbled by the personal courage and fortitude both of you, in your own ways, have shown.
  • Red & Blue: Congratulations! Super-Secret is guaranteed to be beautiful and fun with you folks at the helm.
  • Mom: Thanks. You’re the best. And we’re still appreciating the ddok.
  • Mom Mom: Shades and a cane? We were all in awe of your awesome-ness.

e is officially — by the pediatrician’s measurements — 14 pounds 7 ounces and 25 inches long. He’s starting to get pretty strong: he grips fingers more, his head bobbles less, and he kicks his playmat bells like van damme in a training montage. When I come home from school, Dana will often have him propped up sitting in his glider and clasping his hands like an OCD patient. At night when I change him, he’ll put his right fist in mouth and his left fist against his ear, and I’ll pretend I’m talking to him on the phone.

He’s also starting to get some pretty high-decibel wails every now and then. They don’t last long — Dana says that he’s starting to figure out that he can use them to get comfort and adjustment from us. It’s like he’s trying out different things to see what works.

He’s a funny guy.

e week 5

22 12 2007

e had his second pediatrician’s appointment yesterday. 10 lbs, 21 inches. We were given a prescription for vitamin drops to give him every day. He is now 5 weeks old.

Our nursery furniture was finally delivered this week:


That glider you see Dana sitting on is awesome — so comfortable — but e continues to insist that I walk around with him.

Baby Sponge Bath Illustrated

22 12 2007


  1. Bath towel
  2. Bowl of clear water
  3. Bowl of soapy water (2 drops of Johnson’s baby shampoo)
  4. TWO washcloths — one in the clear water, one in the soapy
  5. Fresh diaper
  6. Hooded towel


Test trickling warm water with your wrist or elbow

Baby on bath towel, diaper still on


Rub eyes from inner corner to outer with clear water cloth

Rinse face with clear water cloth


Use soapy washcloth to do behind ears, under chin. Rinse with clean cloth. Blot with bath towel.


Soap, rinse, blot arms.








Take the diaper off. Soap, rinse, blot. Replace diaper.


Put hooded bath towel around baby

Wash hair by tucking baby under arm, adding soap, and using dripping faucet.


Dry and dress.


You should only do this 2x a week, max.

e week 3 – taking stock, pt. 5 – breastfeeding

15 12 2007

Last post on this series looking back on the childcare classes we took and comparing the lessons we learned there to our beginning experiences with e.


Feeding has been the hardest part of these last three weeks plus. A lot of information got thrown at us in this class and not very systematically, but nothing can quite prepare you for the actual experience of breastfeeding.

Of course, I say all this as a sympathetic third-party. I don’t have to sit there and give of my body to my son every two hours. Instead, I just wince and peek and try to be as supportive as possible. I’ll try to report, though, as faithfully as I can what Dana says she’s going through.

Let me repeat: Breastfeeding is not easy. It’s inconvenient, it’s painful, it’s frustrating. The new baby doesn’t really know what he’s doing. The new mother doesn’t really know what she’s doing. Coaching is helpful, but inexact and ultimately inadequate; you can’t really explain from the sidelines how it ought to be done (like bike riding).

One of the things they didn’t tell us about in breastfeeding class: letdown pain. We were under the impression that as long as e is latched on properly, everything was going to be hunky dory. Pain, in other words, was seen to be a porting problem. Get the leech on right, and the milk will flow.

But as your milk ducts get ready to release milk, it apparently feels like someone is stabbing you multiple times in the breasts. And, of course, your baby is not going to relent drawing out his serous supply.

If you’re not making enough milk, your breasts start to ache. If your breasts are engorged with too much milk, they also ache, demanding relief. One day one expects mother and baby will fall into perfect sync but until then mother is always in danger of resenting the child’s inconvenient sense of timing.

If the baby doesn’t latch on properly, he’ll make you scream with pain as he uses your nipples as a chew toy. Even when he does have a full breast in his mouth, your nipples will be sore from all the work.

Your arms and your back will also go GI Jane from constantly propping up the kid and mashing his head into your bosom. Dana’s back will sometimes shudder from all of the built-up tension.

It’s also not a fair process. Some women have it physically easier than others. Some women have it emotionally easier than others. Men just have it easier period. Can’t be a good feeling to have to wake up at 2:30 to satiate the clamoring maw of your milk-addict while your husband can snore away a couple more hours.

Which is not to say it’s not worth it. There are a ton of reasons why breastfeeding is now officially recommended over formula. It just sucks hard, you know?