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June 7, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ronan is smiling. And that’s not only good, that’s great. He smiles spontaneously after a feeding if you shout “Smile! Yay!” repeatedly. The smiles get bigger the more times you yell. My landlady must think I’m insane since I’m always shouting “Smile! Yay!” all the time. But it’s wonderful. I think it’s the most wonderful smile I’ve ever seen, all toothless and about half the size of his face. Well, the most wonderful next to my beautiful wife's. If I ever have energy again I will post a video of him smiling. I guarantee it will make you laugh.

He’s also really focusing on objects, which feels like me all the time because he seems to know who I am now. He will follow me around the room from his crib or bassinette. If there are other people around, he will stare at me a lot. It’s really cool on one hand, because he seems to recognize me, but it’s also somewhat melancholy in a good way, because he’s starting to miss me if I’m not there and looks quite sad. I say “in a good way” because I’m selfish and evil, and because he’s incredibly cute while staring at me. While he’s somewhat unhappy about other people being near him, he wants to be near me, and that’s a good feeling.

I have no energy because we’re getting ready for a schedule change. Actually Terry and I have been ready for some time but Ronan is not. The pediatrician calls him the “little prince” because he won’t sleep more than three or four hours. We are trying everything short of hired help, books, swaddling, etc. Starting Wednesday he is sleeping on his belly during the day while we’re awake. There’s also a new sleep ritual at the end of the day. This includes a bath, which for some reason I don’t understand makes him sleepy. The first night didn’t really work, and I woke up this morning with Terry pounding the bed in frustration because she really, really needs sleep. I’ve gotten more sleep but I would like to sleep at night, not during the day, and I’ve been sleeping a lot in the morning. (Okay, the afternoon too.)

Apparently despite the sleep protectors and the rotation, we’ve given our baby a flat head. There’s time to recover from this, but it’s not a good feeling to know that our baby’s skull is mildly deformed. He can recover from this by sleeping on his side or his tummy, and he had 16 months before it’s a real serious problem that can only be fixed by surgery or wearing a weird helmet. Hopefully it will be better at the checkup in two months.

Finally, I feel ugly. I got rejected by the MFA Program in Integrated Media at Hunter College, when I thought I would get in with a 3.89 GPA from Fordham and media credits going back fifteen years. But, I didn’t get accepted. I knew something was wrong when I went for the interview and the interviewer didn’t look at my DVDs or websites, but somehow knew my portfolio was too “light.” In thirty seconds we were through my work of the past ten years. I tried to get her to go back to my work with World War II and working at the UN School, but she wasn’t interested. So I’m thinking about going to the MFA Program in Television at Brooklyn College. I have mixed feelings about this; it means that in a year I will have to put Ronan in day care once a week. It’s a weird feeling. I feel like I’m letting Ronan down somehow, even though I’m not accepted yet, and intellectually I know that I’m not letting him down just because he’s in day care one day a week. But I feel ugly for doing it. I know I will have to let him go to school and such but cut me some slack, he’s only been here two months and already I’m making plans to leave him. And yes, I know many (most?) families don’t have a choice, they put their kids in with someone else as soon as they are born. I still feel ugly.

I guess that’s parenting – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ll try to focus on the good, fix the bad, and forget the ugly. But it’s hard.

June 10, 2007


So Ronan had his first fever. Normally this wouldn’t be scary but apparently under the age of two months, which Ronan thankfully had just marked, a fever means a two-day stay in the hospital for intravenous antibiotics. So because he was old enough we were able to stay home and monitor the situation.

Other parents had warned me that the first fever would be hard. I wasn’t too worried until I had a profound moment. Ronan was cranky and crying on and off through the day, and we were about to take his temperature again. His ability to grip and focus has really increased lately. Still, I was taken aback when I put him down on the changing table. He had a hold of my shirt and refused to let go. He began to wail even more, and was obviously ill, with tired eyes and less energy. Thankfully those were the only symptoms. I had to get a new diaper and I had to break his grip on my shirt. I tried as gently as possible but it still upset him to not hold onto me. I felt terrible. It was the first time that Ronan made a conscious effort to keep me near him. He really started to cry and it took both Terry and I to administer the rectal temperature check. (Yup! Now you know why he was upset.)

Once we got him checked and dressed, he fell asleep in my arms, a hot little oven broiling away in the summer heat. Thankfully his fever broke within twelve hours, peaking at 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the fever fell on a weekend the pediatrician says we don’t even have to come in on Monday unless his temperature spikes again.

For those of you who don’t have children or don’t work with them much, it may not seem like a big deal. But the first time my child reached out to me in distress was a very moving moment. I knew he wasn’t in any danger, but he was tired and sick and cranky, and he just wanted me to hold him, not plop him down on the less comfortable, cooler changing table.

I was very moved by this little boy asking me for help without having the words to do so. Call me crazy, but it was a very emotional moment for me. I’m really glad that it was nothing serious. Today we gave Ronan the anal temperature probe and he was all smiles. I doubt he even remembers the distress of the night before. I think I’ll remember it the rest of my life.

June 18, 2007


Ronan and I took our second journey into Manhattan. The first was a visit to my old job at a private school. We visited students and teachers and he did very well.

I was a wreck.

There’s a wonderful device that’s a combination bondage device/baby restraint called a Bjorn. (Aside: the name “Bjorn” always makes me think of 1970s tennis great Bjorn Borg. Why? Because I only know one Bjorn.) Terry can use all three of our baby slings, but the Bjorn is the only one that doesn’t place Ronan directly against my Adam’s Apple and cause me to stop breathing. Ronan has a love/hate relationship with the Bjorn. He loves to fall asleep in it on the subway. He hates to be in it any other time.

So for four hours I held a squirming, over-stimulated two-month-old as hundreds of schoolchildren gawked at him. I ran out of energy long before Ronan did, but he got to sleep on the subway and I didn’t. I didn’t want to miss my stop.

The second trip was different. It began with Ronan spitting up all over me.

Every time I look at our diaper bag, I wonder if the pioneers crossed the plains with only a single nappy to use along the way. (Then I remember that the death rate for infants in the 19th century was much higher than my current socioeconomic status.) Our diaper bag has everything to keep Ronan comfortable for about a month, except food, and we could take care of that easily by adding one of the approximately 1.4 million free cans of Similac we got as samples. Just to make my Dad feel better (he lives in fear of New York) it’s been lined with Kevlar© ballistic armor. (No, not really. Sometimes it just feels that heavy, though.)

So Ronan spit up on me halfway to the subway. I opened the diaper bag for a wipe to clean up. I couldn’t find it.

Oh, it was there. It was definitely in there. You see, for whatever reason, my wife packs the diaper bag when I take Ronan on a trip. I like to think it’s her way of taking care of us, to make sure we are in comfort and Ronan’s needs are taken care of. It’s a wonderful, loving way to send us off. It could be that I’m completely devoid of common sense about these things, and her packing the bag means that Ronan has a much better than 50/50 chance that he’ll have a clean diaper than if I do. But I prefer to think that it’s her way of taking care of us.

So since she packed the diaper bag, I knew – KNEW – that a wipe was in there. But while I found many things, a wipe was not one of them.

So I turned around, went home, changed Ronan, changed my shirt, and got a packet of diaper wipes so I knew where they were.

I had a wonderful lunch with a friend. Ronan smiled all the time. That is, until he decided that the Bjorn was a bondage device and he had to get out now. Then, I ate French fries with one hand and held a squirming baby with the other. So much to see! I’ll spin completely around several times so I don’t miss it all!!

On the train home Ronan feel asleep in the Bjorn and it seemed all was well with the world. That is, until the MTA saw our bliss and had to crush it like a hard-boiled egg. The Q train first went local and then it stopped running altogether. I assume that since it was rush hour this was designed to make the passengers more comfortable about getting to know each other or something, since we were going to be together for a long time. That’s when Ronan decided to wake up and get the hell out of the @#$%!% Bjorn, Dad!! Right freakin’ now, Dad!! We had to switch trains suddenly to one that was actually going to move, and without much warning. It’s always fun to take your squirmy, unhappy baby who does not fear death and is not semi-permanently attached to you and dash across a subway platform. I was terrified that someone would bump me and I would shoot a twelve-pound baby off of the platform or something.

I was so freaked out that I put Ronan back in the Bjorn on the new train. Which, I am told, is against the Geneva Convention on babies. Ronan actually said this; “Dad, this is upsetting me greatly.” However, since he doesn’t speak English yet, this involved slapping me on the face with his fists and failing his legs. And oh, yes, the inevitable tears.

This of course, made me the Center of Attention© (Patent Pending). This was my first time as that guy. As in, “That guy” who can’t keep his baby quiet; “That guy” who is disturbing my already annoying ride; “That guy” who looks befuddled and confused and probably needs someone to help him with quieting the baby. As any New Yorker will tell you, you do not want to be “That guy” or “that gal” who is the center of attention. Being the center of attention is okay if you’re an actor, or a motivational speaker, but it really sucks to be the center of attention on a New York City subway.

So, I did what I do when I’m home: I talked to Ronan. I assured him that it wouldn’t be for long; that he would be home in just a few stops; that I hated doing this to him. Of course, he didn’t care. He has this expression of displeasure that just melts my heart. He turns into Burgess Meredith as the Penguin on the old Batman TV series.

“Meh!” Ronan says.

“We’ll be home soon,” I say.

“Meh!” Ronan says.

It’s not quite crying. He has a full-on crying mode that is not pleasant. But the single-syllable expression of displeasure is one of the funniest, cutest things. Of course, I’m his Dad, and I don’t think the other people on the subway found it quite as endearing as I did. So we made our way via local stops on the Q, back home to Brooklyn.

“Canal Street.” The conductor said.

“Meh!” Ronan said.

“Shhh." I said.

“Meh!!” Ronan said.

“We’ll be home soon.” I said.

“Meh!” Ronan said.

I know I should have been looking at Ronan the whole time. I find it effective to gaze into his eyes. He seems to be fascinated by staring at me. I can already see him trying to mimic my facial expressions.

But those subway passengers freaked me the fuck out.

I’ve never had fifty people stare at me while I tried to quiet a baby. I find I am much less effective at it when I feel like an entire trainload of strangers is staring at my child and me. I tend to stare back.

Which actually works. If you stare at people, they will look away. Because if I don’t see them staring at me, then I won’t know that they are staring at me. Or something. (I don’t know, because, again, it creeps me out. I mean, Dude, seriously, read your paper.)

So, anyway, after about ten minutes of the entire car praying for me to get Ronan quiet, one of the other passengers bit the bullet and offered up their seat. Which normally I would have taken; but the only thing worse than Ronan awake in a Bjorn is Ronan awake in a Bjorn with me sitting down. So I stood the whole time.

Ronan, who may prove to be as stubborn as his parents, refused to sleep. He wanted out of the Bjorn. He was cooing and happy when I finally released him from the damned thing when we got home. Which shows that at two months, he knows what he likes.

As for the Bjorn, the next day at the Joan Osbourne concert in Prospect Park, Ronan was back in it, and I was stumbling around in the dark. I was pacing, trying to get him to go to sleep. Which was impossible, because watching what was going on was way more interesting than falling asleep.

At least Joan was so loud and so many people were moving around no one was staring at me.

June 27, 2007


Ronan Cranes

Ronan watching the cranes. It's more fun in real life. 1:30, 2.1 MB

One of the many awesome gifts we got when Ronan was born was a decorated house. (And clean sheets.) The persons who did this came over one night while Terry was in the hospital and made a better homecoming for her than I possibly could, since I was more likely to throw things around in frustration at our horrible hospital stay. Folded paper cranes hung from every light, and encouraging and funny sayings graced various places around the apartment. Food was given as well.

Well, we ate the food, read the sayings and left the cranes up. Ronan may never know about the sayings or the food but I’m beginning to believe that he’s going to be an ornithologist (Someone who studies birds, but I know I don’t have to tell you that.)

He loves the cranes! Loves them!! In a way I didn’t think was possible for a two-month-old. Our other mobiles do not hold his attention the same way. In fact, he seems to be frightened of one of them. (I’m a little frightened of it too, but that’s because it was so hard to put together, then it exploded when we turned it on the first time. That one is resting quietly in a grave somewhere while Ronan fears its replacement.)

But the cranes. Hours of joy! This week he discovered that his father can hit the cranes while sitting in the glider. This is all he wants to do now. Sit in the glider and watch the cranes swing.

It’s delightful to watch him focus on the cranes and laugh and coo and generally be very cute. The bottom crane is starting to rip because I’ve hit it so much. I’m trying to be more gentle with it to make hitting it last longer. (I just read that last sentence. It’s not as salacious as it sounds.)

Much like the crane, I’m finding that my right arm is not so happy with the repetitive movement. Saturday morning between 4-8 AM I swatted the poor crane in a vain attempt to get Ronan to go to sleep; he preferred to watch the cranes. The next day my arm was sore. (Just a bit.)

Later that night Terry wondered if he preferred the cranes to food. He has this incredibly cute way of craning (no pun intended) his neck around to make sure the cranes are still there. While he is eating.

What enthralls him so much? It could be the dark paper moving against the light beige walls. It could be the shapes of the cranes. Whatever it is, despite the sore arm, it’s really fun to watch him giggle. I’m in favor of anything that makes him laugh. I’m a little concerned that he’s so addicted, but that’s only a problem if he turns 21 and still spends hours watching paper crane mobiles swing in the wind.

Of course, this probably means I have to learn how to fold cranes. That poor crane isn’t going to make it for long.

About June 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Freaks & Geeks Parenting in June 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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