30 September 2009

The Friend Zone

Snarky and judgmental have been my default positions for most of my life. But it took parenthood for these qualities to truly come into sharper focus. It's not that I'm a jerk, per se, but I have pretty high standards when it comes to people.

And other parents have now forced me to raise them higher.

From the moment we began taking our son out into the world, other people with kids have gravitated toward us like nobody's business. But here's the thing. We're not friends, people. Just because we both have kids, does not mean I want to converse with you. We are not on a team. Please go away and leave me alone.


What is wrong with people? Just because you have a kid and I have a kid, that doesn't mean we have anything in common or that we are similar in any way. You don't know what I'm going through and I wouldn't attempt to assume to know what you are going through.

Get out of my face. If I wanted to talk about your kid, I would've asked. But I didn't. Right?

Perhaps the single most annoying thing I've heard in these situations is the phrase, "It's magical." Magical? It's a lot of things, granted, but magical? I'm not sure I would qualify it as such. When my kid learns to apparate like in Harry Potter, yeah, maybe then I'll give you magical. But until then, no.

And please leave me alone.

27 September 2009

I've Been Out Walking

Here comes trouble.

My son, for the love of all things holy, has started to walk. I wouldn't say he's quite mastered the art yet (uneven ground and shoes still trip him up on occasion), but he's getting there. Rapidly. And as I watched him cruise across the grass the other day, with that strange little waddle of his, I thought, I know that walk. I've seen that walk.

What is that walk?

Is it a swagger? Can't be. He's just a toddler and toddlers do not swagger (particularly if they are the progeny of Klutzy McGee, aka This Guy). Strut? Saunter? Prance? Sashay? Seriously. Where did that walk come from? Where have I seen it before?

And then, suddenly, it dawns on me. My son walks exactly like this:

I'm not kidding. It's hilarious.

Maybe it's just me. I've been a Chaplin fan for a long time, so that might have something to do with it. In fact, I went out for Halloween as the Little Tramp when I was in the 4th grade (seriously, what 4th grader has ever even heard of Chaplin?). One of my favorite childhood stories to recount is of the little old lady whose doorbell we rang, who looked at me (and my tiny moustache, I presume) and thought that I was dressed as Hitler. Because, obviously, any parent would allow their child to go out trick-or-treating as Der Fuhrer. And while I've always considered this an amusing anecdote, one aspect of it has lately begun to trouble me. In hindsight, that woman did not seem remotely offended nor concerned that I was an 8 year-old kid dressed as the most evil man in the history of the world. Why is that, I wonder?

But I digress. My son walks just like the Little Tramp. Maybe I'll have to dress him up as the character for Halloween. Imagine a toddler version of Chaplin. How ridiculously adorable would that be?

Seriously, though, where did this strange, marvelous little creature really come from?

23 September 2009

Talk of the Town

Words matter. At least, to me. They're a big part of my life. Obviously. And my wife's too. In particular, the litany of completely nonsensical ones that she's invented over the years. So it should come as no surprise that our son's discovery of speech should be nothing short of a huge event for us. His first sounds (they can't really, technically, be called words) were goofy and glorious in equal measure. And as he continues to struggle to express himself (fan does not start with a 'b,' pal--get with it), we are determined to do our utmost to instill in him a love of words equal to our own.

From everything we've read (we're big on parenting books, web sites, magazines--any chance to intellectualize the experience of parenthood we've embraced wholeheartedly), you're supposed to pretty much talk to your kid constantly, so that they can absorb as many words and sounds as possible. So you find yourself describing absolutely everything, the most mundane of things, as if your kid is a miniature version of Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction, being followed about by the disembodied voice of an omniscient narrator. From his socks to his bath to animals in the world, you tell him about everything.

It can get tedious for the talker, but the kid doesn't notice.

His words (such as they are) go in tandem with wild gesticulations. Pointing this way and that, slapping you in the face, tapping himself on the head. I realized lately that I am a person who talks with my hands, so he is apparently doomed to follow in my footsteps.

While his vocabulary is limited, he's gotten pretty adept at a few small, choice selections: "Da da," "Ma ma," "Dead deer."

Don't ask.

In addition to describing everything in sight, you're also supposed to read to them. The growing toddlers. We have been reading him books every night at his bedtime for a while now and for the most part, he actually seems to be interested. Our favorite books are by an author named Sandra Boynton. They are hilarious and bizarre. Apparently post-modern absurdism has now trickled down to children's literature. And that's a good thing.

We've also heard that you can pretty much read them anything, but I question that theory. (Lady Chatterley's Lover, perhaps? Fight Club?) Maybe our son would enjoy Sy Hersh's latest investigative piece on the turbulent, continually deteriorating situation in the Middle East. But sadly, in our lives, the New Yorker has been replaced by Parents magazine and all evidence of our past intellectual snobbery has pretty much been expunged from our existence. As my wife said once, not too long ago, as she stared wistfully at a woven, sea grass basket stuffed to the gills with our son's motley collection of toys:

"That used to hold New Yorkers."

Ahh, the sound of the new parents' lament.