28 October 2009

Dance Party

In our continuing exploration of questionable parenting decisions made by my wife and I, today we will discuss how we are teaching our son to dance. Yes, in and of itself, this is not a bad thing. (And it gives an entirely new meaning to the phrase, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner.") While love of music is an excellent thing to instill in a child, one might question our musical selections, which we have done nothing to filter. More on that in a moment.

Since he was a wee small baby, we've done our best to introduce music into the life of our son. We play him music all the time, including a mix CD a friend made for us, titled 'Songs a Baby Would Enjoy.' Not having a baby himself, we're not sure how he knew what would appeal to the ears of a baby, but he managed to nail it with an inspiring selection of mostly indie rock tunes (plus Loudon Wainwright III's "Daughter") that are all perfectly melodic and an excellent soundtrack for the daily existence of a wee person.

But in an effort to assist our son in getting his groove thang on, we have used as many buoyant, beat-heavy tracks as can be found in our music collection. The result being that we have exposed him to a wide array of adult-oriented tunes such as Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," Kanye West's "Gold Digger," Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," and Outkast's "Hey Ya." We have gotten him to make a gesture akin to the shaking of a Polaroid picture, yes, but at what price? Some of Andre 3000's lyrics are a bit . . . sensual, shall we say? Of course, he doesn't really understand what he hears, which is the main reason we've used to justify our actions.

In our defense, he does seem to understand the word "dance" and when we ask him to dance, he graciously obliges with a mile-wide grin, a shuffling of his feet, and an ebullient laugh. Although sometimes I feel as though we are treating like him a trained monkey. "Dance, monkey, dance!" Again, convincing our son to engage in behavior for our amusement more than anything else.

But I digress.

He is getting to be a pretty good little dancer. Though I would say he is not as rhythmic yet as that baby in the YouTube video, the one shaking it to Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." Side note: how many parents are out there at this very moment, trying to get their own child to dance feverishly to some trendy, famous pop tune in the hopes of capturing the same type of magic on video tape and translating it into instant Internet notoriety?

Not that we are. That's not what I meant.

Recently, while driving with my son in his car seat in the back with my iPod set to shuffle, Tenacious D's "Tribute" started playing. I thought to myself, A kid could really dig this song. Visions of my son schooling the other kids in the neighborhood with his coolness and his knowledge of all things hipster were quickly shattered, though, when I realized (and how could I forget) that the D's lyrics are a veritable cornucopia of inventive profanity, that Rage and Jables are indeed notorious pottymouths (which is, sort of, half the point).

This incident reminded me that also, once, in the early months of our son's life, we watched the brilliant, hilarious Ricky Gervais stand-up special, Out of England, with the wee one laying on the couch beside us. Between peals of laughter, and wiping away the accompanying tears, we noted the very benefit of his lack of understanding. The inappropriate references in that routine would've raised a world of questions which neither one of us would be prepared to answer.

At some point, this will certainly change. We will have to be more selective about the material to which we expose him. That day is rapidly approaching. He is, in fact, already repeating certain things he hears, evidenced by the newest addition to his vocabulary, "ba pa," in reference to Dora the Explorer's magical backpack ("Yum, yum, yum, delicioso!").

Perhaps some day in the future, a band like the D will seem almost tame, quaint, no longer highly objectionable or inappropriate for our son's delicate ears, in comparison to some wild new form of dark, gothic, satanic death metal that he brings home. Or some form of polka. I shudder to think . . .

Until then, I suppose I need to investigate if Raffi still records music.

26 October 2009

Pub Crawl

A friend (who does not have kids) recently asked me and a fellow new father what the most inappropriate location was that we had so far taken our children (with or without our wives' knowledge). Reflecting on this query, it dawned on me that during his short life so far, my wife and I have taken our son on several occasions . . . into a bar.

Yes, I know. But I'd like to explain. It was always during the day. Never at night. And they were, let's say, pubs, rather than bars. Brewpubs, for instance. That's practically a restaurant . . . even if there are, say, giant vats of beer in the back. If we were living in England (or Ireland), the pub would be a perfectly normal venue to bring a toddler.

Don't judge us. It's not like we gave him beer or anything . . .

No, really. We didn't. But we have fed him bar food. That's okay, right?

Really, stop judging us.

We have acknowledged that this might be not be the best parenting maneuver. Of course, we've also found it highly amusing to be sitting in a bar with a baby. It's like that scene in Sweet Home Alabama. "You have a baby . . . in a bar."

He likes it. Good food, warm atmosphere. There was one time when he was fascinated, I mean really transfixed, by the giant silver vats on display behind the bar, with the pressure gauges and everything, where the beer is being brewed. I mean, it's practically educational.

Seriously, stop judging us.

17 October 2009

Parents of the Year

From the very beginning, I've been pretty doubtful when it comes to my abilities as a parent. Low self-esteem has routinely led me to believe throughout my life that I'm not very good at much of anything and being a father has not been an exception. But in my relatively short experience as a parent, I have discovered that pretty much on a weekly basis (hell, practically every day), at least one story appears in the news that makes me feel slightly better about my parenting skills.

And this week had a doozy: the Saga of Balloon Boy.

So I'd like to take a moment and recognize the parents of Balloon Boy for their outstanding contributions to the world of parenting. Because really, who are we kidding? This is parenting at its finest. And it allows me to breathe a little more freely, feel a little more relaxed, and generally be secure in the notion that, on average, I'm actually doing a pretty decent job as a parent.

For one more day at least.

13 October 2009

Oral Hygiene 101

ur son has sprouted teeth. Two little ones, right up front, on the bottom. He's had them a little while now and though I've yet to see him actually utilize them (either to bite or chew food), he's definitely aware that he's got them. He doesn't always let us get a good look at them, but when my wife or I has been able to jam our finger into his mouth, we've found that they're jagged, sharp little things. Like weasel teeth. Or vampire fangs.

Teething was not particularly painful (for him or us) and as he's been a major producer of drool from the start, it was often difficult to ascertain whether or not he was actually teething. While the drooling has subsided recently, it was pretty crazy there for a while. Early snap shots of our son show shirt after shirt with a big wet spot right on the front. Kid was like a fountain or a fire hydrant. I didn't know before this that a human being could even produce that much saliva.

When our son does open his mouth wide enough for a teeth viewing, the picture is a bit odd. With only two of them, sticking up from the bottom, it kind of results in a reverse buck-toothed thing. In fact, whenever I see those two tiny teeth, I can't help but think of this classic character from The Simpsons:

Of course, unlike Cletus, whose teeth surely suffer from years of neglect and poor oral hygiene, our son has actually become quite enamored of the practice. It's surprising, but it is true. I'm sure in a few years time (if all the parental horror stories and countless television comedies are to be believed) he will hate brushing his teeth and resist it at all costs. But for the moment, he really enjoys it. And even seems to be requesting that we do it. Of course, "teeth" comes out of his mouth as "ott," so we can't be positive, but he is fascinated by the toothbrush and toothpaste, knows when to open his mouth for the brush, and generally behaves in a genial fashion while we tend to his teeth.

He has developed a strange habit of interrupting the process to say "naa naa," which is our cue to lower him to within striking distance of the sink so that he can bang his fist on it, like he's knocking on a door. This appears to be the result of seeing my wife banging the toothbrush on the edge of the sink, as you do, at the end of the brushing session to knock free excess water. Is that why you do it? I don't know. Anyway, without fail, our son makes certain he gets the opportunity to knock on the sink midway through the teeth brushing. It's a very quirky, almost OCD-ish act, like he's a miniature Monk or something.

Of course, there's far worse things for our kid to be preoccupied with than teeth brushing. In fact, I'd like to chalk this one up to good parenting and an excellent example that we're setting.

We're going to fail him in so many other ways, I'd like to cling to this minor victory and assume credit for it, whether that's warranted or not.

It probably isn't.