Grip has developed a kissing technique we hope he doesn’t take into his dating years. He will, if your hair is long enough, grab it in two vice-like fistfuls and lunge straight at your face, mouth wide open, to suck on whatever protuberance he happens to contact — cheek, nose, chin — with the ferocity of a lovesick leech. Those with shorter hair may escape the grip of Grip, but will be sucked on just the same. At the end of one of these displays of affection, a recipient is coated in a thick, glistening layer of drool, sometimes well up into the nostrils. As you can imagine, we find this totally … adorable.
Here’s the first paragraph of a NYT piece on the rollout of Bush’s 2005 budget:
Facing a record budget deficit, Bush administration officials say they have drafted an election-year budget that will rein in the growth of domestic spending without alienating politically influential constituencies.
That really says it all, but nonetheless, read this Marshall entry on the transparent politicism of, well, every single thing this administration does. It becomes more and more mystifying how anyone with any principles at all, liberal or conservative, can support this guy.
We were takin’ a bath.
Mom, Grip and I spent Christmas day at Grandpa John’s house. He has a large jacuzzi-style tub, so the three of us got in to take a bath together. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it was the funnest thing I’ve ever done. If anyone ever has a chance to bathe with a naked, wriggling, excited four month old, they should jump at it. His eyes were wide as saucers the whole time. He didn’t look happy, per se, so much as intent on absorbing as much information as possible, like a little supercomputer. It was exhausting for him and he slept like a rock that night. I wish I could have taken some pictures, but for reasons she says are “obvious,” Mom wouldn’t let me.
It’s hard to know what to write about Grip these days–there’s something slightly new every day, but it’s all so incremental. Just lately, in the last week or so, Mom and I have both noticed that he seems to have ceased being a Baby and become a Little Boy. Possibly it’s because he can stand so tall now, for as long as he wants, as long as you hold him straight. He looks around attentively, purposefully, tracks things, reacts to people, even those who aren’t interacting with him directly. He grabs at things, moves them, plays with them. It’s all this, but something more: just the look of him. I’m starting to be able to imagine him running around, exerting his will. It makes me giggle with delight and anticipation. I can’t wait to have a little playmate, rather than an animated toy (you know what I mean). It also scares the crap out of me. Our apartment isn’t child-proof! It’s too small! We don’t have a high chair!
Now that I’m working, I feel like I have to drink in every moment I spend with him. It’s a cliche but it’s true: he’s growing up ridiculously fast. He’s only four months old and already I feel like he’s been through several fundamental stages. Is it always going to be like this? Slow down!
of people in the world: those that see a man walking with a little baby in a stroller and smile warmly (some at him, some just to themselves), and those that don’t.
Oh my god. I mean, I knew the Dems were in for a tough fight next year, but c’mon.
Read this article. Seriously, read the whole thing. Then resign yourself to four more years of debt, fiscal insanity, environmental destruction, unilateral militarism, waning civil liberties, and endless abuse of language. And say a prayer for the country.
It’s kind of a sensitive topic, but I want to talk about the kind of love fathers have for their new children. Well, I want to talk about _my_ experience in particular, but I venture to guess that my experience is pretty common, though rarely discussed. Being from Mars and all, guys generally don’t discuss their emotions. Especially not when they worry their emotions are unusual or inappropriate.
Here’s how the myth goes: when a father sees a new child a burning and undying love alights in his chest. It’s _my child_. Immediately, he feels total devotion. The myth was well-illustrated on a recent episode of “The West Wing.” The President’s teenage daughter had been kidnapped. When communications director Toby lays eyes on his newborn children (twins), he suddenly realizes that the President must temporarily step down, because, as he says, he would “nuke” a country for threatening his children, and his children are brand new! Imagine what the President would do! (This turned out to be a rather lame plot line on WW, but that’s another story.)
It was somewhat of a guilty shock to me when I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel that fire in my chest. I looked at him lying there, and waited for it, but I felt mostly the same as I felt the day before, only more exhausted. I mean, I knew that I would do anything for Grip from the minute he was born, but I knew that _before_ he was born. That’s my job as a dad. I knew it but didn’t _feel_ it, really, on a visceral level, and I continued to know-it-but-not-feel-it after I saw him. There was no big change. I mean, here’s this little defenseless, affectless lump of baby, who can’t focus or control his limbs or do or think anything. He’s not anything. He doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall. What is there for love to latch on to? There’s nothing to love about him, because really, there’s nothing at all about him. He has no characteristics, no individuality. I felt “love,” in quotes. I felt something, but it was heavily intellectual, extremely abstract.
I saw Jen’s reaction, her total and passionate love–no quotes–for Grip. She immediately lost the ability to imagine her life without him. She immediately began worrying about him and crying at the thought of anything happening to him. Her love was immediate, overwhelming, visceral and hormonal and irrevocable and total.
But mine just wasn’t. I _could_ imagine life without him. Easily. Imagine a few days ago! Imagine my whole life up to then! Was it me? I’ve always been a thinky, analytical, private, internal person. I’ve always been a little emotionally distanced and guarded. At times I’ve even thought I’m so guarded that I’m incapable of real attachment, that even when I want to be attached, even when I’m mimicking an attached person, there’s a cold core of me that isn’t touched, that can rationally assess the idea of returning to solitude. I worried that I am, on an existential level, alone, and condemned to always be so.
After I met Jen these fears and doubts about myself receded a little, but they’ve never totally gone away, and my reaction to the birth of my son seemed to confirm the worst of them. What kind of monster doesn’t feel love for his new son on the deepest level? What kind of monster has to play act filial love?
Anyway, that’s how I felt for quite a while. I would always have thrown myself in front of a truck for Grip, but it wouldn’t have been a thoughtless, automatic, instinctual throwing, it would have been an “I know this is my duty” kind of throwing. Throwing either way, but not the kind of throwing I felt I _ought_ to be capable of.
Slowly, incrementally (accelerating lately), Grip has started to become a person. He’s getting a personality. He’s getting quirks, and habits, and a temperament. And my god, it is _awesome_. I don’t mean the fact that it’s happening, I mean _him_, as an individual. He is _so cool_! He’s so serene all the time, and quiet, and slow to anger. He sleeps through the night and finds it hard to wake up and smiles, smiles, smiles, but not indiscriminately. He loves to dance and he loves to hear me sing and he loves it when I bzzzzt his nose. Sometimes when I look at him a slow, shy grin spreads across his face and he looks away, like aw shucks, like gee all this for me? Sometimes when he smiles I giggle and that makes him giggle and that makes me giggle.
I’m really starting to love the guy.
Now, you might think, well that’s _conditional_ love, isn’t it? You love him because he’s so great. What if he wasn’t so great? What if he was unpleasant or colicky or disabled and didn’t smile or couldn’t interact? Would you love him then? Aren’t you still on the hook for lacking that unconditional, detail-independent Parental Love?
I guess so. But this love that’s growing so fast, so beyond my control, is almost a happy surprise for me. I feel relief. I was worried Grip was going to go through life with a father who “loved” him but never really loved him. I like this love; it’s got meat on its bones. It’s love of _him_, Griffin, not just of “my child.” I feel guilty that my love is attached to his specific personality and isn’t more universal or whatever, but I also feel lucky, and so damn proud of him. I got the best kid! I think about him and I feel something… it’s not _anger_, exactly, but it’s fierce, and it’s hot, and woe, WOE unto the person who fucks with my child. I will jump in front of a truck; I will throw _you_ in front of a truck.
I don’t know. It’s complicated. Maybe it’s not the right kind of love, but it’s mine, and it’s his. I hope it’s enough.
Griffin has his first imaginary friend. You hear all about how babies like black and white patterns and faces, right? Well, instead of going out and spending a bunch of money on some mobile he’ll be bored with in a couple of months, I decided to create a home-made version. I broke out a black Sharpie and a piece of recycled paper and voila: Stan was born. With a bit of kitchen string and some masking tape, I affixed the crude smiley face to a prime viewing location over Grip’s swing and plopped him in, eager to see how he liked his mom’s handiwork. I figured he’d find it vaguely interesting, but I never expected that he would develop a relationship with it. He actually has conversations (albeit one-sided) with Stan and will occasionally burst out in a fit of giggles. I’m not sure why it freaks me out, if it’s that he’s interacting with a paper smiley-face, or that he already has private jokes I’m not in on. But for the time being, at least: welcome to the family, Stan.
Grip has his two-month check-up on Wednesday. I’ve been dreading it ever since his 5-day-old appointment when they informed us that he’d be getting four shots — two in each precious, tender thigh. Originally I wasn’t even going to go. I was going to let Dad to bear the burden of watching our son’s face crumple as people do something to intentionally hurt him, but I realized something. Grip’s life is going to be full of people inflicting all kinds of hurts (intentional and not), and as his parents, we both need to get used to helping him get through it. I think in this case, a little Mom’s milk ought to do the trick. If only all the future hurts were going to be that easy.
We haven’t updated the Diaries for a while. I could make some excuse about this, but the fact of the matter is that I haven’t been able to think of anything to say. It’s not that nothing’s happening — the kid is growing so fast we can practically see the difference every day; he’s alert and tracking objects; he’s starting to make coo-sounding noises; his acne is clearing up — it’s just that I can’t think of anything. That is to say, I can’t think. At all. I’ve gone stupid. I’m guessing it’s the lack of sleep, combined with the constant presence of something to worry about and take care of and play with and so forth.
I think it’s nature’s way of bringing new parents down to their kids’ level. The other day I was holding Grip and I started thinking, “he looks like a turtle… yeah, a turtle… with a little Yoda thrown in… and maybe some Winston Churchill… or is it Alfred Hitchcock?… but definitely turtle… a Yoda-turtle… but with no shell…”
At some point I realized that about a half hour had passed. Grip was staring at me. I was staring at him. We both had drool on our chins.