Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bad Baby!

For Charlotte’s first Halloween, my mom is going to turn her into a devil. Growing up, my mom always made costumes for my sister and me, and she graciously offered to do the same for Charlotte. Why a devil? Well, it’s a pretty typical costume for kids. In fact, my little sister was one for her second Halloween (She was, like, weeks old for her first Halloween). There is a rather famous picture in our family of Allison all bedeviled, with a mouth full of candy, looking at me like, “Dude! Why didn’t you tell me how awesome this is? We get to do this EVERY year?"

But honestly, we didn’t randomly pick a standard baby costume for our daughter. We picked a devil because it is so appropriate. Oh, relax. I don’t actually think my daughter is the anti-Christ or a spawn of Satan. Although

All I’m saying is we picked the costume because our child is such a pain in the ass. If you’re offended by my choice of words, you have not met my daughter. To know Charlotte is to adore her, but it is also to wonder aloud why she’s SO BAD. In some ways she is very much like her mother. I, too, am a pain in the ass. Just ask my husband. I’m restless, impatient, don’t sleep well, and I’m spoiled. Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, and, oh yes, Charlotte. We are willful creatures who usually end up getting our way with Chris. She does it with tears, and I do it with…well, let’s just say I keep him happy. I would pity my husband, but he actually seems rather satisfied with submitting to the batting eyelashes of his wife and daughter.

Like many first-time parents, Chris and I spent Charlotte’s first day on this planet marveling at what a good, quiet baby she was. She slept most of the day, and when she was awake, she just stared deep into our eyes. We thought we had it made. Of course, that lasted all of twelve hours. Soon she began screaming every time we changed her diaper, screaming whenever she wasn’t attached to my cracked and bleeding nipples, and screaming because, well, screaming is fun, right?

After a few days in the hospital, we decided to take her home despite all the screaming. Over the next couple of months we were treated to even more screaming: in the car, when anyone besides Chris or me held her, and of course every night at six until midnight during her colicky phase. Soon, she and I would come to blows over breastfeeding, but I’ve already covered that here. So, I will only say this: I have read about a breastfeeding mother and her child as being referred to as a “nursing couple”. Well, if Charlotte and I are a couple, we’re the Odd Couple. We’re Sid and Nancy. We’re star-crossed.

I think part of the reason Charlotte is so difficult is because, in some ways, she’s so independent. At six months she would rather drink from a cup than be cuddled and fed a bottle. She has decided that she will eat her vegetables and rice cereal, but only if she can hold the spoon. She is also eager to move and has been scooting across the floor since she was three-months old. If you pull her to a sitting position, she’ll do you one better and pull herself to a standing one. Now that she is a bit older and can do so many more things on her own, she is a much happier baby. In fact, most of the time now, she is more likely to be found smiling, laughing, or growling like a monster than screaming, which has been nothing short of my miraculous rescue from the brink of insanity.

In a way, I am proud of her independence. I beam when she grabs her sippy cup and clumsily tilts it to her face. I am happy to clean up the extra mess she makes while eating because I want to encourage the autonomy she shows by feeding herself, quite handily, I might add. But, like everything else, my feelings on this are complicated. When I look into the future, I see a bright, capable girl. One who takes initiative and conquers obstacles. I want this for my child, but I also want her to need me. I suppose this is the Achilles heel of all mothers. Our job is to create self-reliant and functional adults. So, we should delight in anything our children can do without our help. It means we’re doing something right. But, so much of our identity is wrapped up in being caregivers for our children. Who are we if we aren’t boo-boo fixers, arms to sleep in, a source of nourishment or comfort?

Obviously, I am getting ahead of myself. Charlotte is a baby, and needs me for almost everything. In fact, with her current refusal of the bottle, I can scarcely leave her for a couple of hours without her screaming bloody murder. There’s also her need to be close to us at all times. She would have me hold her in my arms the entire time she sleeps if she could. Instead she settles for sleeping in bed with us. It’s the only way she’ll sleep through the night, and even though ultimately I’d like her to sleep in her own bed, I am happy to be her teddy bear for the moment. And I adore watching her smile when she wakes up and sees she’s not alone. I’m just trying to prepare myself for the inevitable heartache of watching her learn to do more and more things without my help and eventually flat out refusing my assistance or even presence. But, I guess the best thing to do is to enjoy every minute of her neediness now, while still encouraging her independence. Which reminds me, it’s time to go hand her a spoon and watch her shove some squash into her mouth. Or her eye. She doesn’t care. As long as she’s doing it herself.

1 comment:

  1. Dude.

    I totally feel you on that whole bit about independence. When Emmie was a baby and started doing things on her own, I was like, "Awesome!" However, now, at three, she has a tendency to look at me and say (I kid you not), "I want you leave. Just leave."

    That said, I don't think there's a happy medium between being overly needy and super independent. It's nice to feel needed, yes, but then sometimes it gets really aggravating (like when you're trying to have a BM and the kid is screaming). Then there are times such as the example above.

    Motherhood, man...