“Mama. Mama. Mamamamama,” my wife enunciated steadily, in stark contrast to the hyperactive limb-chase she was currently undertaking–attempting to get my son’s frantic arms and legs into his pajamas.
“Thhhhhhhhhh,” he replied, creating a froth of his patented saliva bubbles.
“I think he almost got it that time,” I snarked from the rocking chair, with my daughter riding lap jockey.
Ever since my son said “Dada” for the first time (possibly because of my Chuck Norris t-shirt), my wife has been working on “Mama” with both kids, with little apparent success.
Bathtime had gone swimmingly and we were now preparing the Twins for bed. Typically, we each bathe and dress one kid, alternating them every other bath. That way, we both have equal opportunities at the completely polar-opposite bathing experiences my son and daughter have to offer. In order to better illustrate the differences, I will analogize with everyday beverages you can find around the house.
Washing our daughter is a fairly low-energy endeavor–she’s content to sit and simply enjoy the aquatic epidermal sensation. If my daughter’s bathtime were a libation, it would be a glass of fine wine–one drank at the end of a long day and savored slowly because it was so freaking expensive.
On the other hand, my son is more of a Red Bull tallboy. Put this strapping young lad in the tub and brace yourself (and him) for Olympic-sized splashes, incessant scuba diving attempts, and the golden eruption of Old Faithful. We’ve found that one hand on him at all times is the best practice, as well as mentally preparing oneself for an action sequence that would overwhelm even Michael Bay before plunging into Splash Mountain.
My wife had braved the one-boy-monsoon on this particular night, while I had handled my daughter, who, now that she was in her pajamas and NOT yet drinking The Bottle That Always Comes After Pajamas, was getting antsy.
“It’s not quite time yet, Baby Girl,” I cooed. “Hey, I have an idea. Let’s look at these animals.”
Sitting her down in the rocking chair and kneeling in front of her, I surveyed the stuffed animals congregating on the floor next to me and selected her jumbo pink Sock Monkey, which is about twice her size. She cocked an eyebrow and wrinkled her forehead, unsure about all this whole not-drinking-a-bottle business.
I nudged Pink Sock Monkey’s head in perfect cadence as I spoke in what I imagine a Pink Sock Monkey’s voice would sound like–just a few notches below falsetto.
Hi there little girl! I’m Pink Sock Monkey! I sure am hungry–do you happen to have any Pink Sock Bananas?
Get your mind out of the gutter, O Loyal Reader.
In one motion, my daughter spun away from the monkey, looked right at me, and held my gaze while batting the peripheral pink primate out of view, as if to say, “Why are you bullsh!tting me, Dad?”
I heard my wife cracking up behind me. “Smart little girl.”
Letting my ill-conceived ventriloquist dummy fall back into the pile, I chuckled and picked her up. “I guess nothing gets by you, huh?”
It was then that she swung her arm and delivered a tiny face-five to my nose.
My wife stifled a laugh.
“Thhhhhhhhhh,” bubbled my son, sporting a squinty grin.
“Babababababa,” asserted my daughter. We’re not sure if her undying love for bottles has prompted her to actually say “Baba,” if it’s just her favorite syllable, or both. Either way, with two strikes on me already, I figured I’d better swing away.
“Let’s go make some bottles, baby girl.”
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If not, remain vigilant for splashes and face-fives.
My son has discovered the joy of blowing bubbles. Not the sudsy kind that can be purchased at the store that are equipped with plastic wands. His bubbles are homemade, mouth-crafted from his own bodily fluids, including saliva and spit-up, as well as fluids intended to become bodily, such as breast milk, formula, and baby food. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing–eating, playing, fighting crime–he’s always perfecting his new hobby.
He employs two methods in bubble creation. His first, preferred technique is by sustaining the “TH” sound, partially sticking his tongue out just underneath his forthcoming top row of teeth, allowing bubbles to emanate from either side of his mouth. The second strategy involves vocalizing the “hard C” or “K” sound and holding it, creating a sort of artificial static white noise usually incorporated in the use of imaginary walkie talkies.
Whichever method he employs, he is growing in both enthusiasm and proficiency daily, making him a veritable sprinkler. Most of the time this is incredibly adorable, as he sports a proud, accomplished grin at demonstrating such bodily control. However, this new talent can be cumbersome when attempting to feed him.
He’s hard enough to feed as it is. At 6 months old, he is highly distractible while eating. Books I do not have time to read suggest that many babies at this age have newly-acquired 20/20 vision and are thus becoming increasingly aware of their surroundings, which can be infinitely more exciting than eating, their first love. This newfound awareness does not seem to faze our daughter, though. Despite these biological developments she is a focused eater, eyes on the prize the whole time. She’ll chug an entire bottle without once coming up for air and is always ready for each new bite of baby food, oatmeal, rice cereal, or whatever else we’ve prepared.
In stark contrast, I’d estimate my son’s feedings to average 1 1/2 times to twice the length of his sister’s.
At mealtime, his attention is everywhere except the intended ingestion–the pictures on the wall, the pattern on Daddy’s shirt, the swirly shape of our pole lamp’s energy-conserving bulb, the toy I’ve given his sister to occupy her since she finished eating 20 minutes ago, etc. While drinking a bottle, teething has even prompted him to nipple-gnaw instead of drinking through it.
And then, of course, there’s the Spoon Games. One of his favorites involves putting his head down so his chin is virtually attached to his chest, making for a less-than-ideal spoon delivery. Another is when the spoon comes his way, in the time-honored tradition of pretending it is an airplane, he denies the plane in what we have dubbed the King-Kong-F*ck-You Swipe, rendering the plane useless as its engine fuel splatters the floor. Luckily, our dog waits patiently for this occurrence and is an excellent cleanup crew.
I’m sure you can imagine what bubble blowing had contributed to this repertoire, particularly as food is often sent back to the chef in an aerodynamic manner. I have removed puree’d peas from my eyes on several occasions.
Regrettably, in frustration, I recently I caught myself uttering a phrase I hoped never to utter to my kids, particularly because they’re twins and will always compete for our approval: “Why can’t you be more like your sister? Look how fast she eats, Buddy!”
Totally my bad, but trust me, 20 minutes of desperately trying to get him to eat even half of his food seems way longer than it actually is.
At the same time, the battlefield that is feeding my son recently provided the setting for what may be my favorite father-son moment to date.
The meal was carrots and green beans. Having seen the stains the carrots leave on some of our baby spoons, I looked down in horror at my off-white $40 Paul McCartney Tour t-shirt. He smirked at me from his high chair, as if petting a supervillain cat in his lap.
“Be right back, Buddy.”
Once I slipped into something more ruin-able, a bell sounded, signaling the beginning of Round 1. Luckily, King Kong was tame today, and he actually started out cooperatively. After a few successful spoonfuls, however, as the plane approached the hangar, I saw him winding up. His tongue partially protruded, the “TH” blowing technique was imminent, and would be unleashed the moment food hit baby mouth. I found myself in a game of “chicken” with my 6-month-old.
Then, a half-inch from impact, I pulled the spoon back, saying, “Oh, no you don’t. I know exactly what you’re doing.”
Shocked, he stared wide-eyed for a split second, and then just started dying laughing. But there was something special about this gigglefest, and it’s a moment I will remember for the rest of my life because it was my first real intellectual interaction with my son. I could tell he knew that I knew he was about to blow green beans and carrots all over me, and he recognized that Daddy was on to him–that I was a formidable opponent.
It blew me away. We had connected and communicated on a higher level than greetings, tickling, or wanting to be held. This was an intellectual, joking moment between the two of us. My son was being a smartass, just like his Dad.
Arriving at this realization, paired, of course, with the contagiousness of baby laughter itself, I had no choice but to join him. We giggled at each other as chunks of carrots ran down his chin and he gleefully slapped his high chair tray.
Once the laughing fit was over and he acknowledged me as the Undisputed Champion of Bubble-Blowing Prevention, the remainder of the meal went off without a hitch.
This, along with the recent arrival of tiny teeth, admittedly makes me a little sad, as the initial “baby” months are really starting to fade away. At the same time, though, I’m elated to see my son becoming the sharp little man he seems to be turning into. I have a feeling he and I will riff with each other for years to come, much to the annoyance of the females in our household.
I can’t wait.
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If not, please don’t spit food in my face. I get enough of that already.