My son is a little over six months old. Over the last month
he's become terrific at sitting up. He'll sit up and play
with his toys
for a long time, sometimes
to them, and always looking over every
now and then
at my wife or me, to make sure we're paying
attention to him.
To be always learning like that! Last week he figured out
how to clap -- whisper-soft, his gentle, tiny baby hands
clapping -- and we praised him, "Good
boy! Look at you! You're clapping!" He loved the praise. He
was smiling and you could tell he knew he was doing
something pretty neat.
Now he'll start clapping
any time, when he's sitting in his high chair, when he's in his
Exersaucer, when someone is standing him on their knee, and
we clap along and praise him some more, "Wow! That's very smart!
It's as if in his swirl of thoughts he
thinks, I have to work on my balance when I stand up . .
. Mom and Dad seem to repeating those M and D consonant
sounds a lot . . . I wonder what the pictures on these
blocks mean . . . Oh yes, I know how to clap! Look at
Yesterday he began clapping when my wife sang the verse in
the Raffi song:
I'm going to clap, clap, clap my crazies out,
Clap, clap, clap my crazies out,
Clap, clap, clap my crazies out,
And wiggle my waggles away.
It was very sweet.
A question a new parent sure gets asked a lot
is "Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?" As the baby gets negligibly older it's
modified to "Is he walking yet?" I expect sometime in the
next year or two to be asked whether he can play all of the
Goldberg Variations, and then in his pre-teen years
whether he's completed his Ph.D. Sarcasm aside, these are cruel questions
for a new parent. They're tough because if you're concerned
your baby is developing too slowly, these questions are fuel
for your anxiety, which is in abundant supply anyway. And if
you're not worried about how your baby is developing, you
don't want it to happen any faster -- he's growing up too
fast as it is. You haven't taken nearly enough pictures. Oh,
and there's probably something else you're worried plenty about instead.
But my son does sleep through the night. Bedtime tends to
start between 7:30 and 8:30 in the evening and he wakes up
between 5:30 and 6:30 the next morning. Nine to eleven
hours, every night. Naps during the day are a different
story. There is no schedule for naps during the day. My son
might want to have a three-hour sleep after nursing in the
morning, or a fifteen-minute nap might be fine. He might
sleep for five or six hours over the course of the day, or
one hour might be enough.
Yesterday was a one hour of sleep day, and my wife wasn't
faring well. She was anxious. I don't think it's easy to be
a new mom. Your thoughts are constantly crashing and
breaking in your head. On days like these, it's easier to be
the dad -- if things are going poorly with the baby I get to
go to work and think about something else. (But this is the
downside too, when things are going well.) She put the baby
down for a nap, and after fifteen minutes, the baby started
to fuss. Sometimes he will quiet himself and fall asleep,
but this time his fussing became more and more fervent, and
he started to cry. Usually at this point my wife will tend
to him, but yesterday she was a little overwhelmed and
decided that as long as he wasn't panicking, she would
finish what she was doing first.
Finally she poked her head into his room. There he was,
lying in his crib, eyes closed, whimpering -- and clapping.
It broke her heart. It broke mine when she told me about
it. What do you do with that? There's no mention of the
depths of pity and compassion that are required in any
whimsical parenthood readiness test. You only hope that your
baby was trying to comfort himself with his new skill
instead of figuring, this is what I've been doing that gets
me such praise; why isn't anybody coming to see me?
My wife told me about the apology she lavished on my son.
As for me, I don't know. I've been thinking about love
lately, about how, man, this kid needs me to love him, to
love him extravagantly and always, to not back down in
loving him, to not give up, to not relent. Because he's just
little, because he won't always be, and because I'm his dad.