The Writing Wombat

An American Marsupial in Fiction Land

Month: June, 2015

The Drunken Midget Phase

My daughter just turned one year old.

Woo-Hoo! She made it!

Not sure if that’s more impressive or less impressive than me turning forty. In either case, we seem to be celebrating nature and astronomy more than perseverance. But this poor girl has me as a father, so we’re not taking anything for granted.

We’re at that milestone-a-minute phase right now, and really have been for a good six months or more. First it was rolling over. Then it was sitting up with assistance. Then without. Then the Lieutenant Dan Body drag, followed by crawling. Then it was- well, you get the idea. But I think the current milestone is the last big one.

Of course, I say “current” milestone, not “last” or “next,” because these things tend to evolve slowly over days or weeks, despite what popular culture would have us believe. Movies and TV shows always show babies purposefully doing an action as a result of some cognitive leap, then immediately honing this new skill until perfection. In reality, there’s never that big “this is her first <fill in the blank> moment.”

What was my daughter’s first word? Well, it depends. Do you mean her first purposeful word or the first part of her random enunciation that sounded close to English? She says “yeah, yeah, yeah” a lot, and occasionally it’s even in response to a yes or no question. I’m pretty sure she’s said “ma” and “da” on purpose a number of times, but I still don’t know if we’ve yet reached the 50% plateau of those sounds being a specific reference to my wife or I.

It’s the same thing with standing and walking, which is our current undertaking. Can she stand on her own? Sure. Even done it a couple of times. But if there is something or someone to pull herself up on within, oh say, a square mile, she’s crawling to that object instead. Has she taken her first step? Absolutely. She’s even made it three or four steps, albeit with heavy coaxing. And even though she can both stand and take steps, she’s much more likely to plop herself down and crawl, evolution be damned!

But, whether with support or not, we’ve definitely entered my favorite stage of childhood. Or at least my favorite to observe from afar. Some call it the toddling years, but let’s be honest. My bubbly baby girl is turning into a drunken midget. Think about the last time you saw a toddler. Now think of an intoxicated dwarf. If you’ve never been around an inebriated midget, think of a full-size boozer and then just shrink them down.

The swaying from side to side. The bumping into random stationary objects. The propensity to fall down for no reason, in a manner that would send a sober adult to injury rehab, and then to giggle uncontrollably at it. Am I describing a one year old or a lush? You decide.

Last week, my daughter was “walking” around. To do this, she holds onto my fingers over her head for stabilization like a chimpanzee. At one point, she lost her grip on one of my fingers, and consequently lost her footing. Instead of sitting or re-establishing her grip, she clamped down harder on the remaining “support” (i.e. my right finger). Her feet flew out from under her and the rest of her body entered a spinning pirouette along multiple axes – a centrifuge with my finger as its fulcrum.

Her final resting position had her upper torso on the ground, legs in the air supported by my calves, right hand still grasping that finger as if it mattered. I asked her if that was fun. She locked eyes with me, paused for a moment, then laughed way more than the situation called for.

Now, let’s just replace my finger with a doorknob or a handrail, my lower torso with a wall, and the floor with, well, the floor. I’m pretty sure that I’ve, uh, let’s just say, “seen some people” in that exact same position after Last Call. Probably laughing just as hysterically, too.

And the similarities aren’t just physical. Who, other than a lush or a baby, is likely to swing between happy and sad, pleased and pissed, on a moment’s notice, without being able to recall the previous emotion? My daughter has a noise that is half-laugh, half-cry. And when it appears, one of the two noises is mere seconds away from an onslaught. A quick move by me might influence which direction it goes. Or it might not. Sound like any alkies you know?

Who else, besides a drunk or a child, can fixate on mundane objects for a half-hour? Remember the video of David Hasselhoff eating a hamburger? I could totally see my daughter doing that, and it would probably be just as messy.

She also has been into stacking and sorting lately. She’ll take all of the  items in front of her and move them, one by one, behind her back. Then she’ll look around, astounded at where all of her missing items went. Tell me you’ve never played “hide an item from drunkie” before. Shoot, I’ve had people so drunk that we hide their drink from them. They look around like my daughter, murmuring “I swear I had a drink here,” before finding something else to fixate on. Like a disassembled hamburger.

I mentioned that I felt the drunken midget stage, a.k.a. toddling, is the last major milestone. I could hear the eye-rolling scoff from you parents out there. “Oh, just wait until talking or potty training or losing teeth or, I don’t know, differential calculus,” I hear you saying.  And yes, I know there are many more changes to come. But it seems to me that this is the last major physical hurdle. The rest seem to be more mental or developmental milestones. Baby talk might be just as cute as toddling, but there’s substantially less chance of them ending up with their ass on the ground. At least until they enter the “Drunken Sailor” phase.

The post-walking milestones, potty training and learning how to speak, also seem to be more of parenting milestones than baby milestones. Parents usually force the former, while parents are there to correct and guide the latter. But up through walking, the parent plays little role. “No, no, baby, that’s not the proper usage of the foot while standing.”

And really, should we even bother celebrating parenting milestones? Instead of milestones, they are more like signposts: “This way to good (or bad) parenting,” or “Blind curve ahead.”

And those parenting signposts are constant. I mean, seriously, how many wipes does it take to remove oatmeal from a forehead? Let’s get the Tootsie Pop Owl on that one.

During my first week of summer break, wherein we cut back on some daycare days in favor of Mr. Mom time, I took my baby to story time at the local library. Of course, she wanted to take a nap right before story time. So I put her down thinking no story time this week, maybe next time. But of course she wakes up without a moment to spare, so voila, there we were at the library.

I could not have been more out of place if you dropped me in the Sahara Desert.

First of all, I was the only male above the age of three. Then there’s the fact that the Stepford Wives that were there were all regulars. They knew all the songs, they knew all the dances, and the lady in charge knew all of their children by name.

To add to the “fish out of water” sensation, I walked in about five minutes late. Oh, and I hadn’t showered, because I still haven’t figured out that whole “when to shower when you’re the only adult in the house” trick.

My daughter was the only toddler not wearing shoes. I didn’t want to go all “The pediatric board doesn’t suggest that” on, but hey, I have science on my side.

Plus, for some reason, before I put my daughter down to take her nap, I had only buttoned one button on her onesie. Perhaps I was going to change it because it was also dirty from breakfast? I can’t remember, but sure enough, while we’re sitting there clapping our hands and hokey pokeying (hey, at least I knew the words to that one!), the one snap comes undone. Had she just been wearing the onesie, it probably wouldn’t have been very difficult to re-fasten. But no, I had thrown some cute little cargo pants over them, which her onesie stayed outside of. Oh, and did I mention it was still stained from breakfast?

So, here’s me and my daughter. Both unbathed, in dirty clothing, her onesie open and flapping about. She’s not wearing shoes. And we’re raining on the parade of the regular stay at home moms. They’re looking at the two of us like we’re the Clampetts busting in on their afternoon tea.

“Man, they just let anybody into the library these days. Shouldn’t they, like, require a membership card to get in?”

The other signpost I’ve recently seen is something I probably shouldn’t be proud of, but I totally am. We don’t watch a lot of TV around the baby. We’re not those “no screen time” parents or condescending “Better than you because the TV isn’t on” people. But hey, if wife and I sometimes aren’t home until 6:00 and the baby goes to bed at 8:00, maybe The Walking Dead can wait until 8:15.

As a bonus, when the TV is on, the baby doesn’t pay it much attention. A sport event, with its bright colors and fast movement, might catch her attention briefly, but then she’s back to sorting cups or engaging in thorough tests of the Law of Gravity.

Last weekend, my wife was flipping through channels while we were doing chores in the bedroom, and said “I’m guessing you want to watch this?” She was correct. And I wasn’t the only one. I was holding my daughter and she looked, too. I expected her to look away after a couple seconds, but she didn’t. She was tracking what was happening on the screen. It was bound to happen at some point.

What were we watching? None other than the 1980 classic, Airplane! Yep, she’s my daughter. And I’m sure it was a learning experience for her, too. Now she’ll know she has to choose wisely on which day to stop sniffing glue.

Or to stop being an Oompa Loompa blowing a .15

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For Richer or for, Oh Who are we Kidding?

I recently got a short glimpse at how the other half lives.

Okay, maybe not the other half, since statistically, I don’t know which 50-percentile of wage earners I fall in. So maybe I just saw how the other 1% live.

My cousin got married last weekend. This particular cousin lives on the other side of the train tracks. Or the helipad. Or the Illuminati, or whatever the great barrier between Pledbian and Patrician is.

Even if my income wasn’t the perfect picture of American equity, I’d be about as middle class as they come. From my vantage point atop the bell curve, it’s easy to see both sides. My family contributes a handful of members to both extremes. This coming weekend, I could attend a baby shower for my 19-year old cousin, who is having a baby to keep a boyfriend from leaving, twenty years after her mother had her to hold onto a boyfriend. The next wedding I attend is just as likely to feature a banjo and a Vegas drive-thru as it is a limousine.

But not this wedding. Oh, no. This wedding featured a harpist. This wedding had fresh sushi rolls being made on the spot during cocktail hour. This wedding had either booked a band with five different singers or a different band to handle each music genre. I couldn’t tell, because this wedding also featured a damn near 1-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio, such that a patron could not take more than a couple sips of wine before the glass was refilled.

Honestly, Ozzifer, I didn’t even finish one glass of wine…

I should’ve known where things were going while stuck in the half-hour long line for valet parking. The 1920s-era hotel on the outskirts of Beverly Hills didn’t allow self-parking. Maybe I could’ve figured it out when I paid $10 for a beer before the ceremony started. But the sticker shock-inspired PTSD might’ve curtailed my powers of observation after that particular transaction

I also lost a bit of observational prowess when the start of the wedding was delayed a half-hour, presumably to give any TMZ reporters time to make it through the valet parking barricade. The result was all of us black coat-clad gentlemen sweating in the afternoon sun, losing pounds and a bit of consciousness, while we waited. The sleeveless arms of the pale girl sitting next to me were visibly changing hues by the minute. As she approached medium rare, her boyfriend offered her his coat, to which she just shook her head and laughed, “I’d rather burn than melt.”

Dante would have a field day with that one.

After missing the first couple signs, I started to realize this wasn’t the standard McWedding when the groom and his mother arrived. They drove across the well-manicured hotel lawn in a vintage red 1965 Porsche. I guess the DeLorean was unavailable.

You think I’m joking, but I’m not. The father of the bride owns a DeLorean. He once told me that of all of his vintage cars, the DeLorean gets the most reaction from people. Sure, the various Porsches and Ferraris get looks, but when people verify the guy driving them isn’t Jay Leno, their interest wanes. But the DeLorean, even in Beverly Hills or Manhattan Beach, gets people talking to him. They prattle on about the infamous owner, they inquire about the notorious maintenance issues. But they never ask the question they want to, the one he can always see burning a hole on their tongue – “have you gotten that bad boy up to 88?”

After the groom and his mother left the vehicle, the bridal party began. We were on the back lawn of the hotel, which sat on the top of a hill. So there was really no ability for people, the bride included, to come from behind us.  So they walked down the back stairs of the hotel, right in front of us. We had to kind of pretend we hadn’t seen them as they walked past all of the rows to make a U-turn at the back. Then they were at the back of the aisle to do their “official” walk down the aisle, and we all had to “ooh” and “ahh” as if we hadn’t just seen them.

And in proper wedding etiquette, the next grouping of bridesmaid and groomsman could not appear at the staircase leading from the hotel until the previous couple was most of the way down the aisle.

While the sun beat down, this procedure happened seven times. Seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen. I know this isn’t out of the ordinary, but honestly, this shit has to stop. Who in the hell has fourteen people that they absolutely HAVE to have IN the wedding?

And it wasn’t over at fourteen, because they still had to add all of the ring bearers and flower girls, bringing the total bridal party count to twenty. Yes, math majors, that means after all the adult humans were accounted for, there were still six more members to be added. Three ring bearers and three flower girls.

Since I gave a nod to the math peeps last round, that was a drop for the English grads. Astute readers will note that I referred to the bridesmaids and groomsmen as both adult and human. Why? Because the first descriptor only distinguished them from four of the six junior members. The last two beings down the aisle were adults, but of the canine variety. The bride owns two little yap dogs – you know, the kind that fit in your purse – and they were included.

Adorable, right? Couldn’t you just totally see Paris Hilton doing that if, y’know, she was still relevant? The girl dog was wearing a little bride’s dress. (I know, it’s so gauche to wear white to a wedding.) I don’t know “who she was wearing.” I honestly wish I could make a play on words here, but the only designer I know is Vera Wang, and I can’t make her name into “bark” or “kibble.”

The boy dog wore a little tuxedo. It should also be noted that he carried the actual rings, because you wouldn’t want to trust that precious cargo to a species that avoids eating its own feces. This also might be the closest California law would allow the bride to get to a How I Met Your Mother-inspired ring bear.

This is important because, as the ceremony and reception continued, it became apparent that she was trying to include everything she had ever heard in any other famous wedding.

The flowers were the same as one of the Kardashian weddings (The thirty-seventh Kardashian wedding, my sources inform me). The bride’s train rivaled the one in the royal wedding. Unfortunately, she had to rely on bridesmaids and hotel staff, instead of Pippa Middleton, to help her around corners. She had to rely on hotel staff and bridesmaids. The choreographed bridal party entrances at the reception were like a YouTube greatest hits compilation. Not sure where the belly dancers escorting the bride and groom into the reception came from – The Amazing Race?

Pretty sure I saw Luca Brasi pacing back and forth practicing what he would say to the Don.

Seriously, though, everything was top notch. The food was absolutely stellar. Even if it was $300 per plate. Over two hundred guests. Where did my math majors go?

My wife estimates the flower cost probably rivaled or exceeded the food in cost. Something about hydrangeas.

The band, as I mentioned before, never missed a beat. How often do you hear a Big Band transition from “Shout” to “All About That Bass?” I cannot count the number of times I thought a DJ was playing the original.

The toasts went on over an hour. The Best Man was the groom’s brother and the Maid of Honor went to school with the bride. I guess if you give a couple of rich kids a microphone, all bets are off. Lots of references to how many kids they should have, because the bridal party must play into wedding clichés, as well.

“Don Corelone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter’s wedding on the day of your daughter’s wedding. And I hope that their first child be a masculine child.”

The Money Dance was renamed the Father-Daughter Dance. I kid, of course. There was no money dance because the bride couldn’t get her Square App to sync up for American Express Black. So her father just came as the band played “Hey, Big Spender.”

I joke, I joke.

Of course, when the count of individual items that cost more than your own entire wedding start hitting double digits, it’s time to skedaddle. And it didn’t matter how much money I saved on the free booze, it wouldn’t be enough to afford Beverly Hills Uber rates.

Plus, we had to beat the long line at the valet.