The Drunken Midget Phase

by wombatony

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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