Saturday, December 11, 2010

Babies are not bicycles

Babies are not bicyles. Really, I know that. But sometimes, metaphorically, I've wished Thea was, because the thing we know about bicycles is this: once you've learned how to ride one, you never forget and--what's more important in this context--how to ride a bicycle never changes.
Lauren and I are way up in Rockford, IL, where Lauren is coaching our Quiz Bowl team at a tournament. I came along so that Thea wouldn't spend 30-ish hours away from mama. This morning, the Quizbowlers left at 7:40 CST while Thea and I stayed at the motel, watching Sporscenter and alternately eating and ripping apart a breadstick to scatter crumbs on the floor, perhaps for the birds.

The reason we stayed behind was so that, we hope, Thea could get a nap this morning. Babies, after all, need their naps, or they get cranky. No one wants a cranky baby at a Quiz Bowl tournament, no one wants to go shopping for Christmas presents with a cranky baby. Around 9, which would be around 10 back home, and a perfectly reasonable nap time for Thea, she started to get a little fussy, maybe a little tired, so I decided to put her down for a nap.

Except, you see, that I realized that I've barely put her down for a nap for the past four months. I used to do this all the time--I used to be the Nap Master! For those months when I was a stay-at-home dad and Lauren was back at school teaching, I had this down. But now that I've gone back to work and we've got a nanny who comes in each day, not only are my nap-inducing skills a bit rusty, but the old tricks don't work! She's, you know, grown and changed! Who let that happen? Who decreed that 11-month-olds should be so different in their napping ways than 3-month-olds?

Even when I was in the groove, there were times when I just wanted her to "be rational," by which I didn't mean that I expected her to take up chess and discourse with me on philosophy (though she's welcome to take up either of those pasttimes any time now). By "be rational," I meant that I wanted her to be predictable. I wanted to be able to follow steps A, B, and C to get result D, every time.

This was true for me even though I also had read Dr. Sears, agreed with Dr. Sears, and knew that this time of her life isn't about me, it's about her. Not my needs, baby, but thine. Easy to say, not always so easy to live, but we've tried.

Not only was putting her down for a nap this morning difficult because of the aforementioned rustiness and changes, but she was also absolutely fascinated by a new place. That's why she wouldn't eat breakfast out in the motel eating area--too much going on! too many people to see! And of course, there are our black-out curtains at home compared to the light-in curtains here. I wasn't sure I would ever get her down for a nap this morning.

I hoped I might induce some kind of sympathetic response: either that she would sense how much I myself wanted to take a nap and want one herself (the viral yawn theory of baby napping) or that she would sense how much I wanted her to nap and give in, but that's not how babies work, sadly. They're not the most sympathetic creatures on the planet. No dice in that approach, but I kept trying everything I knew, everything I could think of.

In the midst of all this, she did something amazing: she kissed me. Okay, I know that doesn't sound amazing, but because my beard is scratchy, she usually wriggles away when I kiss her or claws at her face (get it off! get it off!!). Instead, she leaned in for a kiss, pulled back with a smile when I'd kissed her, leaned in again, and repeated the whole thing several times. It was so sweet, and nothing like how she's ever gone down for a nap before. A few minutes later, she fell asleep in my arms.

So yeah, scratch all that stuff I said earlier--who needs a bicyle? Not the fishes and not me.


  1. That's the thing about raising kids. You can't overthink things and bringing them up is pretty much of an ad hoc thing.