Thursday, December 06, 2012

Younger Daughter learns some lessons of motherhood -- some of them true

With a daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter living under our roof, I get to see things I must have lived through with my own five kids -- but from a decidedly different perspective.

Lately, I've been watching Younger Daughter try and figure out how to do anything other than feed or change her baby -- she's still churning out thank you notes from the wedding, much less the baby shower and the Baptism. She did get birth announcements made, but by the time the last of these are sent the baby will probably be dating. And I probably won't like him one little bit either.

Still, there's progress. The baby is sleeping more at night now (which is a vast improvement over not at all) and I can tell that Younger Daughter is starting to construct a routine, which can only be done by at least intuiting some rules to live by.

Some of these she's told me; others I have tried to puzzle out for myself.

The baby likes to sleep on her stomach. Maybe we should let her. Younger Daughter, like all her four siblings, slept on her stomach. When our kids were little, this was the Received Wisdom that we young parents followed slavishly. Somewhere around the time Youngest Son started kindergarten, however, around 15 years ago, the Received Wisdom was recalled and replaced.

The new dogma was that babies must sleep on their backs and Younger Daughter and her husband were duly indoctrinated. They tried to get the baby to sleep on her back. She didn't.

After an extraordinarily long week (there's a reason why most people have their babies when they're young -- we're increasingly less capable of handling colicky babies as we get older) my Long Suffering Spouse gently suggested to her daughter that, maybe, just maybe, she might try letting the child sleep on her tummy.

Younger Daughter was aghast. She'd taken the new Received Wisdom to heart: Sleeping on your stomach can be fatal, she told her mother, who backed off.

We hid behind our closed bedroom door at night, listening to the kid scream.

Younger Daughter poured out her sorrows to her daughter's pediatrician. The doctor listened gravely. "As your doctor, I can't tell you this," she said finally, "but some children sleep better on their stomachs." She got very quiet. She looked around to make sure no one else might overhear. "Mine did."

Younger Daughter decided to chance the Certain Doom that she'd been warned about and allowed the baby to sleep on her stomach. The baby slept six hours straight on the first night -- eight hours the next.

Olaf, Younger Daughter's husband, was grateful. "I could kiss that pediatrician!" he enthused recently.

The pediatrician?

Mommy can go to the bathroom sometimes. This one is clearly false. Long Suffering Spouse told me so. She said she didn't go to the bathroom for roughly a dozen years, at least not by herself. It's only possible for Younger Daughter because there are two sedentary grandparents in the house in the evenings, and the baby can be dropped atop either one of us before we can scramble from our chairs and look busy somewhere.

Actually, since my wife usually is busy in her chair, grading papers and such, the baby has been deposited on me.

Where is the baby's father you ask? A lot of nights, by 8:00pm, if he's not doing homework (he still has to finish a couple of classes for his degree) he's asleep. He has to be up at 4:30am to get to work before 6:00. That's whether the baby wakes him up or not. When they were insisting on trying to keep the kid on her back at night, Olaf would wander around the house, or his wife and daughter would wander around the house, looking for places to sleep where the other would not be unduly disturbed.

That's nice, isn't it?

We woke up every single time they did it.

And Younger Daughter has learned an important lesson about diaper changing, too.

Are you familiar with the term "zerbert?" I know we've used the term at our house, but I wasn't sure if this was merely a word coined under our roof or whether it is used generally. I looked it up. I discovered "zerbert" was first used on the Cosby Show in the 1980s, and that would be about right, because we were having our kids then and the Cosby Show was one of the few programs we ever watched. Wiktionary defines "zerbert" as "[t]he sound that occurs where someone places the mouth against skin and blows, imitative of the sound of flatulence."

Anyway, Younger Daughter explained to me just the other night a lesson she's learned about diaper changing. "Never," she said, "never, ever give a constipated baby a zerbert while you're changing her diaper."

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