Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dad's best friend

When I was a kid, my home wasn't exactly a haven for pets. Sure, on occasion my parents would get us several goldfish, but I hardly have any fond memories of them. They never would greet me when I came home from school, and they'd keep flopping around whenever I'd try to take them out on a walk. Playing "roll over" with a goldfish always turned tragic. So I'm not a wealth of knowledge when it comes to pets, but perhaps my experiences with Kyle will give me some insight.

I say this because I've noticed that having a pet seems to give people some insight into having a child. Most of our friends and family members who have pets but no children have occasionally compared Kyle's behavior to the antics of their dogs or cats. Kyle's spit-up brings up memories of Felix's hairball problem, or Kyle's cries are like that time when Rex howled all night and ripped apart all the bedroom pillows with his teeth. I don't fault my friends and family in comparing their pets to our child. It's only natural to want to sympathize, and I give them credit for saying "of course having a pet is nothing like having a child" before they tell me how having a pet is like having a child. But the comparisons are way off-track, as Kyle in no way resembles any pet. You can see that from the pictures below. Here's one I took as I rubbed Kyle's belly (he loves it when you do this):

Here's Kyle rolling over:

Here he is on all fours, close enough to slobber you with all his drool:

And here he is in his new, furry cold-weather gear:

So I just don't get where all these pet comparisons are coming from. Maybe it's because we keep his food in a dish on the floor by the kitchen cabinets. But who doesn't? How else can the little guy reach his food?

Then again, maybe my pet owner friends are onto something. That wouldn't be so bad, since we are hoping to get a pet whenever we move to the suburbs, and perhaps having a child is good practice for that. Hmmmmm... I dunno. I still can't see myself comparing our baby to an animal. I guess that's just because I'm his dad, and it would be wrong for me to do that. Besides, I believe I already gained enough pet-owner training by being an older brother.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take Kyle outside to play fetch.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Baby's first inauguration

Today, as I write this, the country has just sworn in a new leader. Barack Obama has become the 44th president of the United States. Kyle and I watched the inauguration together on television, and he was as riveted as I was by the ceremony. He may be too young to realize what is going on, but I had the feeling that he knows it was something important. He rarely sits still for that long in front of the TV without crying, wiggling, or spitting up on his clean clothes.

Jennifer and I have been thinking of just what this presidency could mean for Kyle. If Obama is successful, he will likely be a two-term president, which would mean that Kyle will be eight years old when he steps down. Obama could very well be the first president Kyle remembers, perhaps the one he writes to in first grade. To Kyle, Barack Obama will be Superman.

Although I was born during the Carter years, Ronald Reagan is the first president I remember. He was my Superman. The big guy with the perfectly-molded black hair had superpowers to fight bad guys like the Soviets or Lex Luthor, while still finding time to talk to school kids and eat jelly beans. To a kid, the president can do no wrong. He more than represents America - he IS America.

So it's incredible to think that the person Kyle will likely adore during his first years of life will be the nation's first African-American president. He probably won't realize the significance of this. To him, having a minority as president won't be anything unusual, just like we, the children of the 80's, grew up accepting that a pope can be Polish, the Japanese can make great electronics, and Darth Vader was Luke's father. Barack Obama is just Kyle's president, and nothing more. Isn't that great?

Indeed, change has come to America, and I'm hopeful my son will live in a country that better accepts differences, and treats people equally. We've always heard that anyone can become president - today we actually saw some proof of that. Maybe... just maybe... someday we'll have the first president named Kyle. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside

When I became a stay-at-home dad, I don't think I realized just how much staying at home I'd be doing. During our first few months with Kyle, we almost always found ways to get out of the apartment. We'd walk around the neighborhood or spend long days at the city parks, watching the rats chase the squirrels. But that was July, August and September. There's a reason why there are not many songs written about New York in January. With the temperatures dropping faster than our stocks, even the squirrels are fleeing the city for vacations in the Bahamas.

This week, temperatures have been in the low 30's and mid-20's, and they're supposed to fall into the single digits by Friday, with a windchill that can't be measured because the wind itself is frozen. It's not exactly safe weather for a baby, unless your kid's an Eskimo; in that case, it's just mild chilly - not a beach day, unless the sun's out. Sure, I could bundle Kyle up with an inhuman amount of clothing, as I did last week when New York's alternate-side parking rules forced me to move the car...

... but he doesn't like that too much.

So, Kyle and I have been spending much of the winter staying indoors and getting to know each other. We play a lot of games, and sometimes I let him win one or two. The screaming and silly noise contests are his favorite. He's still working on his speech - he now makes "wah, wah" noises like he's the backup singer to a 1950's band - but words will come with time. So will his abilities to walk and shovel. I'm looking forward to the shoveling part. Just look what happened to our car several winters ago:

In just a few years, I'll be able to have Kyle dig that out for me. Isn't that what having a kid is all about? I suppose I could have him practice now. Maybe I should bury one of his toys in a couple of pounds of rice cereal, and then teach him how to dig it out without hurting his back. And then next year I could take him around the neighborhood and show him all the people shoveling the sidewalks and tell him how much fun they're having. Later he'll watch me shovel out the car, and I'll laugh the whole time because it's such a joy. If I plant that idea in his head early enough, he might want to shovel out our car by the time he's old enough (and the driveway, too, if we have one by then).

Yet the next time we get snow I'll have to shovel it alone. I'll have to wait 'til Jennifer gets home, too, so she can watch over the little guy. Until then, Kyle and I will be sitting inside, keeping warm and competing with each other to see who can make the worst smell. And, if he dares to sleep a little longer than a half hour, I might even get some writing done. Taking care of Kyle, especially in the winter, is a lot of work, and it's nice to get a break every now and then to enjoy my hobby/profession. As they say, all work and no play makes Dave a dull boy. All work and play makes Dave a dull boy. All work and no play makes Dave a dull boy....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Your crib or mine?

Our son isn't much of a smooth talker, but he sure knows how to treat the ladies. Kyle can't converse, walk, or even use the bathroom yet, but he certainly knows how to flirt. It's hard for us to travel anywhere these days without him going on the prowl.

I knew babies had this knack of drawing a crowd. I used to blame this on adults, as most people are always looking for a reason to make silly faces or embarrassing sounds. Yet, I realize now that Kyle is just as guilty. You can see it in the look in his eyes - he knows what he's doing, and he's not afraid to play games with the vulnerable hearts of many.

His method is simple - once he locks his stare at a victim, his mouth opens, his wide grin shoves aside those chubby cheeks, and he eyes start glowing hypnotically. The victim turns to mush, and would go anywhere with Kyle... so it's rather unfortunate that the kid doesn't have a car and is about 16 years away from earning a learner's permit. Yet, that doesn't stop him from hitting on most people he sees. Age doesn't even matter. Sure, others would be robbing from the cradle, but to Kyle anyone's fair game. Just a few months ago, when we were having dinner with his great-grandmother, Kyle won over an entire senior community without even leaving the stroller.

We may, though, have to work on where Kyle does his flirting. Our kid is often up to no good in a place where being good tends to matter most - in church. When we're sitting in the pews, listening to readings from the Bible, Kyle is hunting through congregation for his next victim. Once he locks eyes with an unsuspecting parishioner, it's all over. The parishioner falls into the trap, and what once was a deep concentration in prayer has turned into smiles and waves. Kyle gets all excited and starts bouncing around (usually during a very solemn part of the service) and that's when one parent, tired of being kicked in the gut, hands him to another. Of course, that is all the better for the little guy, as he can now hunt down someone else.

I do worry, though, that he is leading some people down the wrong path. The bartender at a local restaurant is already calling him her boyfriend, and he seems to like it. He could be wailing through our dinner, but when she stops by he becomes charming, giving the big smiles and occasional laughs. He's totally playing with her. I just fear the day when she asks for some kind of commitment, and he has to break her heart because he doesn't know yet what "commitment" means.

(Dinner for two, perhaps?)

There are times, though, when Kyle's flirting does come in extremely handy. Not too long ago, as we were leaving our apartment, we ran into our landlady, who was complaining about something we might have done - I can't remember... maybe she didn't like me riding my motorcycle up the stairwell. Anyway, she kept going on and on and on, and we were starting to lose hope that we'd ever leave the building. But lo and behold: Kyle locked eyes with her, gave her a smile, and suddenly she was gushing about him. She apparently forgot what she was complaining about and wished us well on our journey.

Now if only we could get Kyle to help us negotiate the rent...