Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Boy meets dog

After a few steam baths and a minor exorcism, Kyle's brutal cold finally appears to have worn off. To celebrate this grand event, and the prospect of sleeping through the night this week, the family went to a party Sunday at the home of our friends Matt and Amanda. It was a lovely time. They had all the essentials: drinks, wings, and rice krispie treats shaped like robots. Kyle didn't have any of that stuff, of course, because he was our designated driver. There was something, though, that did interest him greatly: Matt and Amanda's dog, Bailey.

Bailey is a full-grown lab-beagle mix. He's an incredibly friendly dog, whom I've know since he was a little pup six years ago. These days he still often thinks he's a pup, so our main concern about visiting him was that he probably would try to jump on our little guy and lick him all over. Kyle had never met a dog before, and we weren't sure how he'd like having a face full of slobber that wasn't his own.

A short time after we arrived at Matt & Amanda's, we let our kid get close to Bailey. An excited Bailey ran up to Kyle, who was being held by Jennifer. Bailey was ready to play with him until he sniffed our little guy. For some reason - maybe it was a dirty diaper or Kyle's stinky feet - the dog suddenly became disinterested. Meanwhile, Kyle, who was hesitant at first, suddenly wanted to play. So, we put him on the floor, and he'd crawl towards Bailey or his chew toys, which Kyle mistook for the stuffed animals he owns. Fortunately we stopped him before he grabbed one and put it in his mouth.

Bailey just strutted around the circle of adults, going from one to another, completely trying to ignore the adoring child in the middle. At one point their paths intersected, and Kyle and Bailey actually knocked heads. The little guy laughed, while Bailey, obviously embarrassed by the collision, tried to act like it didn't happen, and continued on his path toward a chewed up piece of rope (which Kyle had tried to chew earlier).

To avoid further embarrassment, Bailey then roamed the apartment, keeping clear of Kyle’s path. He would lounge by the TV or try to negotiate some sort of "food drop" with party goers. Kyle, on the other hand, tried harder to get the dog’s attention. He’d make excited laughing noises every time he saw Bailey, and would try to jump out of the arms of the person who was holding him, giving Matt & Amanda’s guests an unexpected workout. Unfortunately, Kyle’s efforts were fruitless, and he ended up going home without a goodbye lick.

Kyle proved to be a dog lover that evening. I’m sure that night he dreamt of playing with Bailey in the park, perhaps throwing him a stick, grabbing his tail, or sharing a chew toy. Kyle probably didn’t matter as much to Bailey, who probably had dreams of Matt & Amanda’s guests throwing him food. I’m sure Kyle will get a second chance with Bailey, and I bet they’ll become friends someday. After all, Kyle’s not so bad once you get to know him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Something to sneeze at

This past weekend was a holiday lover's delight - Valentine's Day and President's Day wrapped up together. We gave each other chocolates on Saturday and stimulus checks on Monday. Jennifer, Kyle and I made big plans for this weekend: we'd spend it in the Boston area, and on Sunday we'd get together with my parents, my brother and his wife for a big family dinner. This was our first trek to Massachusetts since early September, and I was very excited about going. So, naturally, this weekend marked the first time Kyle came down with an illness.

Kyle simply had a bad cold, with the usual bells and whistles: a stuffed up nose, a bad cough, fatigue, possibly a sore throat, and a loss of appetite for beer. There was no fever, no unusual rash, and no spinning of his head. Nevertheless, this being his first major cold, there was still plenty to be alarmed about, especially from Kyle's perspective. He had never gone through anything like this before, and he was eager to let us know that he didn't like it.

As new parents, we weren't exactly sure how to deal with this, outside of wiping the river of goop coming out of our child's nose, and burning everything he contaminated. We were fortunate to have my parents around at the start of this illness (we initially figured his cold wasn't bad enough to change plans), but on Monday the beast that was this illness was all ours.

Illnesses don't mix well with new parents, who are already overly paranoid about their kids. Every time he'd appeared to be coughing up a lung, or whenever his breathing sounded like coffee percolating, Jennifer and I looked at each other with the same concerned "Is that normal?" look on our faces. Since the little guy can't blow his nose or clear his throat, even the smallest of symptoms seemed so much worse, especially with our little guy crying all the time. At first we thought we'd be able to take care of this cold ourselves. We were going to wait it out and let the virus run its course, but eventually we panicked and finally called our pediatrician, who recommended that we wait it out and let the virus run its course. We'll be getting the bill for that advice later.

Waiting it out, though, hasn't been easy. We're all a little impatient. You see, not only are we learning how to help a sick child, we're also learning how to deal with Kyle's newfound ability to share. The cold has hit Jennifer hard, and I haven't been doing too well myself. Turns out this past weekend truly was a family experience, and one we can't wait to finally end.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A sucker born every minute

I think I now understand why so many people get addicted to cigarettes, snack foods, and Facebook. The problem might not stem from nicotine, salt or other habit-inducing chemicals. In fact, its roots may reach as far back as infancy, and we parents may be to blame for it. We’re the ones who introduced our children to their first addiction: the pacifier.

Kyle won't admit he has a pacifier problem; most babies don't. Yet he can’t go through a day without sucking on the thing. He needs it to relax. Each day, usually in the afternoon, Kyle must have a pacifier break. Without it, he gets restless and irritable. He wants to nap, but he can't unless he gets in a few sucks. Every day he tries to quit, but once he feels those powerful, daily stresses of being a baby (and there are a lot - from dropped toys to taxes), Kyle just caves in and demands pacifier relief. It's sad, really.

It wasn't always like this. A long time ago - say, early summer - we would let the kid cry until our eardrums would explode. We'd try to quiet him down by rocking him, swaddling him, or having him watch C-SPAN. These methods would work for a time, but eventually he'd start blowing out the windows again with his wails.

So we sought out new ways to calm our kid. Some people recommended soothing music. Others bought us toys or videos that gave off calming sounds or images. The most unique suggestion came from an older friend of ours, who told us that, when he was little, his mother would get him and his six brothers and sisters to be quiet at church by feeding them NyQuil beforehand (this is true). While we didn't question the effectiveness of this option, we did feel that maybe it was a bit illegal. And as we watched our friend leave us and walk right into a wall, we also wondered about the long-term effects of giving such a drug to a child.

We knew of the pacifier option, but we were hesitant to try it. Yet as time passed, we started to feel a greater pressure from others:

"Pssst. Have you tried one of these?"
"These will make you feel so good."
"C'mon, everybody's doing it. Don't be a wimp."

And that was just from my mother. Other relatives, parents, parenting blogs, neighbors, store clerks, and our landlady also pressured us to use a pacifier. Kyle's pediatrician wasn't too keen on the idea, but what does he know? It's not like HE has to listen to a crying kid all day!

So we tried it once, and there was instant silence. Suddenly I could hear things I wasn't hearing before: birds chirping, leaves rustling, the fire alarm. Kyle sat there with a smile on his face - or, at least it looked like a smile, since the pacifier covered his entire mouth. We had a pleasant afternoon, and then we used the pacifier again the next day for kicks. Within no time, Kyle was hooked, and now he often can't take a daytime nap without it.

Now our kid has the same addiction almost every other child has, and, from the looks of it, he could have this addiction for years to come. Then what's next? I'm not saying drugs. After all, I was given a pacifier when I was a kid and remain clean (unless you count the time I was in Texas from 2001-2003). However, I often have trouble stopping when I'm stuck next to the bowl of chips at some party. Candy's also a weakness of mine (I'm eating some Mike & Ike's as I write this), and I highly doubt that would be the case if I wasn't trained to rely on something at such a young age.

I suppose we could have tried to prevent Kyle's addiction by not giving him the pacifier, but eventually we'll be going to the playground or daycare, and then the baby gangs no doubt would have tried to give him one. There's no guarantee that he'd even know how to say "no" by then. So it's probably still best that we were the ones who introduced Kyle to the pacifier, and his first addiction.

And it's hard to argue... it certainly makes him look cool.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Prison break

During the past year, Jennifer and I have experienced a lot of firsts with Kyle: baby's first Christmas, baby's first inauguration, and baby's first Super Bowl, including baby's first 3-D commercials.

What happened on Friday, though, was a first we didn't expect to happen this soon. It was early afternoon, and I was sitting in a chair in the nursery as the little guy was seated in his crib. We were having a spirited debate about whether the president's stimulus package needed more infrastructure spending or tax cuts, when all of a sudden Kyle grabbed the crib bars and hoisted himself up to a standing position.

Had I been drinking anything, I would have been the one spitting up. Kyle had never done this before - in fact, we were just getting used to him sitting up on his own. Friday's development has us seriously thinking that it might be time to enroll in a savings plan to buy sneakers, as he'll have to be wearing them soon. It looks like Kyle could be planning to cut short the crawling stage and move right into the run-and-destroy-as-many-things-as-possible-(especially-the-TV) stage.

This development is a mixed blessing. While it's great to see Kyle advance, I'm sure we'll soon be missing out on a behavior we've been enjoying lately. Since he started sitting on his own a short time ago, Kyle has been able to stay in his crib without demanding our attention for well over his previous 5-minute limit. He's become Mommy and Daddy's little prisoner, quietly sitting behind bars until he's taken out to eat whatever slop we have to give him. This has given us some extra time to do important things, such as sleeping or catching up on our favorite TV shows. The rioting has gone down, too. In fact, we were planning to perhaps let him out on good behavior in about 5 years, but then Friday's incident happened.

As far as we know, Kyle has stood only once, but I have seen him try again and again. It's only a matter of time before he's standing all the time, and demanding to be taken out of the crib so he can stand on the floor. As soon as that happens, he'll be running everywhere. Then what's next? I fear it might be high jumps or kickboxing. I'll make sure to hide the TV.