Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Some assembly required

I haven't been doing a lot of reading lately, outside of whatever news I see online ("swine flu freaks out millions in the U.S., mildly sickens some") or whatever children's book I read to Kyle ("the three little pigs give the wolf swine flu"). I just haven't found the time to pick up a good book. Back when I was commuting everyday, I'd read all kinds of novels. Now I find that the only material I have time to pick up and read is the instructions for the latest gizmo I need to assemble for Kyle. It's no Shakespeare, though at times it's just as complicated.

One classic I've read over and over again is a little book called the instruction manual for a car seat. It's wonderfully illustrated and color-coded, but its plot is weak and its instructions leave much to be desired... that is, when they make sense. Sometimes the book gives you lines like "Save the bar for future use by replacing the bar," and your mind just gets blown away. Maybe that's why so many people need therapy after doing this sort of thing.

This wasn't the first time I had to install a car seat for Kyle. We had an infant-sized one that I put in just before the little guy was born (seen to the left, with a much smaller Kyle, on one of our typical trips out), but he quickly grew out of that one. As his feet started dangling over it, I began to wonder if the seat was protecting Kyle or if Kyle was protecting the seat. So one Saturday afternoon I removed it from the car, dumped out all of Kyle's loose pocket change from the cushions, and threw it in a box for storage.

Then the head-scratching began. I sat there, in the back of my car, next to a much larger car seat, trying to figure out how to install it so it faces the rear, since our kid is still too young to face forward. The biggest hang-up was the straps, which were, for some reason, not in the right spot for what I needed to do (the car seat came out of the box in "slingshot" mode, in case you need your kid to get to his destination quickly). I had to follow the instructions on how to get these straps in the right spots. If I failed to do this correctly, as the gazillion warning labels point out, the seat either will be very uncomfortable or will devour our child. The straps needed to be fed under the cushion from one side of the seat to the other, which looked like a simple task in the illustrations. What the they failed to show is that the hole for the strap is too thin for a sheet of paper, never mind my hands. This whole process took a while, as the straps kept getting tangled under the cushion, and I'd occasionally pause to regain circulation in my hands.

Once the straps were set, the remaining steps were much easier and far less painful. Soon the seat was installed, and we tested it with Kyle. He seemed to be leaning forward a little, but we thought it wasn't so bad. When we went out the next day, though, the seat turned Kyle into a human bobble head. He was trying to sleep, but was kept awake as he rocked his head to fight gravity. The seat was too far forward for him to rest his head. So I had to take another stab at the thing, and after another hour at it, I got the seat in the right position.

Last Friday, I had the seat checked by one of those government-approved inspectors. He wiggled it around and then actually got on top the seat himself (I guess that's in case Kyle has a really big growth spurt). He then approved it. Hooray!

Kyle is riding in style, and this task is complete. Now let's see what I can do with Kyle's new stroller...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Table for two

On Saturday Jennifer and I were able to go out for a night without Kyle, and this time we didn't accidentally forget him at home. The little guy was with my parents, who were visiting for the weekend. Jennifer and I often look forward to these stays, since it's really the only time we ever get out on our own. We have yet to find a babysitter for the little guy, partly because of his very young age, and partly because we're afraid that our babysitter would turn out to be some British freak who flies around with an umbrella and sings about sugar all day. There are a lot of crazies out there, and we want to make sure Kyle isn't stuck with one of them. So, for now, my parents are our only lifeline.

It's not that our social life completely died with Kyle's birth; it just ends when the night begins for most people. Kyle can be a party animal at times, but his hibernation starts at eight o'clock. You can't blame him - he's busy at 6 a.m. every morning, working a grueling job as an alarm clock. He needs his rest, though his early evening shut-eye can be a bit of a problem for dear ol' Mom and Dad. We try to attend as many social gatherings as possible, but we often have to make an early exit. Sadly, we've also turned down many invitations to events that begin after 7 p.m. The Jennifer and Dave of two years ago (before the pregnancy) would have been so disappointed in us.

So nights like Saturday night are a special treat. Jennifer and I kicked things off by going to one of those fancy Italian restaurants that don't leave enough room between tables for a high chair and don't serve any drinks out of a sippy cup. We even ordered dessert without having to feel brave about doing so. It was like we were 29 all over again. Then we went to a local bar that had an outside area where we could sit back under a tree, enjoy a pint and watch the rats play boccie. Most places in our neighborhood - even bars - are welcoming to children, but there were no babies in the establishment we visited Saturday night. That's because this bar was hard-core anti-baby: it actually had a sign on its entrance that said "No Strollers Allowed." I'm not kidding. When they check your ID, they also do a full-body search to make sure you're not hiding an infant under your coat or in your shoes. When we made it past that, we really did feel like a young couple again. After a pint there, we decided to live it up a little more, stopping by at an neighborhood Irish pub before heading home.

We had such a great time that night. We laughed, we had great conversations, and we had no time limits. We were free to roam wherever we wanted to without a care in the world. We just felt young again. When we came home, my parents told us that they, too, had a wonderful night with Kyle. That made us feel even better. But then my mom said, "I thought you two were going to be out much later." We looked at the clock in it was just past 11 p.m. I yawned and Jennifer said she was going to get ready for bed. We had been up since 6 a.m., after all... and we were very tired. We just needed to get some sleep and were in bed shortly after midnight.

The Jennifer and Dave of two years ago would have been so disappointed in us.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Break dance

This may come as a surprise to you: children, believe it or not, tend to break things. I thought, perhaps, our child would be different. I thought that maybe, just maybe, Kyle would be able to look at a fine piece of china, admire its beauty and delicate design, and not be tempted to use it as a Frisbee. That, of course, was a few months ago, when Kyle was about as mobile as a pineapple. Now that he's realized that his arms and legs are more than just things to suck on, Kyle has become a greater threat to some of our prized possessions.

We already have begun the process of moving things higher, as Kyle pushes the limits on how far he can reach. Eventually I will need a ladder to grab any of our glassware. But we haven't been moving everything, since we had thought certain things were safe. For example, we had a couple of tin mugs and plastic margarita glasses placed as decorations on a couple of low shelves near our refrigerator. They didn't seem breakable at all. Sure enough, not long after Kyle first crawled into the kitchen, he found them:

Those were happier times. Kyle would roll the margarita glasses on the floor, testing the laws of physics: an object in motion will stay in motion, especially on a warped kitchen floor such as ours. We were fine with him having fun with the plastic margarita glasses, even though they were family heirlooms dating back to the revolutionary war, when my great-great-great-uncle Gaspard Adams used their glowing green cacti to impale the British soldiers. So you can imagine my sadness when this is how those margarita glasses looked several days later:

It was an abrupt end to Kyle's fun, and to our glasses. The first one seemed to come apart on its own, and I thought that maybe Kyle had nothing to do with it; maybe they were made with some faulty glue from China that simply came undone. I learned soon enough that wasn't the case. As I sat on the floor next to Kyle, I watched him play with the remaining margarita glass. Then, out of nowhere, as if a wrecking ball possessed him, Kyle took the glass and slammed it into the refrigerator, smashing it in two. He then went to play with something else, oblivious to what had just happened. I was left to pick up the pieces. Jennifer and I did not have margaritas that evening.

So now we're living in a constant state of fear for what's next. We had heard rumors that children had the ability to make everything breakable, but I guess you don't realize just how true that is until you experience it first-hand. Kyle has been moving faster lately, and he's been pounding his hands against most things he comes across. I spend a lot of my days following him around, running a checklist through my head as to what's okay for him to break and what's not. I know that the more Kyle explores, the more we'll pick our battles and give up on things ("Well, I guess that 18th-century vase wasn't from a relative we liked very much"). I just hope we have something remaining in one piece by the time he goes to college.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Enemy of the (Empire) State

Sunday was a sunny day in New York, and it was hard for anyone to stay indoors. All of New York's estimated eight million and three people took to the streets, which meant a person had to wait in line just to go for a walk. For our little family, it was worth it. We had brunch at our favorite local restaurant, and Kyle watched the passersby as he enjoyed a price fixe meal of yogurt and Gerber peaches (with matching formula for each entree). We then strolled through our neighborhood before stopping at a nearby playground, where we practiced pushing our kid around:

This was Kyle's third time on a swing; his first time was just a week earlier. I can't exactly say for sure, but I think he enjoys it. Either that, or he has some sort of allergic reaction to the swing that causes his face to freeze with his cheeks spread apart and his mouth open wide.

The swing wasn't the only thing he enjoyed at the playground. He also enjoyed the slide... and the ladies. Kyle worked his charm on the young girls around him, often reaching out his hand to grab theirs, and they returned the favor. He worked some of his best pick-up lines and probably would have scored some numbers had any of these girls known how to write. Everyone seemed to love our little guy. Sadly, though, that will all change soon.

The next time Kyle enters a playground, he probably will be shunned by the other kids. Nobody, not even the young ladies, will want to be associated with him. Many will "boo," spit and scowl at him. Some may call him names, like "bawb bawb bawb," "doy doy doy" or any other vulgarity in baby speak. How do I know this? Well, baseball season began this week, and, chances are, when Kyle returns to the playground, he'll be sporting clothing supporting his favorite team... a team that's not exactly loved in New York. You know the one. That team. It's Kyle's team and will always be Kyle's team, because Kyle is such a huge fan. The fact that his dad grew up in the Boston area has nothing to do with it. Just look how much our little guy loves his baseball team:

Now, some people may say that I'm being cruel to my child by raising him as a Red Sox fan in New York. Some may think that I'm just doing this to toughen my kid up, and to teach him at an early stage how to deal with obnoxious jerks, whiners and losers (also known as Yankees fans). There is some truth to that, but, to be honest, I have lived in this city for more than five years now and I've come to realize that Yankee fans can be tolerated. Heck, I've even become close friends with some of them. The truth is, many Yankee fans are just good people who suffer from a poor upbringing or a genetic disorder, especially those born in New York. The New York natives grew up rooting for that team, and they simply didn't know any better.

And that's where Kyle comes in. He can be the healer. Kyle has the ability to look a Yankee fan in the eye and make them see their misguided ways. By working his charm on the kids who jeer him in the playground, Kyle may be able to convert them into Sox fans... or at least Mets fans. It may be too late to convert the parents, though he will try. If anything, maybe, just maybe, Kyle will get them to stop jeering me.

Sure, being a Red Sox fan in New York will be tough for Kyle, but I'm sure he'll find that all the harassment is worth it, especially if he gets to see the Sox win a championship. And if he converts at least one child on the playground, he'll definitely feel he accomplished some good for society. I'm sure all of us will sleep a little better at night knowing there's one less Yankee fan in the world.